The "paywall" and related matters

THANK YOU. That’s a great example. I’d completely forgotten about WP.

You’ve missed the point entirely. Ardour provides an entire professional-grade DAW. It’s worth a hell of a lot more than $1.


I’ve been reading this debate over the last few days, and I get why Paul is upset. The GPL is an amazing thing for software - it’s pushed software ahead so far, but there are edge cases like the initial poster that are hard to swallow when your project is already difficult to sustain.

The 4$ a month I pay to subscribe is the best 4$ I pay per month. Consistently, release after release, I am pleasantly surprised by the additions, the bug fixes, and the general thoughtfulness put into Ardour as a tool to accomplish a variety of audio ends. I’ve mixed an entire album, edited podcasts, and also used it just as a shell to goof off and play Autumn Leaves to a drum track - it does all of those extremely well. And like Paul, I think it’s super shitty of the person who posted that they took the binaries and posted them to some archive site.

With that said, I also think the people who are going to the archive site are not going to ever go through the paytunnel - it’s shitty to make it easier for them, but the license agreement is such that if a person downloads the binaries from there, they are on their own for learning to use and supporting the program. As soon as they reveal they downloaded it from there, we as a community can say, “Dude, when you go pay at least a dollar to support the project, come back and talk,”

And yes @BethHarmon, I agree with your point that it makes us an exclusive club, but disagree with the idea that it’s fundamentally a bad thing. My universal experience on the internet is exclusive clubs behind a paywall - no matter how low or high - are significantly more curated, less toxic, and more helpful than any Reddit or Zuckerface product. I’m okay with having an ‘in’ club that has a 1$ entry fee.

I understand a dollar here isn’t the same as it is in ZImbabwe or India - but I also think that’s exactly where there’s a version of Ardour, packaged in the Linux distros, for those people. I guarantee if they cannot afford the 1$, they are also probably not using Windows or buying an Apple product to run it on, and therefor, are not exactly running afoul of the paytunnel like the OP did.

Don’t be deterred by the haters Paul and Robin. This project has inspired me to start learning C++, so that someday I might be able to at least contribute a little bit. It’s done amazing things for many many others.

EDIT: I never addressed the bug bounty issue. I think it’s a terrible idea, and I’m glad it’s so subtle I never noticed it even as I’ve posted ideas and bugs to the Ardour tracker. I’d much rather let the devs look at their project and let them decide what the best path forward is for it, than to try to browbeat them with bribery on their bug tracker to taking on my pet issue just because I will put 20$ towards it.


I’m with you Paul, although I can understand that it’s hard not being able to give a readily compiled version to a Windows user, telling her/him to just have a look…

That said, I’m a supporter with 4$/month as long as I can afford that. I wouldn’t really need to (Debian has 5.12, the upcoming ‘Bullseye’ will have 6.5 and with the KXStudio repos maybe even a newer one, Arch has the latest anyway) - but I want to.

I usually recommend people with other operating systems to just get a live boot image of Ubuntu Studio, AVL, KXStudio or the likes, and to ‘try before they buy’, but I guess most don’t mind spending a dollar if they’re really interested. The ‘freeware’ crowd is another one, we’re talking freedom here…

Thanks for doing this all for us, and I hope that it will be sustainable for a very long time.


If you think about it, many of us pay monthly for Spotify, Netflix, etc. But still at a minimum of $ 1 a month for Ardour, (which is a tool for many, streaming are entertainment and a waste of time) feels like some incredible sacrifice. Personally, though, I use a Mixbus 32c and I hope the money goes in the direction of Ardour through it.

I donate a small amount to AvLinux every month, but now I guess I put it in Ardour as well, because this conversation started beating me immensely.

And as sugar at the bottom: If I get completely into the world of Linux and get rid of Windows, I could add steam.

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You can do that. One of your rights under the GPL is the freedom to share.


For people who are against charging for the build service (and trying something else instead), I think it really helps to read this blog post from 2014 to understand some context. Especially, Ardour was in a much worse state financially at that time and I guess nobody wants to go back there. As far as I recall, Paul did not even have a health insurance for a very long time because of this situation.

Furthermore, I never saw anybody being turned down when they asked for a gratis version of Ardour because they cannot afford it or they come from a country that does not have access to the banking system such that they can pay for it.


I may have missed something, but is it really legal to take the binaries the Ardour project has compiled and then spread them around the world? Isn’t GPL about the source code? The Ardour project says that one can download the binaries for a fee, which should mean that doing what this “freeyourbuilds” entity has done is illegal.

Anyway, I think that it is a really bad thing to do and in the best case extremely rude!

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It is completely legal.

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Given sharing a binary is completely legal but there are so many users seemingly against the practice, I can only assume that in general people don’t understand the GPL. While a paywall does not in any way run counter to the words of the license it does add some confusion as to whether the user is paying for the software or the build process given the two cannot be separated. In essense, the user is paying for the software. But, again, that is actually totally fine given the GPL definition of the word “free” (as in speech, not beer). However, once a user has paid for and downloaded the binary or binaries, the GPL completely covers (and encourages) sharing with others. There is no grey area here. Plus, I can only assume barring a server hack that the OP did pay some money to retrieve those binaries. Unsurprisingly, nobody has mentioned that so far!

