- deepOfix Mail Server
Free Software is only about the freedom that the software provides, not its cost. So its basically alright to "sell" Free Software. But then the point is - who is going to "purchase" free software?
The concept of selling software is based on the assumption that there is only one source for the software. However, Free Software licenses gives anyone the freedom to redistribute software. The question, instead, becomes: Will users want to"purchase" Free Software?
Irrespective of whether Free Software is "purchased" or downloaded free-of-charge, its very basic nature does not change at all.
There are other ethical ways of building a business without restricting your users' freedom. To start with, there are services, support and warranty to charge for - it all depends on where your skills and goals lie. The only thing that Free Software changes in the typical "software as a business" model is that it removes the exclusivity you would have as a sole distributor of the software. You still have the ability of charging for value-additions and services.
The best way to contribute to the Free Software Movement is to create, support and promote Free Software itself. The more ways in which people can access Free Software, the more users can use it.
Another significant way of supporting Free Software is to sponsor and fund Free Software development already being done by others. This will enable more and more Free Software developers to develop such software full-time which in turn should result in the creation of more Free Software.
Customise Free Software to include functionality that you want and release these customisations as Free Software enhancements. That way you improve the state-of-art and also help other users who might want to consider using Free Software for their business. Maybe your contributed enhancements will make the difference between them choosing a Free Software solution or not.
Even if the software you develop does not get publicly distributed, you can still provide the same sort of freedom to your users.
To start with, share the source of your application with your customers - not just at the end of the project, but throughout the development of the project as well. This will provide better control to your customers. Tomorrow if you are not able to support them, they can try to get support from someone else.
Document your software well enough so that its easy to maintain, extend and understand - not just by your developers and the customers but also by another developer who might need to access the source code.
Using Free Software to power your business could be an extremely good long-term decision to take. Free Software unchains you from the any possible lock-ins that vendors might want to force you into. Which means that you don't have to continue to do business with a vendor just because they hold the keys to your freedom.
Free Software applications and services are also generally more affordable than similar applications and services built on proprietary software. Additionally, given the fact that you have (or can have) access to the source code of the software means that you can choose whom to buy services from.
Its not that there no vendors who provide support and services for GNU / Linux or Free Software; its just that their number is lesser. Hopefully, conferences like these will encourage more and more people to pick up Free Software services as a business and then most of your neighbourhood software and hardware vendors should also be able to provide this support to you.