Giving Everything Away

Way back at BarCamp NYC Chris Messina mentioned a paper called, An Economy for Giving Everything Away. It is not the most gripping read (and perhaps that is why it has taken me a while to actually mention it… I have picked it up and put it down a few times in the last 2 weeks) but it raises interesting ideas that apply to the concept of open source, and non-competition in open source markets.

How can we satisfy our clients with our work, but also keep it for ourselves, and freely share with others? This is a problem addressed by open source software. The nature of software is that it can be freely reproduced and reused. However, current laws treat software as a creative work for which every user must get permission from the creator in order to make a copy. Many software vendors use these laws to restrict access to the workings of the software, which are considered secret. This legal environment discourages sharing even when the creator prefers to encourage it. Consequently, a spectacular movement has arisen to create software under licenses that promote copying, and encourage users to examine and even edit the underlying source code. [3]

How can one make money from works that may be freely shared? The affordability, quality, and proliferation of open source software has attracted commercial efforts. Makers of open source software have proven the viability of a variety of business models: organizing, packaging, distributing and branding software, offering training, consultations, extensions, and customizations, publishing books, magazines and organizing conferences. However, it seems that none of them directly profit from the openness of the software! In fact, many of them fall back on the copyright laws for the books, materials, and software that they actually sell. Or they profit from the fact that experience is in short supply. Apparently, everybody values the openness, but nobody directly pays for it!

These thoughts, among others, are helping to formulate the concept of DrupalGuild.

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