Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Should software be free (as in beer)?

Something I have been wondering about recently is should software be free (as in beer). Well perhaps not totally free, but free for non-commercial use. I think this would have several advantages. My thoughts go along the following lines:

  1. People do not want to pay for software for their personal use.
  2. People do not have a problem pirating software for their personal use.
  3. It is not worth FAST pursuing individuals, the cost versus benefit is too low.
based on this charging for non-commercial use of software is little more than a tax on the honest. (I have to admit the first 2 is not based on research, but my gut feel based on the people I have met over the years.)

Of course this does not really matter if you are making software for profit, you need to make living, why would you give the software away. I can think of a few advantages:
  1. Increase the number of people who can use your software.
  2. Improved security, pirated software is often infected with viruses and malware. Since you no longer pirate software for your own use this is a much smaller problem.
  3. Improved security as people do not use alternative tools from the web that have a dubious pedigree.
  4. People get free use of software that helps them live their lives.
I have to admit I can see problems. Like what happens to those companies who write software aimed at the consumer, like video games, or apples iLife suite of applications. Also how can you tell the difference between commercial and non-commercial use. That said I do wonder if this would be a better model. Companies pay for the software to use and society benefits for free. Kind of the way the patent system is supposed to work.

Well that is my thought for the day.

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