Putting money where my noisy mouth is

I go on a lot about media and software freedom, but what do I actually do about it?
Realising that talk without action achieves nothing, I decided to put some of my hard-earned money behind some of my principles.

In recent times I’ve become quite disheartened by the record industry’s protection racket. Their business model is failing and, since they are big bureaucratic monoliths, they are struggling to adapt. Their approach has been to stick DRM on everything, which basically restricts your ability to do what you want with something that you paid for, and should technically belong to you.
They say all these measures are to protect their artists, but they really only protect the company profits (and seem to be failing at that anyway). This draconian nonsense caused me to boycott music. I just don’t buy it any longer.

That is, until I looked around on the internet a little and found a vast resource of independent “record labels.” A few examples are:

I purchased two albums from Magnatune, and 50% of what I paid goes directly to the artist.
But Magnatune doesn’t stop there. They tell you to share the album with three friends. They figure that if people are going to be dishonest, then that’ll happen anyway — regardless of whether record companies try to do something about it or not. Might as well encourage sharing — cheap marketing.
Another bonus is that you, as the consumer, get to choose what you think the music is worth. The price isn’t set you decide — but the more you pay the more the artist gets.
The albums I bought are

Take a listen. If you like them, let me know and I’ll give you the url and password to download them (or you can just come over to my house and copy the files — geography and familiarity permitting).

The other music sites have varying business models and they all work differently. Throughout though, the music is DRM-free, and that’s what really matters to me.

I haven’t stopped at music. I’ve extended my approach to software
I’m a big advocate of open source software, but I’ve never given anything back to the community. I use the software. I tell people about it. I lord its merits.
But if everyone only did that, there wouldn’t be any software to promote.

The logical way to contribute to open source software is to write some code and submit it to a software project. I suck at writing code — so there goes that one.
I’m not too bad at writing deciphered words, so I tried contributing to the Ubuntu documentation team. That didn’t last very long. Writing documentation quickly became tedious and mundane. Perhaps I’ll look back into it sometime.
No, the easiest thing to do is contribute money to a project. It minimises your time investment and optimises the value of the contribution because that money can be used to pay an expert to do what you would have done poorly.
I sent the team that develops the Firefox add-on, DownThemAll, a donation. It was really a sort of experiment. They sent me an email thanking me for the contribution. Now I intend to send donations to other open source projects which I find to be particularly useful, and well implemented.

It’s interesting to me that I was inspired to make these donation because my brother had registered a shareware application called Total Commander. It’s not open source, and it only works on Windows. Still, he spoke about how he was so impressed with it that he figured the developer deserved the money.
That sentiment seems to have had a lasting impression on me.

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5 thoughts on “Putting money where my noisy mouth is”

  1. It is true… and I, too, am a bad person in that way. Though I have tried to help spread the gospel of OSS, I have never really contributed donations to any of the many projects that I indulge in on a daily basis. But kudos for sending money to DownloadThemAll… I use that add-on every single day, and I really should give them a donation for that.

    Same can be said for Ubuntu… though I do think contributing to smaller projects that *make* Ubuntu what it is, is probably better than contributing to the big machine that is Ubuntu, namely Canonical.

    I will most probably follow suit, and DownloadThemAll is a damn good place to start.

  2. Good Stuff! I too am a guilty party and should really make a better effort at giving donations! I too will start, but will start with SimplePHPBlog which I have used now for a couple of years on my website ๐Ÿ™‚

    Regarding music downloads, if you, like me, am more into very commercial music, then I stumbled onto http://www.7digital.com. They offer a huge range of artists, and where possible supply 320kbps mp3’s that are DRM free. So all artists that are signed to EMI are there and available, and a few other independent well knowns! Some stuff is still DRMed, but it’s a start!

  3. jenbug: Thank you

    Kyle: I intended to mention that I’d donate to the smaller projects that have more of a niche following and don’t necessarily come standard with the distro. Ubuntu has plenty of funding. Mozilla has funding.
    I’m thinking Inkscape could do with some cash from me.

    Michael: SimplePHPBlog is probably a good choice for you.
    As for the music — perhaps you prefer the commercial stuff because of its marketing power. It gets a lot of radio play and one gets used to the catchy tunes.
    Still, most of the money goes into the record company coffers.
    Seriously check out some of the indie stuff at the sites I mention, Some of it is pretty damned good.

  4. Go go you indiemusicopensource freak you! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Contributing money to OSS is a good and noble cause, although I’m sometimes skeptical of how it gets spent. OSS projects aren’t charities, and if they’re receiving funding via donations I’d like to see some better financial reporting from the projects’ side. They already do their technical planning and progress reporting quite well, so it ought to be a small step from there to sound and openly-available financials – it’d be a win-win for the project, as it would not only assist their current contributors but potentially generate more formal investment interest too.

    Music: I really need to go and check out Magnatune and EMusic again. I had a look a year or so ago, and while the concept was sound, the content wasn’t really there yet. Sounds like they’ve progressed nicely, and I am listening to more indie stuff these days anyway.

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