Of course it is. The whole point of the free software movement is to demand freedom for all users. If you are implying it is not possible to go through life without using exclusively free software for your personal computing, then that's simply false---many, including myself, reject proprietary software entirely.
Using proprietary software on behalf of your employer is different. You're not being robbed of your freedoms because you're not doing your own computing---your employer is being robbed of those freedoms.
The argument that it's not possible to make money developing free software is an often used one and is simply false:
(I don't endorse a number of the methods on that page.)
No it isn't. It's to demand the work of others be free for consumption by anyone without compensation. Users have a choice - free software (there are very few categories of end-user tools that I can think of that aren't well served by open source these days), or commercial software.
If the free software movement cared about freedom they would recognize that preserving user choice is a more important and lofty goal than just saying free all the things.
A militant approach to demanding that everything be free is an entitlement that doesn't value the disproportionate investment of resources (time, money, energy, etc) that software developers invest in their work in contrast to the value that users extract from that expenditure.
Software developers should be free to release software for free if they choose to, and users should have the right to use software that has been released for free (for example, unencumbered by hardware manufacturer restrictions that exist strictly to prevent the end user installing chosen software), but demanding the work of others for free is nonsense.
It's to demand the work of others be free for consumption by anyone without compensation.
This is a monumental misunderstanding of what the FSF and the GPL stand for. (And they have only themselves to thank for muddying the word "free" but that's another rant).
Compensation is not something covered by Free Software.
That's kind of my point. Free software, per the FSF and the GPL requires that the users are free to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute software. There is no provision there to allow for the authors to extract value from their own investment through distribution of the outputs.
If you can't extract value from the distribution of that software, then you are left with building value through the delivery of services, support, monetizing the data you can collect from users, or access to your user (so far the the most prominent open source business models).
I have no objection to open source software, and quite enjoy using and contributing on open source stuff (software , documentation, gaming content, etc), but make no mistake, the free software movement demands that the work of others be free for consumption without compensation.
You say this one paragraph after you listed a number of ways to get compensation. There are entire corporations, large ones, built around this model you claim doesn't exist. And then there's the fact that the overlap between people likely to buy your software, and people with the skill, time, and desire to build your software from source, is pretty small. A number of app store apps work on this model (off the top of my head, the Textual IRC client is one)
Yes, I know how open source models work to generate revenue and earn money. I was employed by Mozilla for almost 5 years, so I clearly understand how open source companies make money, and it's not by consumption of the software. What they aren't is compensation for consumption. Have you ever wondered why there hasn't been a blockbuster, AAA open source game despite the fact that many other sectors are dominated by open source?
It probably has a great deal to do with the fact that entertainment is largely based on deriving value directly from the consumption. There are still ancillary revenue sources (merchandising, movie deals, etc) that can generate alternate revenue streams, but the bottom line, without generating compensation directly from consumption, not from alternate revenue streams, making a game would not be profitable.
entertainment is largely based on deriving value directly from the consumption
This sounds like a failure of business model rather than an intractable problem. Okay, a hypothetical:
Pretend for a moment that you write an open source game, distributing the source on Github or similar, but you also sell a complete packaged copy for real money on places like Steam and GOG. Do you think that the presence of the source-based copy will impact one iota the sales on the storefronts?
Before answering, consider that it takes less skill and less sophistication to download from a torrent site and apply a crack than it does to set up a build environment.
I don't think it does. And I think this is a normative assumption (can't sell open source!) about the industry that's been accepted without any real supporting facts.
Not really, the business model is highly successful, even in the face of rampant piracy. The free software movement might consider it a failing of the business model, but unwinding that would mean applying the free ideology to all aspects of copyright and trademark, and not just the free software movement.
Moving past that, your hypothetical has some deeply flawed considerations.
First, you cite an open source game, not a free game. It is easy to sell open source software that is not free, and this is a well established fact (look at the id Software comments below). Also consider Oracle, which sells a large number of open source products, as does Google, and to a lesser extent Microsoft. Their open source offerings are offered under free licenses, but are backed and protected by extensive IP, including trademarks and patents, which essentially makes the products non-free.
Second, setting up a build environment and building the software is more technically challenging than pirating a copy, however, much like pirating a copy, that technical cost only needs to be paid by a single user who is motivated to share the software. I submit the entire history of the software protection mechanism / cracking scene arms race as evidence that such a cost will readily be paid.
Third, shifting the discussion back to free software, the sale of open source software is usually predicated on a license that prevents other sellers of the same software from competing on the consumption of that software - whether it is a trademark, or proprietary bits that are compiled, or hardware that requires that packages be digitally signed, or any other number of constraints. This even applies to GPL software - the original owner of the GPL content can sell a copy of the code under a different license, however anyone who forks or extends the GPL licensed code is obligated to propagate that license forward, which severely hinders a competitors ability to sell the software.
