5 ways to save on your monthly software rental bill in the year 2056

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Software bills got you down? Here at Intellectual Property Magazine (championing intellectual investment since 2012!), our studies show that the share of an average household's budget for software rental has increased from 10% to 23% from 2040 to 2056. Today our experts will share* some money-saving ideas!

*Please note a licensing fee of $50 for initial use of the ideas in this list, and an ongoing monthly charge of $5.

Did you know?

Did you know there used to be a "free" software movement? It was made up of people who believed that software should be free to use and copy without restrictions. These people actually argued that patents and intellectual property laws would hinder innovation.

Fortunately, this was a short-lived movement. The Intellectual Property Advancement Convention, signed by over 120 countries in 2014, retroactively granted 100-year software patents for existing software ideas and effectively ended the damaging effects of the free software ideology. The ideas presented in this article demonstrate the abundant creativity that is fostered when innovation is protected.


Microsoft Office is one of the biggest budget items for the families we surveyed. We all appreciate the work that Microsoft did back in the 1980s and 1990s to develop this important suite of applications and we cheerfully acknowledge that they should be perpetually rewarded for it. But let's face it, we'd like to save some money on this line item.

Microsoft has developed an innovative way to help you manage your Office costs. "Office-Share" is patent pending, and we should all give thanks to the enduring patent system that provides a fertile environment for new ideas such as this one. With Office-Share, you no longer have to pay rent on those times of day when you're not using the software. You can now share a full subscription with other households!

For example, you might sign up for the nightly 7-8pm slot so that little Bobby can write his report before bedtime, while Ms. Smith next door signs up for the 8-9pm slot to work on her novel. (Let's hope she properly licenses those story idea patents!) You can realize further savings by signing up for the graveyard shift. Fees drop by as much as half for the 2-4am time period. A great deal for you night owls out there!

Can you imagine?

It may be hard to imagine now, but free software once presented a real danger to innovation in Office software. Competing free office suites such as the copycat OpenOffice.org could have put a halt to new ideas from the Microsoft corporation, had it become unfeasible to sell this kind of software for hundreds of dollars per license.


RealPlayer is much appreciated for its deep integration with the Windows operating system and for advertising its availability prominently. It also serves as a good example of innovative partnering between two companies. We're happy that Real's monopoly on streaming video enables them to profit from all their good work and focus on future improvements, but still, we'd like to save some money on the use of this great product.

And just as Microsoft has done with Office, Real has stepped up to the plate with a creative offering. For an additional charge of $5 per month (stay with us here!), you will be entered in a drawing for a three month discount on your rental rates, for a total savings of $100! One out of fifteen entries will be a winner. All it takes is one drawing per year to save money, and you have twelve opportunities to win!


Everybody's favorite compression program is WinZip, but unfortunately some people don't seem to appreciate the value it delivers when they begrudge the standard $20 per month licensing fee. We were surprised that many people are unaware of great opportunities for saving already built in to the product. The monthly rental fee includes unlimited use at the standard compression level, but if you choose a faster setting with less compression, you can save up to $6 per month.


Yes! A 30% reduction in your monthly bill for a program that runs faster! It's difficult now to imagine a time when the state of the art in software licensing was a one time charge for a single version of a program. (And let's not even mention again the absurd "free" license foolishness!)

Clearly, the 2015 IP Advancement Convention has served us well.


Boy, are we embarrassed about this one. We had a great money-saving idea that could have saved you tens of dollars a year, but we found out late in the publication cycle that we failed to license it properly. Negotiations for publication rights were not concluded in time and we can only offer this apology in its place.

We have extensive IP review procedures here at IPM, and we are currently investigating how 150 hours of due diligence on permitted-use clearance for this article could have resulted in such an oversight. It's likely that we'll be able to offer the idea to you at a later time for a small additional fee.


Reconsider: should your goal be to save on software rental at all? Remember, if we don't pay companies enough money, we won't see continued advancement in software innovation. Think about it: in 2006, WinZip was on version 10. Today it's up to version 84, and WinZip International LLC is still innovating strongly thanks to the recent licensing of One-Click Installation from Microsoft.

We ask you:

Does your son or daughter really need braces? Do you really think you're going to be able to retire someday? Perhaps you should save less and spend more!


I already hawked this one last week, but for a similarly silly tale of software licensing, patents, and DRM gone awry, please visit the Moving to Freedom web site at http://www.movingtofreedom.org for my science fiction story, Picnic. More recently, an oldie-but-a-goodie quote from Thomas Jefferson.


Reusable with this attribution, and please note if modifications are made: Copyright © Scott Carpenter, 2006. Originally published in Free Software Magazine. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (CC-BY-SA-2.5).



Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Just a quick question: could you please provide me with a good description, a link, or a fragment of one of the more popular licenses that ensures you're "free to use software, without charge"? I have to admit I failed in finding those. FSF speaks about "free as in speech", and the licenses tell that you can get the source, modify it, probably have to freely distribute it again and may not charge for the source (more or less) - but quite some commercial software is licensed under a "pay by use" modell (number of CPUs, number of users, number of installations, etc). So even if they would give you the source, allow you to change the source, etc. this does not mean you're allowed to actually use the program w/o paying them.

