The first concern of users is support. Support is typically needed not only because of problems with the software itself, but also because of problems with user understanding. In today's market, the illusion of support is more typical than real satisfactory support. Users will often make a purchase decision based on this illusion because it provides comfort similar to an insurance policy. They believe support will be there if they should ever need it.
Users want the freedom to use software to suit their needs. The recent upsurge of Open Source software has demonstrated this need. Users usually refer to "buying" software when, in fact, they are leasing software. Many software companies impose many restrictions on the use and distribution of the provided software. Although personal users typically violate these agreements without penalty, companies are forced to play by the rules. It's important to note that better freedom will also provide better support. Anyone with access to the source can support and fix the software. Without such access, it would be difficult at best to provide any support to existing customers.
Last, but not least, we want to consider quality. What point would there be in support and freedom if the software didn't perform the way we wanted? There are a few different perspectives on quality. The developer has one point of view, the business another, and the end user still another. The users' is the most relevant standpoint, simply because of their numbers. Bad quality can usually be corrected with good feedback from the end user.
Up to now, we've covered some of the "mile high" views of software development. Next, we'll discuss the real purpose of this paper: The ransom system.
The Ransom license was originally created by Theoretic Solutions, a public think tank which works for the betterment of technology, business, and politics. In order to properly understand the ransom system, it's helpful (at least for this author) to think of all software as information, rather than as tangible products. Once you consider software in this light, the meaning of product purchases becomes different. Here are some important points to consider about the sale of information:
The ransom system aims to alleviate some of the problems with current software release systems. Typically, software is either sold on a per customer basis, with highly restricted use and distribution terms, or given away freely to the public. The first treats the customer unfairly and the second treats the developer unfairly (in most situations). The ransom system allows developers to release Open Source software, but get compensated for it at the same time.
Ransom Releases have the following properties:
The Technology Ransom Network has been set up at http://ransom.tekrat.com/ to assist developers with the use of a ransom model.
The Technology Ransom Network makes it easy to release quality software. Developers who want to try a new releases system can easily take it for a test drive by creating a new account and placing a single version up for ransom. If they like how the system works, they can ransom another version. If not, they simply continue to release the software as usual.
The ransom system shares many common roots with today's Open Source development, but tries to enhance it. Ransom software creates a fair and stable environment for developers to work. It also keeps the users in mind by not restricting their use or requiring unfair compensation. It's hoped that this can directly or indirectly bring about positive action in the software development community.