Over several years, the open source software community has given three distinct meanings to the term ‘free’. These are as follows:
-Software can be utilised or changed as per the user
-Software is there at no cost
-Software has ongoing cost
Apart from the above, the development of open source software too has a cost. Many developers pay for extra hardware for testing or code hosting, website, etc. There is a bill with the New York Senate which offers to offset these costs and is sponsored by Senator Daniel Squadron (D-26th) and co-sponsored by Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-36th).
The bill endeavours to offer a tax credit of 20 per cent of “expenses associated with the development of open source and free software” with an yearly maximum of $200. The bill is based on a report by the Center for American Progress and is the first of its kind to be introduced to a state legislature. The bill aims at promoting innovation.
According to Open Source Initiative’s general manager, Patrick Masson, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) offered guidance on factual matters relating to open source and free software. He said that the Senator’s office wished to make sure consistency in evaluation via government/state officials. This is in continuation to internationally recognised standards and the software industry, and prevent ambiguity among projects that may call themselves open source but are not in compliance with the Open Source Definition.
There have been several variants of this bill which had been introduced previously and not passed. A portion of the challenge arises from getting a legislative body to understand technology issues.