fsf‐funding − Funding Free Software

     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 commercial redistributors to

     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 others.

     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 for

     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 difference 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 contribute little, since someone else would surely
do them; difficult ports such as adding a new CPU to the GNU
Compiler Collection contribute 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.


gpl(7), gfdl(7).

Copyright (c) 1994 Free Software Foundation, Inc.  Verbatim
copying and redistribution of this section is permitted
without royalty; alteration is not permitted.