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Free Software (Gift) Exchange Registry - FSEx

Christopher Browne

Table of Contents
1. Why the Free Software (Gift) Exchange Registry?
2. Free Software (Gift) Exchange Registry Methodology
3. Questions and Answers

The point to this registry is to encourage people to send contributions of funds to individuals that produce software that they find useful.

In order to minimize the complexities of taxation, the approach being taken is that contributions will be sent directly, and treated as gifts for tax purposes. The obvious alternative of contributing funds to a charitable organization that tries to flow them to "needy developers" has substantial disadvantages in that it introduces bureaucracy putatively for the management of taxation issues; this then leads to a growth of bureaucracy at various levels, thus consuming money and attention with little value.

This approach represents a largely orthogonal view to that of the (unfortunately now defunct) Free Software Bazaar, which sought to fund worthy projects. It is somewhat similar to the "patronage" scheme of Affero .


This material is in "policy beta-testing." Comments and suggestions are welcome, and those that appear useful will surely be used to modify this document.

Many of my ideas here have resulted from bouncing disagreements off of people in the newsgroup gnu.misc.discuss. People with whom I have disagreed have often been more useful in improving this material than those with whom agreement is easy.

Special thanks to Kendall Clark and Axel Boldt for their highly pertinent and useful comments; no doubt others' comments will prove useful. The Affero system is seeking to provide a somewhat similar "Culture of Patronage" to the exchange of information and support on the Internet.

New news: There now exist the beginnings of a sample registry, implemented in Python.

See Free Software EXchange Registry

1. Why the Free Software (Gift) Exchange Registry?

The basic premise of this project is that it is worthwhile to give support to those people that we know are involved with supporting free software. It is also a useful thing to know what gifts have been exchanged.

There may be many projects worth doing; things like the Free Software Bazaar can seek to provide funding on a project-oriented basis.

Unfortunately, a significant problem is that of trying to predict which projects will work out well. This is not a unique issue to free software; many projects all around the world in many fields of endeavor have failed for a vast number of reasons. In short: predicting success is difficult.

Furthermore, a lot of the efforts going on rather more represent "ongoing support" as opposed to being projects as such.

In contrast, the increasing amount of information available on the Internet concerning ongoing activities can provide us with a fair bit of information concerning what individuals are doing to help produce free software. CVS logs, release notes, and the likes may all be helpful in this regard.

There are many more efforts out there than can be readily accounted for; it could build up to a sizable database, and hopefully someday may do so.

We might also look at the Affero organization which provides a way for volunteers that do things that are perceived to be useful to direct donations to their favored charities. That's more similar to this scheme than the Free Software Bazaar...

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