One further point:

I’d like to suggust that there be detailed instructions for building for all platforms but with a disclaimer that no support beyond the instuctions can be given (except for a price? :wink: ) The linux instructions don’t even perform a ./waf configure --optimize build :crazy_face:. How about a clean live ISO that can be downloaded with all the correct dev packages so anyone interested can have a better experience trying to build? I for one would love to succeed in building a Win64 and/or MacOS Ardour binary just to check it off my bucket list :slight_smile:

@freeyourbuilds signed up for a US$1/month subscription, and cancelled it before paying, utilizing a “weakness” in our subscription mgmt system that lets subscriptions in this state count as “active”.

We would like to have such an environment as well, ideally for Xcode (on macOS) and MSVC (Windows) to attract developers on those platforms.

However as mentioned in other threads, it’s not a good use of our (paul’s and mine) time to maintain such a system.

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I’m unconvinced of this. I think Paul understated the rarity of the conditions Ardour is currently experiencing as a FLOSS project, its positioning is so unique that I have never seen anything like it in the nearly 15 years I have been using GNU/Linux and following FLOSS projects. Changing how they deliver binaries would almost certainly destroy the current financial state of the project. I don’t know the true intentions of “freeyourbuilds”, so I don’t really want to go into a lot of detail here. That being said, I also don’t think they mean the project harm. To me this looks an act that was done out of good intention but very naively.

in the rest of the open source world desirable e.g. posting binaries on file sharing sites and creating torrents to reduce server load, making great software even more well known and thereby increasing the userbase.

What is desirable depends on the specific project, there is no blanket solution for the success of a project and increasing the size of a user base does not objectively mean the project will gain more funding, or that the quality of it will improve, or that it will even be able to continue existing.

From my perspective, the true success of a FLOSS project like Ardour relies on its ability to compete effectively with proprietary alternatives while maintaining its independence. The more viable an alternative it is seen to proprietary software, the more people will be attracted to it. That inherently relies on funding for the developers to spend time working on it. Right now Ardour is receiving the funding it needs to support quality development time, and I see zero reason that the team should risk disrupting that. Maybe when the Ardour user base is thrice the size they can consider providing free binaries without it being seen as risky at best.

making users feel guilty for doing what is 100% legal

Let me be clear with my opinion here, this is not okay. From my perspective anyone hosting binaries on a public mirror is directly at odds with the current method of funding for the project and is going against the wishes of the developers. That would be seen as uncouth regardless of what method is used by a large portion of FLOSS developers, who would not be anywhere close to as reasoned as Paul has been.

Playing devil’s advocate here but it is ok because the GPL license says it is ok. In a sense the wishes of the developers have nothing to do with it if they subscribe to the GPL. If we tell people that they can’t do this it directly contradicts the freedoms provided by using such a license.

There’s a big difference between can’t and shouldn’t. Yes, the GPL license is nonrestrictive and because of that it allows for many unrestricted actions, even actions that can be seen as detrimental to the very projects that use that licensing—it provides that freedom. When we think of freedom, when appreciate it, we must also recognize that freedom itself allows for actions of good, but also maliciousness, for freedom to be used for good it relies on faith in the decency of human beings not to abuse it. There are many free actions you can take in society, in the world of FLOSS, even on stage in a live performance, that you absolutely have the right to perform, but will quickly lose the respect of your peers none the less. And an action like this certainly loses mine.

If you can show me in the GPL where it says you shouldn’t distribute software, I’ll eat my hat :wink:

The difference that you glossed over in your comparison to other walks of life is that freedom to distribute software is inherent to GPL (written as the 3rd term/condition). Software can be caged behind a paywall, of course, but once a copy is “released” that party can do whatever they want with it. Isn’t this the whole reason the FSF and GPL-style licenses came about in the first place to fight for the right to treat software just like any other object you might buy and have the right to adapt, sell, give away etc? The majority of users in this thread seem to be claiming Ardour should be an exception and that distributing copies to friends and family is something to be frowned upon.

There’s the ever-so-slight impression that we are on a rather murky edge of something that doesn’t feel quite right.

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My stance has nothing to do with what the GPL says you shouldn’t do.

freedom to distribute software is inherent to GPL

Yes, and like I’ve stated, freedom can be used for ill or good intent. How you use it is up to you. You can do whatever you want with your object under the guidelines GPL proposes, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything you do.


Anyone suggesting there is any problem with giving a copy of Ardour to family, neighbors, friends, associates, fellow students etc. etc. is completely out of line.It might be going slightly too far to say that I would encourage this behavior, but that’s more or less my position.

However, from my perspective, there’s a huge difference between posting 9 release files on and posting about it at (notice that I’ve left the post up and visible), and giving copies to individuals you have some relationship with.


I share the same view. I don’t have anything strongly against distributing it to family or friends, but hosting it on a public mirror and advertising it at the official source isn’t something I’m okay with personally. I also wouldn’t really be okay with advertising it on any large platform.


Just to clear up any confusion all of my opinions are super subjective and based on my own experiences and understanding, I am just another user of Ardour. I would never hate someone or consider them an enemy for disagreeing with me over something like this.

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Of course not. It’s just healthy debate :slight_smile: I actually wish the developers all the success in the world (including making money) and my responses were an attempt to separate the emotion from the facts of the GPL. I don’t think the OP was trying to act like the official source but just, in their words, “freeing the builds” because they believe the binaries, like the source code, should be free as in beer as well as in speech. I’m not personally rushing to judge them because I don’t know their circumstances at all. Also, you never know as a result of their actions if some random youngster will be inspired by finding an Ardour 6.7 binary on and later become a major force in the open source community. Life can be funny like that.

Peace, goodwill etc and long may Ardour development be fruitful (and produce MIDI lollipops :wink: ).