GREED IN OPEN SOURCE

27. February 2011, 16:18 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

Canonical, creator of the Ubuntu distribution of Linux, and the Banshee music player developers have found themselves in a morass over money. Banshee has it, and Canonical wants it - as the price for being included in their distribution’s next version.

Banshee has a built in connection to an Amazon music store and had been devoting all the funds it made from this revenue stream to the GNOME Foundation. Canonical wanted Banshee to either disable the Amazon Store connection coming on by default, which competed with its own Ubuntu One music store, or to contribute 75% of any income to Canonical.

Needless to say the Banshee folks weren't too pleased. So, Canonical came up with an alternate proposal, but it hasn’t made the Banshee community very happy either.

Cristian Parrino, of Canonical’s Online Services, proposed, that:

  1. In Ubuntu 11.04, Banshee will have both the Amazon MP3 and Ubuntu One music stores turned on by default.
  2. Canonical would contribute 25% of the revenue from the Amazon MP3 store to the GNOME Foundation.
  3. Canonicakl would start contributing 25% of revenue from the Ubuntu One Music Store on both Banshee and Rhythmbox, to the GNOME Foundation.

This compromise, really isn’t much of a compromise. As written 75% of Banshee’s Amazon MP3 sales will still go to Canonical, and 25% of all music sales on Ubuntu, not just from Banshee, will go to GNOME. Banshee still loses 75% of its revenue stream to Canonical. GNOME may, depending on whether the Ubuntu store generates sufficient revenue, see a reduction of contributions as a result. The only winner here is Canonical - as I’m sure they are well aware.

An example helps put it all in perspective.

Revenue
EntityCurrentProposal 1Proposal 2
Banshee$4000$4000$4000
Rythmbox$4000$4000$4000
Canonical$4000$7000$6000
GNOME$4000$1000$2000

The actual money amounts involved are small at the moment (Banshee’s Amazon revenue is less than five-figures). The principles involved however are not minor. This is one project trying to dictate terms to another project, something that goes against the spirit, if not any written understanding of open source.

This is the classic snafu of companies with revenues entering into agreements without signed contracts. Everything may start out fine, but once the dollars start flying things generally deteriorate rapidly.

While Banshee should have looked ahead to protect itself, it has little to actually lose. The GNOME foundation is the real loser, and Canonical is being the villain, at least perceptually. In the end the loss of goodwill maybe more than the revenue would be worth. Only time will tell.

- 30 -

Categories: ,
Keywords: Banshee,Canonical,Ubuntu,GNOME,Amazon,Rythmbox

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