Paid to write open source

I've recently been contacted about adding some features to an open source library I wrote about 5 years ago named DbDesign. It was pretty popular, I used to get emailed technical questions almost every day, but when I left IBM and changed email address that slowed down a lot, and now it's only every few months that someone has questions about it. I'm not even sure where you can download it anymore.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted by a potential client about paying me to add some features to it for them. The features are indeed advanced and I can see why they contacted me. Up until now, it's never brought me any monetary reward whatsoever, everyone used it for free and can do whatever they want with it. The client is willing to pay my regular rate, but asked if I was willing to do the work at a reduced cost if the enhancements I did would also be released open source. In other words, they pay me to write the code, but they don't retain ownership, instead it gets released for the benefit of everyone.

Now I'm all for benefiting everyone, but I don't want to get paid less obviously. That is unless somehow I can justify a benefit to me, but I'm not sure any of that original work has benefited me until now. The client isn't pushing hard for this and my initial reaction is a "No", I need to be paid as much as I can get. But then I also like the idea of everyone benefiting, and maybe it will help me more in the long run.

Mostly I'm just interested in hearing people's general thoughts on this. What would you do?

I've decided against taking a lesser fee for open sourcing it. I must stop being so generous, it's time to start exploiting my own work.

Posted March 23, 2005 7:30 PM