There are a few things that make me proud of being part of the Purism team. One of them is the philosophy behind a company that makes respectful hardware and software, that is fully owned by the people using it.
Another truly beautiful aspect of Purism (which I discovered over the years) is how Purism is a pioneer in hardware manufacturing. It has built a business model that creates relationships between the people who directly finance this Social Purpose Corporation. This way Purism avoids any potential conflict of interests from private entities. It gives back all the intellectual property of its research and development to the people. This is done through the use of public owned licenses, also known as the Free Licenses.
There are many business models but a common one in technology as well as in art (an area that I know the most) is about owning some patents, some copyrights or some other form of intellectual properties. The idea is to make people pay to enjoy the products that implement those intellectual properties.
I am not an expert economist, but I can see many advantages in this kind of business model. For example, making profits from the intellectual property to be able to finance the research and development for improving and maintaining the technology. If the technology is widely used, it may be extremely profitable for the company, even without worrying much about research and development until the competition pushes for innovations.
I also see a few serious drawbacks with those business models, especially for the rest of us, who don’t own the intellectual properties. One of them is that it makes opaque technology that is difficult to trust. For example, when a company selling proprietary software that nobody can inspect, and use some marketing for promoting privacy from their software or devices, I only have their words to make a judgment on that.
Another potentially dangerous aspect of a proprietary technology is its corruptible nature. When a company is powerful enough to buy the intellectual properties of its competitors, it just gets more powerful by doing so, until there is not much competition to care about anymore. Then, the technology remains profitable even without worrying about financing innovations anymore. We are then entering in a world of monopoly or false competition where a single private entity, owned by a few people is responsible of the future of the technology. This is pretty common in the digital world where the biggest entities buy the technology of their smaller competitors for their own profit.
I keep hearing more and more people complaining about Big Data’s abuses and hoping for a change without knowing that they can already be that change.
The world is divided into two categories. Those who own the technology and those who don’t (quote adapted from my favorite movie character)
The traditional patents based business models are aging. We are seeing a new kind of economy that is pushed by the urgent necessity of making and using technologies that respect the people as well as the environment. This respectful economy is obviously not initiated by business models that are built on private interests, and is mainly driven by the people for the interest of the people.
In those business models, that Purism adopted from the start, the people are directly financing the research and development. In return (and this is very important) the company gives back the intellectual property of the technology to the people.
One main advantage of a public owned intellectual property is anyone has the freedom to use, study, modify and share the technology. The people have the power to democratically influence the future of a technology by using and supporting an implementation that they want to fund.
The public interest nature of a public owned technology makes collaboration between entities more natural and rewarding than competing over the same technology. At Purism, we believe that bringing our expertise to existing projects like GNOME or Debian for building PureOS is more beneficial for everyone than trying to go our own way by ourselves. We believe that unity is strength.
But to me, one the most interesting aspect of a public owned technology, is that nobody can buy it. A Public License like the GPL cannot be sold or bought because it defines public owning and freedoms. So everybody already owns it and one cannot buy what they already own or sell what others own.
This incorruptible aspect of such technology makes it prohibitive to any kind of monopoly or censorship. I remember talking to a 3D artist about 3D software and he was telling me that only Autodesk has a future in the 3D industry because it already owns the copyrights of the most widely used 3D software. When a competitor comes up, it just “eats” it like an ogre, avoiding any potential competition. I told this person that as powerful and greedy as Autodesk can be, it cannot “eat” a software like Blender that is released under a public owned intellectual property. This was a few years ago and Blender is now starting to impose itself like a great 3D software gaining attention and support from serious animation studios.
Nobody has the power to stop Blender or any other public owned technology. Only the lack of interest from the people can do that.
Purism is a rare hardware manufacturer to follow this respectful business model and has done it from the start in 2014 and the successful crowd-funding of the first Librem laptop.
Since then, it showed that there is some great interest for participating in the adventure of making a new kind of company that is driven by the people for the people.
This makes me believe. I hope that we are slowly entering a collaborative era where people unify their strength for the common good instead of competing for their private interest. Purism is among others, a pioneer toward this beautiful future.
For all those who support us, or wish to support this future, here is a THANK YOU!