Funding Free Software
If you want to have more free software a few years from now, it makes
sense for you to help encourage people to contribute funds for its
development. The most effective approach known is to encourage commer-
cial redistributors to donate.
Users of free software systems can boost the pace of development by
encouraging for-a-fee distributors to donate part of their selling
price to free software developers---the Free Software Foundation, and
The way to convince distributors to do this is to demand it and expect
it from them. So when you compare distributors, judge them partly by
how much they give to free software development. Show distributors
they must compete to be the one who gives the most.
To make this approach work, you must insist on numbers that you can
compare, such as, ``We will donate ten dollars to the Frobnitz project
for each disk sold.'' Don't be satisfied with a vague promise, such as
``A portion of the profits are donated,'' since it doesn't give a basis
Even a precise fraction ``of the profits from this disk'' is not very
meaningful, since creative accounting and unrelated business decisions
can greatly alter what fraction of the sales price counts as profit.
If the price you pay is $50, ten percent of the profit is probably less
than a dollar; it might be a few cents, or nothing at all.
Some redistributors do development work themselves. This is useful
too; but to keep everyone honest, you need to inquire how much they do,
and what kind. Some kinds of development make much more long-term dif-
ference than others. For example, maintaining a separate version of a
program contributes very little; maintaining the standard version of a
program for the whole community contributes much. Easy new ports con-
tribute little, since someone else would surely do them; difficult
ports such as adding a new CPU to the GNU Compiler Collection contrib-
ute more; major new features or packages contribute the most.
By establishing the idea that supporting further development is ``the
proper thing to do'' when distributing free software for a fee, we can
assure a steady flow of resources into making more free software.
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