Charging is not necessary to 8-bit Software as the costs I bear amount
to less than #8 per month. If I was to "Break Even" then I would have
to charge members 9p per disc per month provided members sent their
own disc and return P+P. As I work full time and I am on an income,
this amount per month is too small a cost to bother recouping.
However I DO respect the fact that some P.D. organisers not on an
income (ie. at school/college) need to recoup their costs and charging
each person (no more than #0.55 for a single disc) who requests
software is the only way to do this. I would like to make it clear
that the following article does not refer to these persons, and is in
no way intended to misrepresent the hard work they put into running
their libraries. As for the rest ... God help them .....
PUBLIC DOMAIN SOFTWARE itself is, and should always be FREE - make no
bones about it there should be no charges for the software itself,
nothing at all, NONE. Sadly however, the "copying charge" loophole
has been exploited by many PD library organisers and profits are made
at the expense of other programmers time and outstanding hard work.
There is no excuse for it - anyone who claims that he/she is "just
covering costs" and is charging more than 55p copying charge per disc
are deliberatly misleading their customers and deserve have the tax
man knocking at the door. If you are not prepared to put a little
time and effort into running a PD library at your own expense then you
should NOT be running a library at all.
So what is a properly run "PUBLIC DOMAIN ORGANISATION"? The best
example to use here is to take one of the many bulletin boards that
operate around the UK. A Bulletin board operates rather like 8-bit
Software does, except rather then use the post to exchange software
and correspondence, a member uses his/her computer and a "modem" to
connect up LIVE to a bulletin board. For example I would dial the
phone No. of the bulletin board I wish to use, wait until the "host"
computer answered the phone, and then I would connect my modem and
thus establish a phone link between my computer and that of the BB.
After entering my name and password I would have access to numerous
"special interest groups", message bases, magazines and P.D. software
- all for the price of a phone call. Unlike many P.D. libraries, the
bulletin board operators (called SySops) run their services at
considerable expense to themselves, yet in 90% of cases no charge is
passed on to the users. Contrary to what you might be thinking, a
bulletin board is run by an ordinary person in his/her spare time,
using standard computer equipment usually located in the bedroom. All
you need to run a BB is a Computer (ie. Model B), a modem, a disc
drive (preferably ADFS), a phone line and some "host" software.
Some operators charge a VOLOUNTARY registration fee (usually about #5
or #10 per year) in exchange for greater privalages when using the
board. This is a sensible and fair way of charging as the user can
SEE what the service is like BEFORE sending any money. A few postal
P.D. libraries do a demo disc, but (yes, you've guessed) for a charge.
I wonder how much custom they'd get if they offered the first single
order disc free so customers could SEE the quality of service before
paying for it?
Due to the limitations of corresponding by post, the bulletin board
organisations are able to run a better, "on-line" service than I will
ever hope to run at 8-bit Software, but apart from this there is
little difference between the two of us. Both 8-bit Software and
bulletin boards offer FREE P.D. software and FREE magazine, message
and editing facilities - so why do these other P.D. libraries less
than 1 year old HAVE to make a profit? P.D. software for the 8-bit
BBC Micro has been around on these Bulletin Boards for a lot longer
than 8-bit Software and all the other new libraries that sprouted last
year so P.D. for the BBC Model B is nothing new. So let is all bear
in mind that we're not setting the charging standards for the
distribution of P.D. software - we're violating them.
It would be a crying shame to discourage all the talented computer
owners not fortunate enough to have access to communications hardware
their right to this source of P.D. software by charging them into
oblivion. This is especially true of the younger generation who have
to use their pocket money to "buy" this P.D. software. These young
people are tomorrows (if not todays) programmers and it would be nice
to encourage them to create more of the high quality software we have
already seen so the non-programming population of computer owners can
benefit, both young and old, programmer and non-programmer alike.
Well there you have it - my personal opinion of PD charging. I would
be very interested to hear what views and/or experiences you have as
individuals, particulary if you AGREE with the notorious copying
charge as I would like to have both sides of this discussion put
forward. If you run a PD library which charges then I would also like
to publish your views (without editing them first I promise). I await
your responses with eager anticipation ...