Recently, I began writing a regular weather blog for the local newspaper. I’m not getting paid for this, so people may wonder why I’m giving free content to a for-profit organization. I asked myself this very question, and the answer is that I don’t find the terms sufficiently objectionable. Although the blog appears on the Journal & Courier website, they likely don’t make too much money off the ad revenue. And while I don’t make any money either, I get the chance to refine and showcase my writing skills for a different audience than I currently have, and I get the chance to bring a little bit of traffic here (maybe I should start selling ads). Of course there’s always the joy of sharing my knowledge, proving a public service, and keeping all of that meteorology I learned in school in my head a little longer. Finally, I’m a compulsive favor-doer.
More than any of that, though, I am philosophically in favor of sharing information. The vast majority of the writing I do is released under some form of the Creative Commons licenses. The Fedora Project requires me to use the CC-BY-SA license, which does not prohibit commercial use. In that sense, writing documentation for Fedora and writing my weather blog both could result in people who are not me making money off my work. That’s fine, because I’m not doing it for money (although if someone wants to leave an envelope of cash on my doorstep, that’s okay). In both cases, I consider the free access to my effort to be fair trade. My Fedora work is my way of contributing to the project that provides me with free (both gratis and libre) software that I use on a daily basis. The writing I do for the Journal & Courier I see as contributing to the betterment of my society (or at least the lowering of my blood pressure. Weather-related stupidity angers me quite effectively). The fact that one is a non-profit and the other is for-profit is not a consideration for me.
I am a firm believer in freedom for users, but I also believe that content creators should be free to license their works as they see fit. Copyleft licenses like the GPL are preferable to more restrictive licenses, but if someone wants to put a restrictive license on his work, that right should be available. In each case, a decision must be reached as to what is and is not acceptable. In the cases I’ve discussed here, I have determined that, for my own criteria, the terms are acceptable. The nice thing about volunteer work is that if I determine at some point that the terms are no longer tolerable, I can simply stop contributing. In the meantime, I hope as many people as possible enjoy the fruits of my labor, and I look forward to enjoying the works of others.