Community Business Partnership
Public Request for New Ideas in
15 August 2003
Brendan is a
lawyer running a practice in Sydney
in the areas of information technology and telecommunications law.
Government ought to
encourage philanthropy by endorsing the distribution of software, and
works the subject of copyright, on the basis of access regimes and recognising the social benefits provided by
gifting. The Federal Government ought to
support associated measures to ensure the effectiveness of access
schemes. They provide a means by which
an individual, family or business who owns copyright in certain
give the benefit of that material to the broader community without an
expectation or desire to receive anything in return.
As the conditions of the gift permit
innovation by third parties on an initial seed, this act of giving in
can have substantial, collateral and compounding benefits over time as
incrementally improve on the initial gift through their own
the access regime (see Example 1 in section 3.1 below).
developed in the information technology sector.
They have proven particularly successful in producing innovation
sector (examples are provided). The
giving of software under access regimes is an established philanthropic
with proven and substantial benefits.
This submission uses software as an example of the application
access regime. However, the benefits of
access regimes as a philanthropic model can be generalised
to any product which is durable and non rival (such as music or the
Example of Operation of a Software Access Regime
Example 1: I own
in some software S1 which displays the temperature in Fahrenheit. I gift that software to the community under
an access regime. At that moment, the
whole community receives a benefit from my gift in that they can all
the temperature in Fahrenheit without needing to pay a licence
fee. Further, I retain the ability to use
Example 2: As the
the access regime expressly permit third parties to innovate on my
another person (B) could add a module of functionality S2 to that
tell the temperature in Celsius and participate in the philanthropy by
releasing that code under the access regime (the access regime would
any release to be on the terms of the access regime).
This produces an additional instantaneous
benefit to the community. Not only this,
a later party C may add further functionality (S3) and so on, in this
initial seed gift begins to compound. If
the software has the right characteristics a community of users and
will develop centred around S1 and its
I note in Example
2 that a key
function of the access regime is to promote incremental innovation. While B may have been willing to donate S2,
because of its nominal value, if I had not made the initial seed S1, B
have been willing to develop and donate the entirety of S1+S2, and
If the access
B to develop S2 on the back of S1 but distribute it other than on the
the access regime later takers, such as C, would be discouraged from
their own contributions (for fear that the benefit of C’s gift, which
intended to benefit everyone, will flow primarily to B rather than its
recipients). The persistence of the
access regime is an important element in maximising
the philanthropy effect of software gifting. A
reviewer of this submission noted in this
context that he was able to get people to “freely and enthusiastically
their time and labour to plant trees and
to improve areas of publicly accessible bushland,
try as I might, I have been unable to get them to do the same in my
neglected private back yard.”
In practice an
can operate as a form of PPP (public private partnership) structure in
the Government establishes the fundamentals of a market for access,
with private enterprise driving that market
About Access Regime?
An access regime
fundamentally a gift of software (or other content) by the owner (or a
with the requisite rights in the software) by way of a licence. The terms
of the licence
are designed to encourage a culture of corporate and individual social
responsibility and to maximise:
The creation of a
interest (based on use) for the software;
Future gifting of
to that software by other members of the software’s community of
In practice, this
requires the licence terms to include:
Rights of access
distribute code but
source code must be distributed concurrently or otherwise made
Rights to use
Rights to modify
modifications of code;
An obligation to
modifications to the code on terms of the access regime (ie.
if a person distribute modifications, then
contribute them to the access regime’s code base).
This term is critically important to the
proper operation of an access regime as it is the engine which drives
future gifting of improvements by others in the community of interest.
must not, subject to 4.2(f) and the specific limitation in 4.2(b),
limits on the rights granted. For
example, anyone may access, modify, distribute etc.
Access, use, modification etc can be for any
purpose. None of these rights can be conditional on any other
circumstances. The reason is that this
introduces transaction costs which block participation.
If any of these
in paragraph 4.2 is not present, then the regime would not be an
access regime for the purpose of encouraging philanthropy.
A gift of a
software licence free of charge would be
philanthropic, but would
fail to access the compounding benefits to the community and to
provided by the provision under an access regime. This
is a “give a person a fish/ give a
person the means to fish” issue.
In practice these
need to be supported by a means of storing the code and providing
the code base.
long term benefits of access regimes
The main benefit
of a software
gift under an access regime is not the value of the software gifted,
but in the
potential for it to seed the development of a self supporting community
will itself generate its own compounding or cascading philanthropy. While the seed gift of itself does provide
some value, the main value is in the access regime as it generates the
Many of the
benefits of an
access regime derive from its philanthropic character, its openness,
accessibility and its inclusiveness.
of secondary markets for services: A collateral benefit of
access regimes is that disinterested third parties often have a need
ancillary services in relation to a software product the subject of an
regime (such as training, systems integration, data migration and
development). When the community using a
piece of software reaches sufficient mass, it necessarily creates a
market for services in relation to that software.
benefits in secondary markets: As the software the subject
of the secondary markets is accessible to all, the barriers to entry in
secondary markets are minimal. This will
tend to mean that in theory pricing of services will be the price
a perfectly competitive market. In
relation to other software, provision of secondary services presupposes
payment to the software owner so services pricing will commonly include
monopoly pricing component and be above the level determined by a
benefits to business:
As seed gifts develop over time they will
invariably find applications in business (see the case study in section
of product innovation:
access regimes are environments for massively scaled incremental
innovation. Their open nature gives
everyone in the community the ability to participate in the innovation
and to observe how it happens in practice.
