These are follow-up questions to the one I posed to the open source community
for my proposed article in Internet.com's Boardwatch magazine on a royalty
system to pay developers in open source. I'd like to get community feedback
on these, too. I write an Internet Business Law monthly column for
Boardwatch <www.boardwatch.com> and I'm writing a series on open source. [If
you are searching my past articles, please note that the bio page has a
problem and only lists 6 of my 13 articles, the rest are in the search
results themselves]. The responses to the first question came in from all
over the world and prompted these follow-up questions. Thank you again to
everyone who responded to the first. The responses were interesting,
enthusiastic, highly intelligent and ..... overwhelming in number-- though I
read and appreciated each one. I've enjoyed this project more than any
other, mainly because of the tremendous feedback. The open source revolution
has a passion not seen in the world since the storming of the Bastille. It
the best and brightest people worldwide in it, I think.
Am I the only person who thinks that developers should be paid a royalty
based on the number of accepted lines each developer contributes to a program
that's shipped and sold? Of all the responses I got on the first question,
only 2 discussed "how" any royalty system could be done and they both
concluded that it couldn't. Isn't a royalty system that compensates on the
basis of the monatary success of a program better than being paid a fixed
not paid at all?
As President Clinton recently said, "don t make the perfect the enemy of the
good." Even though a perfect royalty system may be impossible, one that
imperfectly pays developers is still a very good thing, I think, as long as
it keeps the core values of open source. More money to open source developers
only means more developers for the movement. Who would work for proprietary
software if they could get paid in open source? Open source is a superior
development model, after all, that empowers all developers, because it allows
them the freedom to see, copy and modify the code. Peer review both helps the
experienced developers and mentors the new ones coming along.
Also, aren't open applications better than closed proprietary applications?
So why does open source tolerate anything closed?
Will money ruin the open source movement? People originally also said that
would ruin the Internet. Has it? Why is open source different?
How will open source fight the inevitable software company backlash? Does
really think that software companies will go quietly into the night? Survival
most natural instinct and corporate law actually requires management to do
best for the shareholders. Does anyone remember Halloween I? Do you really
that Microsoft (after the trial, of course) will not use copyright and
open source? How does open source wage such a battle without a revenue model
help finance the war?
My leanings are:
1. Developers ought to be paid. Software is the most important product in
the world today. Developers are a new nobility based on brains. This is the
first chance the world has had to have a real worldwide meritocracy. This is
especially important for people in the developing world, who could earn a
place in the world economy by producing software for which they are paid
equally to everyone else.
2. Only large and medium corporations and all governments should pay for
open source software. Small business, students and consumers should not
be charged. [This is not a sine qua non, but only my egalitarian bias.]
3. ALL software should be open, including all applications.
4. The most efficient royalty system is based on the lines of code produced
by each developer as a percentage of the total lines in a final version
that's shipped and sold.
5. Property rights are fundamentally important. Getting them wrong caused the
Russian people to lose 3 generations. Capitalism works best at least until we
the point where no one has to work anymore, even if it is not perfect.
6. Software companies are dinosaurs and will be replaced by open source
development because the power is in the developers (at the base of the
in the companies (with the few at the top). This is different from
industrial companies that own the necessary capital assets to produce the
product, so those companies have the power in those situations. With
industrial companies if people want to work, they needed access to the
to do their job. This is why third world countries have to wait for
companies to invest before their citizens can work. This is the fundamental
shift between the old economy and the new economy. In the new economy, there
are very limited capital assets involved for people to do their jobs, so
need companies anymore. They can perform their jobs without the corporate
eggshell. This is what open source has shown the world. It's quite impressive
actually, if you think about it. Corporations have organized major human
for a couple of hundred years now. The Internet and open source prove this is
longer necessary, that people over the Internet can organize themselves.
Please read the two responses below that I received on the "how" issue. Can
give me any good reasons why in the first John shouldn't get 3/5 and Dave 2/5
of the selling price of the MP3 player (before you include Bob s recorder
code)? Forget about the interim bloatware since it gets eliminated.
