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Chris Holt [opinions]

What about selling free software [non-profit] [sell-free] [mozilla] [pc-magazines]

Gervase Markham, the Mozilla Foundation's licensing officer, in an article in the Times Online, talks about being questioned by a northern UK Trading License Officer about giving away software.

The trading officer was concerned by a group that was burning the free Mozilla Browser on CDs and selling it. She was expecting Gervase to object to their scheme; but he didn't and “wrote back, politely explaining the principles of copyleft – that the software was free, both as in speech and as in price, and that people copying and redistributing it was a feature, not a bug. I said that selling verbatim copies of Firefox on physical media was absolutely fine with us,...”

Wide distribution is “the gold” for copyleft products and creative distribution is useful for promoting the products. This gives me an idea for non-profits. Why not let non-profits package up useful free software and sell it on CDs as a fund raising idea. Getting useful software compiled on a CD is a nice backup to downloading and if they were to write useful manuals about how to use the software they have then added in that value added component ala the Red Hat model.

There are many magazines that do this (Maximum PC, Personal Computer World, PC Utilities, PC Advisor, Computer Music) so why not needy organizations?

The non-profits could also promote their cause through providing information on their services on the CD. This could of course be done on-line as well, but somehow the package idea seems more appealing to me and I think the product feel of it would work better.

Compiled packages could be oriented to specific user groups, like children, various non-profits, seniors, newbies, sports teams, etc.

For example: A disc with the following might be quite useful for a small school that, who knows,...may even run Bingos for fund raising. This is a quick sample, but you get the idea.

  • Bingo-cards is a virtual bingo tumbler.
  • Class is a student scheduling and reporting system.
  • Emilda is a complete Integrated Library System.
  • SchoolTool is a project to develop a common global school administration infrastructure.
  • OpenGrade is software for teachers to keep track of grades.
  • GCompris is an educational software which propose different activities to children from 2 to 10 years old.
  • Tux Typing is an educational typing tutor for children. It features several different types of gameplay, at a variety of difficulty levels.

This idea is not unlike Ubuntu's use of Synaptic Package Manager or Automatix but a little more user specific and user friendly.

Why would I purchase one of these discs? To help a non-profit raise funds, not through donations, but through social entrepreneurship. Someone else will have done the work to find this software and there is value in organizing information after all. Saves me time.


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