my distribution scheme for GPLed software

Guillaume Ponce contact at
Tue Mar 4 14:05:13 UTC 2003

> His [RMS] advice for how individuals can make money from Free
> software is a little thinner, it seems to boil down to charging for
> giving tutorials, charging for adding features etc., and charging
> for support.  (i.e. charge for you time (which is limited), not for
> copies (which require no resources)).

Do you have pointers on actual RMS wording?

Earning a living from free software development is still a problem.

Charging for your time rather than for copies.  That is THE point to
make the free software viable as a mean for a developper to earn his
living without being as unfair as proprietary vendors can be.

It is fair to charge users for your actual work (how much time you
spent), not for how_much_they_use_your_work like the "intellectual
property" way to earn a living from developping software suggests.

If a developer had a mean to get paid for the time he spent (not more
and not less) it would be viable to be professional free software
developers, and not a hobbyist like Bill Gates called free software
developers in his `open letter to hobbyists'.  A developper may earn
is living, but not get that rich (by missappropriating a part of the
customers' resources), which is fair for him and for the society.

But by charging for giving tutorials, adding features or giving
support, you only charge for your *extra* time.  You can do so only if
you have already spent a lot of time for free (as in beer) on the
piece of software.  What we lack is a mean of getting paid for the
time actually spent on the basic software itself.

You cannot do that by charging users.  To do so you would have to:

    * Make your users register so they can use the software.  That is
      not free software anymore.


    * Know in advance the exact number of users that will use your
      software, impossible.  And you would still charge for copies.

The only way to do so seems to be by external funding and sponsoring
-- and better by public or non-profit organisations.  Any other idea
to get companies involved in the funding of free software whereas they
may think that they should not fund software that their competitors
will eventually use (as they will be free to do so)?

But the final truth might be somewhat cruel for developpers who want
to earn their living by writing free software.  Using, studying,
modifying and distributing software should be inalienable freedoms.
But getting paid enough to earn one's living cannot be such a freedom,
as making software is such a funny thing that there will always be
people to do it in their spare time even if they get no money for

Guillaume Ponce

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