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