I completely know that most of open source projects could be used to make profit and people contribute to them whether the creators are making money from it too or not.

My question is this:

  • Does the creators profiting make any impact on contributes decisions?
  • Will it prevent significant number of people from contributing to the project (saying that well, they make money, I can care less about it.)?
  • Is there any researches about this?
  • 2
    Hey, Amirreza, it seems like you're asking a very broad question about how contributors make money and how it affects contributions. This is an interesting topic, but it's very broad. Do you think you could narrow this down to a single, much more specific question that could be answers authortatively? – Josh Berkus Jun 18 '19 at 21:38
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    I think the question is “Is there any research on, whether the owner of a project making money from a project, has any significant effect, on contributions?” — @AmirrezaNasiri Is this correct. – ctrl-alt-delor Jun 18 '19 at 22:11

In the absence of any better answer, I think this is going to be pretty much impossible to know because of a major confounding variable; specifically, CLAs/CTAs.

There are three classes of open-source project that generate revenue: those where a contributor CLA/CTA is used to permit non-free relicensing and subsequent for-profit distribution of the code, those where a charge is made to distribute free software under a free licence, and those where donations are encouraged.

For the first case there is ample qualified testimony that the presence of a CLA/CTA is a big turn-off for some contributors; para 8 of this article (disclaimer: which I wrote) is but one of many examples. It is very possible that some element of that turn-off is the thought that profit will be made from the contributor's contributions, but in the absence of more data we simply can't tell how much of the turn-off is due to that and how much is due to other causes such as general loss of freedom. Further investigation is hampered by the difficulty of identifying those to ask: if you're looking for people who haven't contributed for cause, how do you find them among the many billions who haven't contributed anyway?

For the second case the biggest problem is that such contributors will likely never know that this is happening. As a professional free-software sysadmin, I spend much of my workday getting paid to install free software, and none of the people who helped write it ever knows of any of those installs. It's very possible that one or more of the contributors would be annoyed if they knew - though I like to think not - but since they don't, the question's unanswerable in these cases.

For the third case, I think an interesting question emerges: when free software projects solicit financial donations, under what circumstances (if any) does this discourage other forms of contribution? But that isn't the question you asked, and though I'd like to be I'm not personally aware of any work on the subject.

So I think we can say with confidence that CLA/CTAs discourage contribution, and that some of that discouragement is due to fear that for-profit non-free relicensing will occur. But that's probably all.

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