But that’s not where I’ll begin this story.
I’ll start with an encounter I saw play out on Telegram that punctuated a pervasive problem we seem to have in the free and open source software world.
Let’s call this user Bob. Bob was expressing his surprise and genuine disappointment that apparently no one has leaked an ISO of the elementary OS 6 Beta
. Oh no, poor Bob!
Another user, let’s call him Paul, said “because that would be a crappy thing to do.”
Some brief backstory: the developers of elementary OS
, a fantastic desktop Linux distribution, decided to make beta builds of their upcoming major update (version 6.0) available to GitHub Sponsors
who donate $10 or more per month. This helps fund development, put food on their tables, and rewards elementary OS’s most ardent fanbase.
Currently, elementary OS has 670 GitHub Sponsors.
So you can see why Paul believes that “leaking” the ISO would be a crappy thing to do.
Bob’s indignant and downright infuriating reply went something along the lines of “but it’s free software and I can donate anytime I want sooooooo…”
No, Bob. The currently released, publicly available version of elementary OS is free software (though you can choose to pay for it). The beta builds of elementary OS 6 are quite literally a paid product, not unlike an early access game you’d pay for on Steam.
(Bob may also need a refresher on the principles of “free software
[…] software that ensures that the end users have freedom in using, studying, sharing and modifying that software. The term “free” is used in the sense of “free speech,” not of “free of charge.”
Anyway, Bob goes on to argue that since he can always donate in the future, he should be able to have it (read: steal it) right now. Bob’s argument is nothing but self-entitled gibberish, and he’s essentially advocating for piracy.
About a month ago, elementary OS approached me about producing a series of videos for them. They offered to pay me very competitive rates to create content that would effectively promote the elementary OS brand and help new users via short, polished tutorials and explainers.
I passed, but not before telling the team how much I respected them for bringing me the opportunity (and don’t worry, they will end up hiring one, if not several, other video producers to help create this content). We see a lot of distros crowdsourcing their marketing, graphic design, coding, or community building, and that’s 100% fine! It’s a great way for users to contribute to something they use and enjoy.
But guess what? elementary OS is fortunate enough to be in a position to pay someone to create content for them, and so they will pay someone to create content for them. And that eventual content will make the brand, and perhaps even the product itself, stronger.
How on earth is this possible? Could it be all those cool people choosing to pay for elementary OS? Or donating on Patreon? Could it be the 670 Github Sponsors funding the development of the next major release of the operating system? Maybe it’s revenue sharing from hardware partnerships with Linux PC vendors like Slimbook
Regardless of the revenue stream, elementary OS has a right to create and earn that income. Regardless of what they do or do not charge for their product. And we have absolutely zero right to endanger or interfere with those revenue streams.
We are not entitled to something for free that a developer is charging money for (as in the GitHub Sponsor-exclusive beta builds). Instead, we should be grateful that developers are spending their money, time and resources creating a free, kick-ass, beautiful operating system (as in the publicly available elementary OS) that most of us enjoy without ever dishing out a penny.
Please, remember that just because developers are making a “free” product, doesn’t mean they don’t also deserve to earn an income. Don’t be that entitled baby who thinks you have a right to take that away from them. And if you see this happening inside your own community, speak out against it.