'free' software ethics/economics

I would place kicad around the £300 mark if it were paid for.
I used to sell pcbcad software myself until I got the “well kicad is free and better” routine.
So stopped selling my own.
kicad was funded to the tune of $20,000 last year so it is already paid for so really isnt strictly free software If the programmers were paid to do it then that is not free.
Its just already paid for in donations and grants.

That’s how commercial people define “free”, but not what the word means in the software market. It means either something you don’t have to pay for in any way (“free as beer” when someone gives you a beer), or that it’s “free as speech”, a philosophical idea about freedom. KiCad is always available for free (without cost) even if someone else has paid for the development. Even if nobody has paid for the development work someone has still “paid” for it by offering the manhours, so donations don’t actually matter at all. Free Software and/or Open Source can be commercially developed but it doesn’t make them any less free for those who download and use them without donating.

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Strange thing software as it is often given away free.
I could imagine the uproar if Ford started giving cars away free.
Or if I came to your place of work and said I would do your job for nothing.
The ethics are interesting.

I am best out of it doing more tangible items now where free isnt an option.

Don’t they call this ‘internship’? Your pay is the ‘priceless knowledge and experience’ :wink:


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This is completely offtopic for this thread, but related to KiCad.

The ethics are interesting.

Interesting maybe, but there’s nothing suspicious or unethical.

Let’s say I’m a silversmith. If I want to give freely my product I have to first buy the silver and then work some hours. Tools I already have and I can reuse them later, so it doesn’t count. When I give it away I don’t have it anymore. If I want to give another piece I have to buy and work again. I loose all the work and material cost which I have put into it.

Not so with software. When I have worked for it, I have it permanently. Copying and distributing it is practically free. I don’t loose anything if someone copies and uses it, and I don’t have to do extra work for copies.

Economics are very different for material products and software.


Seems you just don’t have a value to sell.
If kicad is GBP300 mark for you, it should not stop you from selling higher value GBP1000+ packages.
People will choose themselves what’s better for them and what’s not.
I haven’t heard Microsoft ranting for having LibreOffice / Linux competition.
Or Adobe for Inkscape.
Or (put your favorite software with great FOSS alternative)…

It’s the value they sell. And they have no problem with selling it, despite free alternatives.

And YES: I believe that good FOSS packages will kill the low (and sometimes mid-end) part of the market offering. But it’s because these low-priced offers do not have enough value to ask for its price.
Looking at EDA, it’s the major hit for Eagle (they do try to find their value in EDA/mechanical integration); DIPTRACE (no experience, but seem kind of lowend+ system with nice support).
Once FOSS gets good traction, it can get quite far on its own.

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I assure you we aren’t really making off this, that money isn’t really going towards most of the developers hours atm

It took microsoft (no capital there) some 20 years to retract their statement of “Linux is a cancer”.

I consider myself a proponent of open source software and the philosophical and ideological ideas behind it.

I also have a strong dislike in the way that unbridled capitalism is growing towards “grab what you can for yourself” regardless to the consequences to others. There are far to many examples of big companies distorting the truth or blatantly lying and spreading FUD

I use Open Source software exclusively (except maybe some driver blob lost somewhere in my OS). The time and effort I put into answering questions on this forum is my way to Pay it forward.


What I think that @marekr means here is that there are far more developer hours going into KiCad than the level of funding would be able to pay for. The funding pays developers to work on feature packages (expand the feature sets) and bug fixes (shortens the time between feature freeze and release). But if you look at the payment for any given feature vs. the time a developers spends to build/test/release the feature, the wages are not the motivating factor.


Even if you were getting rich from donations KiCad would still be opensource. There is no need to justify the opensource model. There are too many discussions about it. The double meaning of the word “free” in English has been a source of misunderstanding.

I guess this sentence means: my customers stopped buying my product. This is a pity for any business.

Passenger: “Are you free?”
Taxi driver: “No sir, I charge like anyone else!”

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My business model fell apart in late 2017 when someone came on ebay selling theirs for £4.
Turned out it was in fact free software packaged up on a cd to sell on ebay (not kicad)
kicad was just the last nail in the coffin after having a few bad feedbacks claiming “free kicad” is better.
Well of course its better its comparable to a £300 package in features.
So grossly unfair to compare a £4 package with something of worth around £300.
Luckily I got myself into gear before kicad came along and designed new tangible products that wont be given away. The cad software recently didnt even pay the website hosting fee’s.
I am not bitter about it just surprised I managed to get away with it for as long as I did which was 30 years.

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Price and value are often interchanged when they aren’t.

When I was in the university, an OrCad license was about (if I recall it right) 30000€ a year. That was price. For me its value is less than Kicad’s. Sometimes prices are high or low compared with similar products. Sometimes price is what a customer is willing to pay.

Well, we have hijacked this thread too much.

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That’s actually not capitalism but monopolism.
Adam Smith put it like this for one of the mechanics (and you will notice that it’s the exact opposite of ‘unbridled’ that leads to the bad effects you subscribe to ‘capitalism’, but what in fact is a monopolization of a market):

“The interest of the dealers [referring to stock owners, manufacturers, and merchants… anyone really], however, in any particular branch of trade or manufacture, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens.”
“The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”
…Wealth of Nations, 250 years ago

What all of these mechanics do is to control the supply, so that demand outstrips it with the goal to generate economic profits instead of just normal profits (sustainable, revenue = cost) as the buyers enter in bidding competitions to acquire the now rare product.
That’s all there is to it.

But the OP’s problem is not even hinged to that can-of-worms per my opinion.
His business is rather falling victim to technological progress and changing environments.
FOSS is being created in a distributed manner by its users with their own resources.
The users themselves get their hands dirty and make the tool they need/want.
They do not pay somebody else to do it.
And enabling this is technology like the collaborative cloud that’s been developed over the last couple decades, sourceforge, github, gitlab, etc. pp.
FOSS software costs resources to be created and maintained, nothing around that.
But the ones who create it and the ones who use it are the very same people.
No financial middle man or capital loaner required (and taxes aren’t generated either as there are no transactions there ;-).

So what you have in front of you is just another chapter in ‘creative destruction’ that is being driven by technological progress.


Hi mikeparkin7557, are you related to nigelwright7557 from EEVblog? :wink:

Reminded me of a Commissario Montalbano episode where Salvo remarks how people tend to hang on to the same initials even when trying to disguise their identity. :grinning:

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Do you even have to ask? I think it is pretty obvious it is the same person.


Do we really need the last couple of post ? @fred4u @retiredfeline ?

No we don’t. Please continue the existing thread in the eevblog forum. I have strong opinions, too, but I refrain myself.

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I am getting tempted to lock this thread, it is not doing anything constructive.
A very similar thread appeared on diyaudio a month or so ago too


Just to spice things up, have seen one of his demonstration videos on his CAD software.
What struck me was OpenOffice icon on the desktop.
Bashing FOSS and using FOSS in the same time seems hypocritical to me.
Anyway, kudoz to the guy for making apparently working PCB CAD single-handed.