The "paywall" and related matters

I’m afraid there are very few FOSS projects that even try to raise money. The broad consensus is that it’s not possible. (I’m talking about consumer software now.) I can name two projects that disprove this myth, Ardour and Blender, and I think that’s a tragedy. Well it’s a triumph for you, and congratulations, but it’s a tragedy more generally.

As for the “money speaks” issue, well you’d still be in charge what goes on the list, so you retain control over development that way. OK, so the majority of users get their wish first (if everyone pledges equally), but the rest get their wish later, so that seems like a reasonable trade off to me. It’s better than nobody getting anything.

I don’t see monetisation as a dirty thing. The commercial success of free software is the success of free software. They’re the same thing to me, and everyone wins.

As Robin pointed out the option to pledge for features option is still active, I took your “do it again” to mean go back to the old way where pledge for features was the only option, and there were no subscriptions.
You can look at the amounts pledged, as Paul pointed out it is basically trivial for anyone who has to pay living expenses in North America or western Europe.

Try as I might, I’m afraid I can’t find it.

It certainly isn’t very visible. It was more so in a previous version of Mantis. When Mantis changed, we didn’t bother to “fix” the visibility because of the low significance of the associated bug sponsorships.

there are very few FOSS projects that even try to raise money

Wordpress (and thousands of wordpress plugin developers), Musescore, Linux Mint, Me, Zrhythm… there are many more.

Here is a list of some of the more notable examples - List of commercial open-source applications and services - Wikipedia

Here is an article about various “Open Source” business models - Business models for open-source software - Wikipedia

The advantage of free software is that it gives the users control, it’s not that it gives them stuff without paying for it, although in most cases that is true also.

Ardour provides binaries for as little as $1 - I think that’s more than reasonable considering the costs of generating the binaries, hosting them, and providing the download bandwidth.

Free software is the only software worth paying for.


In theory yes, but when you get to something as complex (and niche) as a DAW, there are probably only a few hundred people in the world who have the (diverse) skill set required to understand the features, and the methods of implementing them (though there are probably a great many more who think they do… its audio, how hard can it be? :slight_smile: ). That’s why its easily worth $1 to have someone build it for you in my opinion. (And after all, how much really is $1 in the context of all the other equipment you also need in order to actually make use of the software? )


Most users (with some programming ability) can make small changes to large program such as Ardour. I’ve done it, and I know very little about C++ or how Ardour works, but I was able to tweak the small part that was relevant to me with guidance from the developers here.

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...with guidance from the developers here.

We don’t exist in a developerless vacuum. The developer is there so I ask them which file do I need to change to implement x feature and they point me in the right direction.

If the project had been abandoned and there were no developers or the developers were unhelpful then it would be a little more difficult, but far from impossible. I make little tweaks to programs all the time so that they do my bidding muhahahahaha

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Basically, without a professionally working team - paid or not - this project will be dead.


@paul OK, so it was like a bounty programme? That’s asking for donations again, which is fine, but I was proposing something more like a bidding war. That’s just an example, by the way. The important thing is that it’s something that challenges the users to come to terms with how much they actually value the feature. As in, I thought $20 was a fair price, but now that I’m facing the prospect of not getting it for another year I’m actually prepared to pay $60.

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!