Monday, March 20, 2006

Making Money from Free University Software

Tom Worthington and Senator Lundy
On Friday I hosted a seminar at the Australian National University by Ray Warouw and Pia Waugh from Australian Service for Knowledge of Open Source Software (ASK-OSS) at Macquarie University:

"Uptake of open source software (OSS) in Research, Education and Business environments is rapidly increasing and evolving. Education about OSS is becoming key to positioning OSS effectively within an organisation and future strategy. The Australia Service for Knowledge in Open Source Software (ASK-OSS) has been established as the national advisory service on OSS for Higher Education Research by the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST). My talk will be presented from the HE perspective and is intended as an introduction to our service, what we do, and why we exist. Further to this I will present the current issues we see existing in OSS adoption.

Essentially DEST is encouraging Australian Universities to look at creating and using open source software. If the Universities can make a bit of money out of it as well, that would be a bonus. You might ask how to make money out of free software: you can sell services and support for it, or sell an enhanced version of the software while continuing to give away a free version.

As it is DEST funded, ASK-OSS is first helping other DEST funded projects which are creating free software, such as Australian Partnerships for Sustainable Repositories. An example of this is Ian Barnes and Scott Yeadon's work on "One click DSpace ingestion with the Digital Scholar's Workbench".

ANU is a good place to look at OSS, as the University has been a significant developer of open source software but not so good at getting kudos, or money, from it. Part of what ASK-OSS is doing is to help make university software developers and their bosses comfortable with open source software. Ray Warouw uses the example from Macquarie University where OSS is used for education and there are moves to create commercial spinoffs from this.

The University's traditional approach to making money from software has been to claim ownership of the software and then try and sell licences. Often the result has been it doesn't sell, so the University gets no money and no one gets to use the software. In a way OSS reverses the process: first you get people to use the software and then if it turns out to be popular you get money out of them.

As well as people from the research sector there were some Canberra IT industry people and Senator Kate Lundy, representative for the ACT dropped in and stayed after for coffee.

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