For software to meet the constraints of being free according to the FSF/GPL, these restrictions cannot substantially exist as the licenses provided allow a user to remove the technical constraints, or replace the trademarked content. It is certainly possible to release the software for free and retain control of the trademarked/copyrighted elements (for example, Quake 3, Doom 3, etc).
Do note that the companies that have released their game engines as free software have typically done so as a marketing move to allow developers and engineers to learn from their code / build on their code, and still offer commercial licenses - again, ancillary to the core release of the game. These releases rarely coincide with the release of the game since, again, the primary gain is capturing revenue from the initial consumption of novel content. I am not arguing that Free Software is bad, I am simply saying that the expectation that all software must be free is an untenable position given the cost (and associated risk) of developing some classes of software.
That's a feature, not a bug :)
But I'm getting a bit confused, here. We're talking about feasibility of license selection, right? If you use some third party proprietary blob like, say, the Unity engine for your game, why is it against license to still release your code for the game under a Free license (as the author, that's the limit of what you can do anyways), and just make the enduser aware that they'll need the same tools to actually make use of it? At the end of the day, you've released your code and given a third party all they need to build on it.
I'm trying to think of the worst case scenario for the exception you described. Let's say.. a Unity game (proprietary blob) running under iOS (requires codesigning) with someone else's IP (copyrighted assets licensed by a third party)
I still don't see what would prevent this game from being released under a free license (if not the GPL) in this scenario. The first two problems don't preclude releasing your code, and the last is solved by either getting permission from the rightsholder, or by including standin assets to replace the copyrighted ones (ala many a Quake/Doom mod back in the day).
Also, as I understand it, the GPL is not the only Free license. A compatible license is one that respects the 4.5 freedoms, and this would include the BSD/MITs of the world which are used, in part, because some developers don't like the must-propagate provisions of the GPL.
the primary gain is capturing revenue from the initial consumption of novel content.
Releasing the code does not prevent this in any meaningful way for one, and for two, even if it did, piracy would be a much bigger issue.
> No it isn't. It's to demand the work of others be free for consumption by anyone without compensation. Users have a choice - free software (there are very few categories of end-user tools that I can think of that aren't well served by open source these days), or commercial software.
SUSE, RedHat and numerous other companies make plenty of money selling free software (and selling support for it). This is is "commercial free software". You don't seem to understand what "free software" refers to. It does not refer to price. It refers to freedom.
> If the free software movement cared about freedom they would recognize that preserving user choice is a more important and lofty goal than just saying free all the things.
You are redefining the word freedom. Freedom refers to control over your own life. You don't have such control when using proprietary software. The only way to have such control is the 4 fundamental freedoms. Any other definition is just muddying the waters.
> A militant approach to demanding that everything be free is an entitlement that doesn't value the disproportionate investment of resources (time, money, energy, etc) that software developers invest in their work in contrast to the value that users extract from that expenditure.
Given that Linux and GNU exist, and are being sold and have funding from large companies, I call bullshit. Just because some companies have decided to sell proprietary software doesn't mean that suddenly it isn't possible to sell free software.
> Software developers should be free to release software for free if they choose to, and users should have the right to use software that has been released for free (for example, unencumbered by hardware manufacturer restrictions that exist strictly to prevent the end user installing chosen software), but demanding the work of others for free is nonsense.
Again, you're not understanding what free software is. It is software which respects your freedom. It does not have to be gratis (without price) in order to respect your freedom.
I learned to program on "proprietary" software(quake, half-life) among other things while I was growing up and it didn't hamper my ability to be an effective software developer.
Not saying that the item in question is itself comparable to this, just there's lots of different ways to get by in the world…
I understand how the game industry operates today; an ex-co-worker of mine used to work as a manager in the field.
Seriously, there's enough barriers to being successful in gamedev as it is, I don't see any reason to add another one on top of that.
Yes, this is the long-standing problem with software freedom in general; not specific to game publishers. And I don't expect that to change any time soon; I'm hopeful for the indie developers.
But a recognized problem in our community is the inability to compete with games with multi-million dollar budgets; it's simply not possible at this point.
Like I said, you don't really have a good grasp of the industry. 9/10 indies don't make it, and none of them make it to the level of Notch. I'm talking about people who know what they're doing, burned all their savings from BigCo so they could work for ~1.5 years and still didn't make it.
Open source software is so at the bottom end of the scale, and you already have a bunch of frameworks out there if you want to know how the nuts & bolts work.