How much is the Social Purpose worth in Dollars?


Let’s say that a year to a year and a half from now, the Librem 5 has become wildly successful and is in the hands of everyone who wants one. There are a continuous stream of orders for it coming-in, but not enough to change society yet. Grass-roots open source software development is flourishing, and is routinely reversing Google and Apple’s business model of surveillance and corporate control of people’s phones.

Then let’s say that Google comes to Todd and says something like “we’ll give you one billion dollars for the whole operation”. Let’s say that Google and Apple team-up and say “how about two billion…, three billion, or whatever it takes”? At what point would the social purpose take a back seat to the financial needs of the stock holders? Is there a price high enough to sell? I’ll have to admit that if I owned the whole thing and they offered me a billion dollars, that I would at least think twice about it. How many of you here might sell the social purpose if it would put a billion dollars in to your personal bank account?


See, the goal of this particular SPC is to give something to community. The platform itself is just a practical example of the use case. Google wants to purchase iMX8Q based phone? By all means, there it is on git lab, where’s my money?


We can’t do anything if they own the intellectual property. Someone has to start over from scratch without the intellectual property. Either that, or does Purism not have intellectual property rights to the Librem 5 hardware design? A social purpose charter is one thing. Have you ever really wondered what it would be like to be a billionaire, billion with a capital “B”? I am not advocating this, but rather wondering how safe the social purpose is, given the stakes.


I thought you cannot re-license GPL? Of course HW is not yet in the public domain but that was also flagged as one of the goals. And the more success it gains the more achievable the goal.
Also it has always been the closed software which prevented previous projects from success (to be picked by community). Here the goal is to build fully open-source phone and it more or less there, you cannot reverse the accepted patches as they became gpl. Now once you have full stack fully open you can then go for other platforms eg A64 or RC64 if iMX for some reason becomes fully closed.


What @ruff said. And if they want to make their own version, since it’s all open source, all they have to do is… make their own version. They’re free to do so, and that’s kinda the whole point.


It’s not that Google or Apple would want to make their own Librem 5 phone. It’s more like they might want to prevent anyone else from making a Librem 5 phone. Sure, you can run all of the software since it is protected by the GPL. Just don’t do it using the Librem 5 hardware designs.


Just because you can’t relicense IP that has been distributed with another license doesn’t mean companies won’t try to do that. See Stack Exchange’s recent announcement that they’re unilaterally changing the license on users’ content.


I suppose that would then depend on them getting the hardware designs before they become open (which is the idea, afaik). That doesn’t really answer your initial question, but the fact that the intent to open the hardware exists means there’s a decent chance Purism would’t sell out. If they were in it for the money they wouldn’t be social purpose.,


They’re not re-licensing it. The change isn’t retroactive, it can’t legally be. They’re changing the license under which future content will be licensed.


I certainly wouldn’t want to question anyone’s integrity here. Maybe Todd is the kind of a guy who would not accept $100B for it. That is certainly possible and maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt, given the good that he has done thus far. If my best friend or family member (or even myself for that matter) owned Purism, that question might still be a difficult one to answer, given the potential stakes.


That’s not the impression I got from the announcement itself:

And that’s not the impression that anyone else got. See the top answer on that question:

As well as this question asking for an official response from SE which has gone unanswered.

I don’t want to get off topic on this but it’s the foremost example in my mind of a company attempting to throw its weight around and change the license on content for which they don’t legally have the right to do so.


The important thing to reach the goal of the Purism - to prove fully open stack is possible. Once it’s picked by other platforms (eg PinePhone) it’s more or less irreversible, you can ban the HW platform but you cannot GPL software stack.
Of course other platforms do not have purity in their goals so most probably it will still run some blobs, but that’s secondary goal from my perspective, it needs more than one platform for the shift.


