Subject: Re: Fwd: Wall Street article on a new Cooperative
From: "Forrest J. Cavalier III" <mibsoft@mibsoftware.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2004 11:03:12 -0400 (EDT)


jamie@shareable.org wrote, in part:

> The trouble is, once they've bought into it, the co-operative as a
> whole has a good incentive not to open that source: it's worth $30k
> per new member to keep it closed.

I do not agree that all undistributed wealth represents a "trouble."

As long as the copyright license allows forking and
redistribution, I think the model can be fully OSI-compliant.  

I do not know if the projectavalanche license agreement permits
it.  My guess is not, but I think the consortium funding model works
in practice even if the license is OSI-compliant, in three
different scenarios....

1. If the consortium forms to support developing software with
   development cost X and utility value Y, each member need pay
   only X/n, which has a better chance of being greater than Y.
   And Y need not be the same for all members.

   The developer gets paid, the software gets written.

2. If the consortium forms to manage improvements to an existing
   code base, the situation is similar.

3. If a developer controls his distribution practices, and
   knows his market, the developer can speculate and do the
   development and publish only to subscribers.  The developer
   should speculate when able to keep the X/n cost at the right
   level compared to both the perceived value and the costs to
   republish.

   In this case a licensee can realize that republishing the unmodified
   software is often not in their self-interest, (for any number
   of reasons such as retaining competitive advantage, publishing costs,
   liability.)  They may also be wise enough to factor in the secondary
   interest in keeping the distribution low precisely to support the
   market for new members joining and funding for improvements.

   Also, the perceived value can be very multi-faceted, since
   some people will not trust second-hand copies and will
   want to go straight to the source.  The copyright holder
   will want to encourage this state, by distributing
   validation checksums for the content and license only to subscribers,
   digitally signed with identifying information unique to the subscriber
   (so that retransmission has 0 value.)  So maybe a non-subscriber could
   obtain the content at 0 cost from elsewhere, but can they trust it?
   Does it get updated frequently enough?  How do you get notices of
   changes/fixes/security?  Unless you form a contract with the supplier
   (even if a simple purchase), do you have any assurance of license terms
   in a form capable of preventing/resolving copyright lawsuits?

(You see I tend to discount the "many eyeballs" value of releasing software
that ESR writes about.  I've seen too many problems in OSS persist
for too long to think there is much measurable value.)