Who will pay for software?

On Saturday, "Dave" asked the question "Who will pay for software?" in a DaveNet article.  It's a tough question that raises a lot of issues.  Looking at those issues as a developer is particularly tough since survival instinct warps my judgement.  I feel that a user's perspective might shed more light than that of a developer.

I am artistic in a half-assed way, so I like to dabble with graphics programs like PhotoShop and Illustrator.  I use those programs frequently enough to buy them.  I also would like to do some 3D graphics and animations as well, but professional 3D tools are just too expensive for a dabbler like me.  So here are some questions from a user's perspective:

  1. Why do part-time users like me have to pay just as much as fulltime users?
  2. How can I pay for just what I use?
  3. Why can't I pay as I use the software?
  4. Can I pay when and if I profit from the contents I created?

One solution that might satisfy these questions is shared content ownership.  The idea is to provide powerful tools for free in return for sharing ownership of the contents created by the users using the tools.  Whether this business model will work or not is the big question.

As a user, I am willing to share ownership of contents I create with tools like Maya if I can use it for free.  As a developer, I am also willing to let people use tools I create for free in return for part ownership of the contents they create.  They were unlikely to buy my software in the first place, doing this will reduce software piracy as well as increase market awareness through peer-marketing.  Since most professional users will still pay upfront for my software to avoid sharing content ownership, I am not losing any existing revenue stream either.