“Selling free software is OK”
“Many people believe that the spirit of the GNU project is that you should not charge money for distributing copies of software, or that you should charge as little as possible – just enough to cover the cost.
Actually we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can. If this seems surprising to you, please read on.
The word “free” has two legitimate general meanings; it can refer either to freedom or to price. When we speak of “free software”, we’re talking about freedom, not price. (Think of “free speech”, not “free beer”.) Specifically, it means that a user is free to run the program, change the program, and redistribute the program with or without changes.
Free programs are sometimes distributed gratis, and sometimes for a substantial price. Often the same program is available in both ways from different places. The program is free regardless of the price, because users have freedom in using it.
Non-free programs are usually sold for a high price, but sometimes a store will give you a copy at no charge. That doesn’t make it free software, though. Price or no price, the program is non-free because users don’t have freedom.
Since free software is not a matter of price, a low price isn’t more free, or closer to free. So if you are redistributing copies of free software, you might as well charge a substantial fee and make some money. Redistributing free software is a good and legitimate activity; if you do it, you might as well make a profit from it.
Distributing free software is an opportunity to raise funds for development. Don’t waste it!
In order to contribute funds, you need to have some extra. If you charge too low a fee, you won’t have anything to spare to support development.
Will a higher distribution price hurt some users?
People sometimes worry that a high distribution fee will put free software out of range for users who don’t have a lot of money. With proprietary software, a high price does exactly that – but free software is different.
The difference is that free software naturally tends to spread around, and there are many ways to get it.
Software hoarders try their damnedest to stop you from running a proprietary program without paying the standard price. If this price is high, that does make it hard for some users to use the program.
With free software, users don’t have to pay the distribution fee in order to use the software. They can copy the program from a friend who has a copy, or with the help of a friend who has network access. Or several users can join together, split the price of one CD-ROM, then each in turn can install the software. A high CD-ROM price is not a major obstacle when the software is free.
High or low fees, and the GNU GPL
Except for one special situation, the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) has no requirements about how much you can charge for distributing a copy of free software. You can charge nothing, a penny, a dollar, or a billion dollars. It’s up to you, and the marketplace, so don’t complain to us if nobody wants to pay a billion dollars for a copy.
The one exception is in the case where binaries are distributed without the corresponding complete source code. Those who do this are required by the GNU GPL to provide source code on subsequent request. Without a limit on the fee for the source code, they would be able set a fee too large for anyone to payâ€”such as a billion dollarsâ€”and thus pretend to release source code while in truth concealing it. So in this case we have to limit the fee for source, to ensure the user’s freedom. In ordinary situations, however, there is no such justification for limiting distribution fees, so we do not limit them.”
The text in red just contradicts everything that is in bold. The whole “Free as in speech, not free beer” is hogwash because every GPL software is free beer also. It just CANNOT be otherwise. Of course, you can sell GPL’ed software, but, because you need to give away all the source code, your customer can compile it and then upload the binaries and the source to the internet legally. Et Voila! Once that happens, you can forget to “sell” that software, your only way to make money is through support etc.. unless you indeed did charge a vast amount of money for your first copies, like he described it at the end of the text, but this is just illusoury.
He himself encourages people to “sell” gpl software, but admits it in the same text that it is almost impossible to do that practically. It was maybe possible before the internet became popular, but certainly not now.
Isn’t he lovable?