Little by little, commercialism is beginning to crop up in the Blender world. Some software add-ons are now being offered for Blender that are not “free and open source.” There is, for example, a new retopology tool that costs $35.00. These are being rather heavily promoted in online video tutorials that are also now “for sale.”
Do we want this? Is it good for Blender?
Now, a little background. A generation or so ago, one of my relatives wrote a few tunes that today are basically “bumper music.” However, he was astute enough to join ASCAP and to register the copyrights to those “bumper” songs … which are still popular for their intended, albeit fairly industrial purpose. Be that as it may, ASCAP and BMI still “police” the commercial use of those songs. 35¢ or 40¢ at a time, it still adds up twice-a-year to a “very measurable part” of my total annual household income, as it will for the rest of my life. There is serious money to be made by collecting your rightful share of something that is sold.
Blender, up to this point in time, has survived and prospered from the free contributions of its developers, with support in part from the not-for-profit Blender Foundation. The total aggregate produce of all of this “free and open-source” effort has evolved into something that now has great commercial potential. And there are now those who are seeking to leverage, well, “what other people have done.” But they’re not giving-back, except perchance “voluntarily.”
Is this “okay?” Should this be “compulsory,” as copyright license law ordinarily allows?
We could, for example, seek to put in place a policy … having legal “teeth” … which states that, if you sell anything that is an add-on to Blender, you must (by law) pay, say, 50% of the gross proceeds of the sale to the Blender Foundation accounts, which must then use the revenue to support further open-source development of Blender.
Or, you could take it one step closer to, say, what happens in Nashville. If someone develops a commercial enhancement that is derived from something that you at some time in the past contributed to Blender on the assumption that “Blender is Free,” then you did so without concern for royalties on the presumption that there would never be any. However, if someone is now, say, charging $35.00 a copy for retopologizing code that is “a derivative work” of your original contribution (which they did not have to replicate, because you did it), then it certainly could be argued that you are entitled to royalties now. After all, the commercial exploitation “fundamentally changes the game,” and the terms of your implied copyright-licensing of what, being the product of your own hand, does “belong to you.”
We haven’t had to think about things like this until fairly recently. But, might we not need to be thinking about these things now?