Only the code in the shipped version counts. Competition to get accepted into
a shipped version will create a feedback loop that will eliminate the
bloatware in the end so only the best, cleanest, leanest code is included and
priced. Developers as a group would decide what is the best code for each
program as they do now in open source, since only they are the experts
expertise is at the base of the pyramid, not the top. Remember Gates almost
the Internet). The process for inclusion should be democratic, not monarchic
one person can be a dictator (nor oligarchic as with proprietary software's
many dictators). Every developer should equally have a vote on anything
interested in voting on.
In the second, what s wrong with the first guy getting 10000/10005 of the
combined market and the other guy getting 5/10005, since it is assumed that
the 10000 lines is the guts of the program and the 5 is only a clever
Maybe there can be some other objectively determinable criteria added as a
refinement at some point. But don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.
Lines of code is an easy, objectively determinable, and viable model right
now. It will get the developers some money for themselves and for the
By the way, ever calculate what a line of code is worth? Based on the market
cap of Microsoft it may be thousands of dollars. Yes, thousands for each
line. One calculation puts it at $9,000 per line, but that may be overly
optimistic. Do some calculations yourself. You'll be amazed. Just because it
s fun and easy for developers to produce it, doesn't mean software has no
value. On the flip side, proprietary software has shown that just because it
has value doesn't mean that developers will get much of it. Something in the
middle is clearly needed in my opinion.
Just my thoughts, though. Dissension is a whetstone that sharpens all our
Thanks and best regards,
Subj: RE:Open Source Article
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 1:17:13 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "R.A.Fletcher" <PMA99RAF at sheffield.ac.uk>
To: tonstanco at aol.com
Question: Why cant open source software be sold?
Answer: In a sense it can, but its not those who wrote the software
who sell it. RedHat sell it, SuSE sell it. They make money from it.
The authors don't recieve any. Since I'm a mathematician I'll proove
the idea that each author gets a percentage of what is sold is
impractical, by assuming that it isn't......
A man writes a program. Lets call him John. John write 10 000
lines of code for a program. To be topical, it can be an MP3 player,
to play audio files. By defenition the source to his software is
available for changing as anyone sees fit, if it is open source. Dave,
an MP3 specialist, likes Johns program, but finds bugs in it. And
being a clever programmer with a kind heart fixes them. Suddenly
10000 lines of code has become 5000 and the functionality of the
program has improved. Say 2000 lines of code of this final 5000 is
Dave's own work. Does that mean he should get a two-fifths share?
Who would work it out. John doesn't know Dave, so they might not
be able to agree a percentage. Before you know it Bob has added
a CDRecording facility.
Obviously it would take some disscusions to sort out percenttages,
and then your assuming that someone wants to buy it The aim of
each author getting ther just deserves is obviously impractical. Bob
says his cd recording feature is what makes the product stand out.
Dave says that's true but since Bob used his work, which fixed a
lot of bugs, he wouldn't have been able to implement it. John says
this too is true, but it was originally his program Whereupon the
have a fight.
Open source means software has to be free in order for it to be
Assume that John puts a restriction on his work stating that any
work done upon his code must not be released, except to him.
Then Dave probably wouldn't have bothered in the first place. And
Bob's groundbreaking CD record feature never comes to light, or at
least it takes longer.
I think that makes it clear why open source is the way it is. It
brings about rapid development, small efficient code, and benefits
users by being easily adapted if slightly unsuitable. Take for
instance if a program decides to send as much info about you to
an organisation. It wouldn't happen under the open source model.
I get the idea that you feel there should be reward for those who
spend their time doing these things for free. But they are usually
hobbyists, the system is working and needn't be fixed.
Subj: Re: open source article
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 11:05:11 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Izar Tarandach <izar at linuxqa.com>
To: TonStanco at aol.com
If based on a royalty model, how do you quantify how much each
developer gets ? For example, if I write a 10k lines system that works
on 50% of the computers in the market, and someone sends in a patch
with 5 lines that miraculously makes it work on the other 50% percent,
what's the size of the pie that each one of us is taking ?
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Commission, where I work as a securities attorney, as a matter of policy,
responsibility for any private publication or statement by any of its
views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect
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