Access regimes allow the creation and distribution of small
which would otherwise be prohibited because of distribution,
marketing or sales costs. It also allows
participation at a level chosen by each of its individual participants. They can contribute as much or as little as
suits their particular circumstances.
of cross innovation: The
open nature of the access regime means that innovations which occur in
to a given product can be transplanted into other products.
sharing: The open nature of
access regimes means that all knowledge which is embedded in the
as the code and the techniques implemented in the code) is available to
everyone in the community. In practice
knowledge is distilled from a highly technical level to a more
level. Over time, the knowledge becomes
broadly accessible to the non technically
Digital Divide, Encouraging community and participation: An access regime by its nature has no barriers to
no barriers to accessing the benefits of software.
Where appropriate, components can be
repackaged for use by disadvantaged in the community.
community and participation:
Participation in an access regime is not limited to software
can extend to usability testing, graphic design, feature set
creation among others. This means that
an access regime for a software product in fact creates a base for
participation on a very broad basis. The
non existent barriers to participation provides a means to empower the
disadvantaged and provide them with an opportunity for meaningful
in society as well as opportunities for achievement, recognition and
validation. In some cases this will lead
to the development of saleable skills.
gift cost: The nature of the
gift means that the donor is not excluded from continuing to use the
the subject of the gift, so the cost to make a donation is
small. It is in fact equal to the
opportunity cost of being able to exclude others from the use of the
In short, it is
my opinion that
software access regimes exhibit all of the characteristics to make
candidates to promote philanthropy in a way which encourages innovation. Access Regime communities today operate as
microcosms of idealised community business
Role Government Can Play
As I mentioned
access regimes are already a proven model for community business
partnership. Access regimes do not have
the broad level of exposure and understanding to leverage their full
as a vehicle for philanthropy. They also
face resistance from people who do not understand the model or the
goals it is trying to achieve. At the
level of minimal involvement therefore, the Government could play an
role by endorsing access regimes as a valuable form of philanthropy and
recognising the social benefits provided by
Other ways in
Government can support access regimes are:
remove unreasonable participation risks;
facilities for gifted code;
who wish to play an active role in maintaining an access regime;
Creating a policy
access regime gifting of software developed and funded by the
Government based on established criteria;
costs involved with participating in access regime
Minimising search costs
involved with participating in access regime schemes;
permit access regime gifts to enjoy tax deductibility against
value. For example, a clearing house
might have charity status for tax purposes.
However, there is much scope to make them work better and more
issues listed in section [6.3] being only a representative sample.
Study of Practical Benefits of Software Gifts under Access
The GNU Image Manipulation Project (GIMP) www.gimp.org
“GIMP is an acronym
for GNU Image Manipulation
Program. It is a freely distributed
piece of software suitable for such tasks as photo retouching, image
composition and image authoring.
is an extremely capable piece of software with many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, a expert quality photo retouching program, an
processing system, a mass production image renderer,
a image format converter, etc.
GIMP is extremely expandedable [sic] and extensible. It is
designed to be
augmented with plugins and extensions to
about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from
simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be
As stated in the
GIMP is a photo retouching program which has been gifted to the
a specific access regime (known as the “GPL”).
As a result of this gift, anyone with internet access can
download, install and use the program without being required to pay a licence fee.
Further, anyone who wishes to modify the GIMP is free to do so,
to the requirement that distribution of their modifications be on the
the access regime.
A full history of
from it’s initial seeding by the gift of code under a specific access
through the its facilitation of the growth of a community of interest,
maturation into an industry grade product which is routinely
distributed with a
number of operating systems is available from:
http://www.gimp.org/~sjburges/gimp-history.html. I understand that one of the early
contributors is an alumni from the University of New South Wales computing faculty. [Ed: subsequent to submitting this
document my source recanted, I now have no evidence that UNSW alumni
were involved Sept 03 ]
As it evolved the
community began to engage with interested businesses and has resulted
business working directly with the community.
As a result the GIMP has been adopted for the production of
movies in Hollywood, with a
specific extension product CinePaint
known as Film GIMP) having been created, with development partly funded
has been used in a number of feature films including: 2
Fast 2 Furious, Scooby-Doo,
and Stuart Little. For
more information on CinePaint (including a
press clippings page) see
software gifts under an appropriate access regime:
business and the community;
provide a vehicle
benefits to the community;
and mid term
benefits to business, even in the absence of intention of providing
benefits in the seed gift;
philanthropy from others;
generate these benefits
from comparatively small seed gifts.
The GIMP can be
For Windows users:
I can provide a CD on
I note that I use
the GIMP for
preparing photos of my son for his web site.
I use it in preference to the software which was bundled with my
(and which I therefore paid for).
regime gifting mean
communal ownership of the software or giving up any copyright,
or intellectual property?
No, an access regime requires copyright to be retained in order for the
regime to make sense/be enforceable.
Is this the same
code into the public domain?
No. While this is an example of
philanthropy, public domain gifting does not promote an ongoing
participation. As it has no requirement
for pooling of subsequent innovation it is a philanthropy dead end.
regimes be applied
to different kinds of copyright work?
Yes. There is no reason in theory why an
access regime approach would not work in respect of, for example, music
literature. One example of its
application to literature is the community encyclopedia known as the Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/). The wikipedia is
knowledge resource that is developed by the incremental gifting of
components of fact by individuals. The wikipedia is an excellent example of the broad
of the model as it is an access regime for information which is enabled
software (wiki – www.wiki.org) which itself was
created under an access regime for software.
In this instance a software community has spawned a literature
- collateral philanthropy on collateral philanthropy.
For other examples see: http://www.biomedcentral.com