Subject: Re: Ransom GPL Licensing: ethically and legally viable?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: 20 Feb 2003 17:52:20 +0900

>>>>> "Brian" == Brian Shire <> writes:

    Brian> 5 years seems to me like a long period of time to break
    Brian> even.

How long did it take the Internet to break even?

    Brian> It's probably safe to assume that it takes you five years
    Brian> to recoup dev costs because your costs are so much higher

It's _never_ safe to assume your imagination is better than the the
rest of the market's.  Some scenarios:

1.  Complementor product: mainline is an IMAP server, the ransomed
    product is an RFC 2646 (hint, hint) conforming MUA.  Doesn't need
    to be high profit, but your strategy may require that it pay for

2.  Network externalities and availability of 3rd party complementors
    make time to takeoff uncertain.  Once it takes off, you expect to
    ransom within a year, but the tipping point might be 6 mos to 4
    years from initial release.

3.  Your main line is _not_ free software, but you are thinking about
    trying to get some hacker customers, and (perhaps misguidedly) see
    a long term ransom of a multiply-licensed product as a reasonable

    Brian> It's in the company's best interest to have a successfull
    Brian> ransom, bad properties are not a good catalyst for this
    Brian> goal.

Sure, but maybe most customers will not be free-software bigots; who
will consider the promise of free source availability to be relatively
important several years down the line (when the vendor is bankrupt or
simply exited, for example).  In which case what pisses you off as
"weak, very weak" may be considered a real, if non-killer, fringe
benefit with only positive reputation effects by the paying customers.

    Brian> A competing product with better properties would be more
    Brian> apt for customer aproval and purchase.

Other things being equal.  That hardly explains the share of Microsoft
products in the market, though.

The point is that if you're going to use Ransom yourself, just use it,
for your own reasons.  You probably don't have to worry terribly much
about reputation, and if you do, just call it "EULA" and avoid
possible negative associations.  But if you promote it and use it,
then you have to worry about what people who don't think like you
might do with it.

Unless you plan to publish it with a proprietary license.  ;-)

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.