Subject: Re: "I've got more programmers than you"
From: Norbert Bollow <>
Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2001 14:23:46 +0200

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <> wrote:
> >>>>> "Zimran" == Zimran Ahmed <> writes:
>     Zimran> it also sounds like folks on this list are comparing FSBs
>     Zimran> to software companies when they talk about "inherent
>     Zimran> financial weakness."  This is almost certainly the wrong
>     Zimran> model, better to look at service firms, like niche
>     Zimran> consultancies, law firms, etc. Only coming from the
> I hope not!  I think everybody here hopes there is a model for
> developing free software profitably, even though some of us rather
> suspect it's as likely as a perpetual motion machine.

How about distributing Free Software as a subscription service?

When there is a company which is actively moving forward the
development of a Free Software product, there should be a steady
stream of new versions, bugfixes, etc.  Instead of putting them
directly on the internet where anyone can grab them without
paying, why not offer a paid subscription service that allows
people to download the newest version, bugfixes, patches etc.

The price of this subscription service would have to depend on
how the recipient is using the software, and on how much the
recipient contributes to the development effort:

* Free Software hackers who want the software for personal use
  only, and who have a history of contirbuting to Free Software
  projects in whatever way, should get their subscriptions for

* Other "individual" users should get the subscription for
  a relatively low fee.

* "Large corporate" users should pay a subscription fee which is
  low enough that it doesn't hurt them, but high enough that it
  provides substantial renevue to the company which is behind the
  software product.  EXCEPTION: "Large corporate" users who
  contribute significant manpower to the developemt should get
  the subscription at zero cost.

* Companies which redistribute the software on a large scale
  should be charged a very significant subscription fee.

Here is how the last point can be enforced _roughly_:

The software would be distributed under a _variant_ of the GNU
GPL which contains a serial number which the recipient is not
allowed to remove or change.  This license will allow
modification and redistribution of the source code and binaries
(under the same conditions that the GNU GPL also imposes), and
it will allow appending additional license numbers to the
license document, but it won't allow deleting anything from the
license document.  [Adding an additional license number must be
allowed so that another FSB can fork the software and then use a
similar scheme.]

Therefore, when someone signs up as an "individual user" and then
habitually redistributes the various releases of the software on
such a large scale that it threatens the revenue base of the
company which develops the software, the perpetrator can be
found out with the serial number and that person's subscription
can be terminated.

Obviously this system isn't watertight, but I think it's good
enough to generate sufficient revenue for FSBs.

Greetings, Norbert.

A member of FreeDevelopers and the DotGNU Steering Committee:
Norbert Bollow, Weidlistr.18, CH-8624 Gruet   (near Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel +41 1 972 20 59       Fax +41 1 972 20 69
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