I saw a headline and snippet in my news feeds this morning that made me wonder if the article was worth reading or just more inane BS confusing what “free” means with respect to the GPL. I should’ve known that it would be belly-aching about price.
Why all the fuss over whether you can sell something that is free? How fair is it if a company like Best Buy starts distributing open source software and is actually making a profit from it? According to the licensing, it is perfectly fair! Maybe not 100% ethical, but fair! Personally, I’d like to see them donate something of their proceeds back to the open source projects they affect, but they aren’t obligated.
The GPL is not about free (gratis) software. It’s about freedom.
Contrary to the author’s claim earlier in his article that associating a price with “free software” is like nailing jelly to a tree, there’s quite a bit more involved here. Best Buy isn’t merely “selling” copies of Ubuntu for $20 a pop and pocketing all but the cost of the media and packaging. Included in the package is documentation and a sixty-day service plan with Canonical.
That’s worthless? That’s hard to quantify? That’s like nailing jelly? I don’t think so — not when you run a company with a payroll. Canonical isn’t staffed by volunteers. Neither is Redhat, whom the author also mentioned in the article.
I think the “gratis” nature of opens source software has led to a subculture of entitlement. How else do you explain the comment that charging for distribution and service is “not 100% ethical”? That remark followed allusions to the GPL and LGPL, both of which are neutral on the point of charging for either software or service.
The Free Software Foundation was founded by Richard Stallman, who wrote the GPL. The FSF site is very clear about the “price” of “free” software. They have at least one page specifically focusing on the issue of selling software. Are they opposed? Nope. They want people to charge as much as they can for “free” software.
But that’s beside the point in this case. Entirely. Because it’s not the software that causes there to be a $20 charge. The service — paying someone to answer questions and help with setting up a new operating system — has a value. Is it unethical in any degree to pay people for their time to get out of bed and come to work? I think it’s just the opposite.
Such is the state of “free” software today. The “free software community” has been infiltrated by freeloaders. They don’t care about freedom, just how much they have to pay. As soon as you talk about exchanging money for software and/or service, you see their true colors.
By the way and for what it’s worth, last time I looked it seemed like Canonical does “donate something of their proceeds back to the open source projects.” Just like many other companies — Redhat, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, etc. — do.
How much do the freeloaders give back to the “community”?