I think that as soon as Purism releases the Librem 5 schematic and Gerbers in to the public domain or to the GPL, then everything will be irreversible because as you say, others like pinephone will pick up all of the software. I would like to see Purism make some good profits before releasing either of these to anywhere, where Purism could by bypassed in the production of their phone designs. Every company should be rewarded for their work. I don’t think that the hardware design will be completely safe though, until after the schematics are protected under GPL. To the degree that Purism opens their hardware designs up to us, I think we have some responsibility to respect their right to make a profit. The trust has to go both ways. Perhaps a new type of GPL would be in order. Purism could release all of their hardware designs to a new GPL (without waiting a few years) that protects the intellectual property while giving Purism exclusive manufacturing rights for a given number of years going forward. In such a case, the culture here might be one where a Librem 5 phone bought from an illegal source would be shameful, and not something we discuss favorably here. I would propose an exclusive manufacturing period of around six to eight years. For the developer/contributor, they could make their own Librem 5 phones and various versions of it. But if anyone is selling them to their friends or buying them from China, those people are ostracised here. But for those who want to contribute their Librem 5 based hardware improvements back in to the GPL, those people earn a lot of our respect and admiration.


I do not understand the problem and it will be a problem of my misunderstanding and please correct me where I am wrong.
The software is open source and therefore follows the relative 4 fundamental laws.
The hardware is not from the Purism company.
So Apple and Google can’t buy anything.
So, even if, hypothesis, the antpanlinux company copied the whole project entirely, it should also copy all the philosophy that is at the base of the Purism society.
It seems difficult to happen.


i’d take 500 mil and start from scratch something even better under a new SPC … what’s the problem here ? what are we 12 ?


I think the value could be obtained by the following:

  1. Get the collective number of users or devices currently in service which the Survellience Capitalism has control of.
  2. Get the marginal profits of all Survellience Capitalism companies; net profit per year or equivalent.
  3. Divide profit by devices or by people to obtain a net profit per time, per device or person.
  4. Treat the profit per device or customer as a perpetuity (cash-flow) and convert it into a net present value. (better calculation)
  5. Use that Net Present Value to multiply up by the population of people who would possibly want a Librem 5. That value is the offer from Surveillance Capitalism companies jointly.

This is an underestimate because Survellience Capitalism, like burning fossil fuels, has a higher social cost in damages done than the profit a company gets.

To get the amount Purism could “ethically” take without shame? Find out what it cost to build the factories and hardware plus code the blobs on current phones, and a few years of payroll to get the thing going on its own. That amount would be a good number to sell out the Librem project. I ain’t sain’ he shoud do it but I would understand.


so to be clear we are not suggesting that Purism should or WOULD do something like this in the future but if there WAS such an offer from big-tech it would stand to reason that more money would benefit the joint free-software/open-hardware cause. GPL is here to stay so is the code already in the public domain so the only question is if such an offer comes it better be accepted AFTER we get the L5. then we can repeat the process again if need be under a new SPC “umbrella” for a new device.

but … that is not likely to happen since Purism manufactures other devices not only the Librem 5 smartphone.

besides look at it this way … the competition knows what the free-software/open-hardware movement represents and they don’t take it lightly … the first time they caught a glimpse of the future and did not like it was when they saw dr. Stallman stubbornly hacking his printer all those years ago.

well too bad they saw him … it could have been a while longer before they would have caught on … like RMS knows subtlety yeah right … the GPL screams war without having to open the actual document and read it … :wink:


The hardware is from Purism. They don’t manufacturer the components. But no one owns the whole supply chain of their own products. Purism owns the design and the manufacturing process of their own products. They may be using some intellectual property from other manufacturers also. This is common in the electronics business. Your car has components in it from quite a few different companies. The L5 is the same. A company buys components, puts them together to make a unique product, and then sells that product at a profit.


I don’t think it is legally possible for that to occur.

What could occur is that … for that kind of money … you clone the company into a second for-profit company, using the IP that is largely or wholly “open” anyway, and sell that company to Big Surveillance.

As others have said though, why would Big Surveillance want to do this? If they wanted to copy the phone, they have the resources and expertise to do that without any help from Purism - and the result would be completely at odds with their existing ethos.


Not exactly… Washington SPCs are quite limited in scope. Basically being an SPC means that stockholders cannot litigate to force the executives of the company to pursue the interests of the stockholders when those interests conflict with the SPC charter. Normally, the company executives have a fiduciary duty to pursue the interests of the stock holders without regard to whatever is put in the SPC charter.

But this only matters in the case of a dispute between the stock holders and the top level executives or board of directors. In the case of Purism, there is only one stock holder, and he happens to be the CEO. So the SPC part only matters if he and the board of directors disagree, and even then, as the sole stockholder, the board serves at his pleasure, so he can fire them at will. Which means the SPC is meaningless, mostly used as marketing propaganda.