Please don't flame, as this proves my point has not been understood. I do want to believe OSS gives you the right to freely use the program, but without actually seing it in the licsense I can't. All I can see is that these licenses grant you the right to the source, and nobody asks for money, so everyone thinks it's free (as in beer) and no problem. But where does is actually written? Who stops you from demanding usage fees from all users even if your software is, say, GPL'd?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Software, in copyright law, is no different than any other piece of work, say a recipe for pasta. The first is used by a computer to manipulate data and produce results, the second by a person to manipulate ingredients and produce food. Sure, software is more complex than a lasagna recipe, but it is the same in principle. When was the last time you called a publisher asking him if you had the right to use a recipe you found in one of their books to cook dinner? Right, thought so. Another important distinction is that copyright protects the actual work, not the general idea. If I print a book with 100 pasta recipes, it doesn't mean that anyone else wishing to print a book containing one of those recipes, is out of luck. He can still print one, and similar recipes would be OK as long as he can reasonably claim that he didn't copy it from you, that it wasn't derived from yours, or, in the case of a traditional recipe like carbonara, claim that both recipes derive from a public domain recipe so that noone can claim rights. Software is similar... just because you wrote a sorting algorithm that works in one way, doesn't mean that noone else can. Everyone else can take the algorithm and implement it, and in many cases the implementation will be very similar. Copyright will not protect you from that, there's patent law for that, and software patents is another big subject.

So, they don't grant you the right to use the software because they can't take it away to begin with, it's an implied right. What the corps do though is use end user license agreements (EULAs) in which they grant you specific rights if you agree to a contract, or no rights if you don't. This has nothing to do with copyright or patents, this is contract law. This is like agreeing with someone to sell you his top secret recipe for ultra delicious cookies for $200 while signing a contract prohibiting you for using that recipe for commercial purposes, like setting up a competing business.

So, there's patents, copyright and contract law. A software that doesn't use patented methods, and that is provided to you without you having to agree to a contract, is only protected by copyright law, which only restricts your right to redistribute it. If the author grants you this rights, then you can do pretty much whatever you want with it. Check for example the (revised) BSD license:


It is simple and elegant.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"A software that doesn't use patented methods, ..."

You do realize that if the currently granted patents were rigourously enforced then virtually all modern software would be impossible without licensing patents? The US patent office has granted patents which when translated into non-legalistic language cover things on the generality level of "sending a message from a computer to another computer in order to elicit a response" which convers any computer to computer communication.
Now, such patents can almost certainly be overturned as insufficiently specific and subject to prior art. But if the company owning the patent is (say) a £1000Million+ company (and they hold many such patents) you only stand a chance if you are another company of a similar size. And you might have hundreds of such patents to invalidate, held by several large companies.
So rigourous software patent enforcement does effectively kill all free and open source software unless (say) IBM was prepared to put a LOT of its money on the line.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The first liberty (#0 for fomputer people) allow use to run a program for ANY purpose : ie no one can't tie a price to a SPECIFIC use...
(time, commercial/personnal, number of use...)

That beign said, nothing prevent to SELL an Open Source software, in fact that's why the term Open source was created : beccause those software are free as speech and not as beer...
Your only guarantee is that you won't have 'use fee' but only 'selling price'.

My disclaimer: IANAL.

iraysyvalo's picture

OK, as long as people are willing to buy it from you. The same for Open source software.

The term Open Source doesn't convey the freedom nature of the software as well as the Free Software terminology* but for all practical purposes, they represent the same thing. Please see the OSI FAQ where you can check the relation between them.

*But then see also this link on the origin of the Open source terminology : "Free" is ambiguous.

Let's go party.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It's a good point, and one that's particularly pertinent under English law. As I understand it (and I am not a U.S. qualified lawyer) under the U.S. copyright act, there is an implied license to use software which is otherwise licensed to the user for various purposes. This is what allows US users of GPL software the right to use it.

Under English law, there is no such statutory implied right to use, but fortunately it's pretty well agreed between commentators that the GPL is to be read with an implied right to use the software, even if this not made explicit.

It is one of the problems with the GPL (v2), which despite being a great piece of drafting does have a problem or two. Unfortunately, even though Eben Moglen (co-author of the GPL) agrees with me on this issue, it has not been explicitly dealt with in any of the current drafts for GPL v3 that I have seen.
I suppose it's up to me to do something about that!

- Andrew

Andrew Katz

Scott Carpenter's picture

The way I understand it is that money can be charged for the source code, but once you (or someone) buys it, no further restrictions can be placed on it. So let's say you buy source code from some shady guy in an alley, and later he turns around and demands usage fees. According the license, he has no legal backing for this. (However, look out if he has some underling named Chainsaw that tries to persuade you to pay up.)

Is there also something about any fees charged needing to be "reasonable?" Whatever that would mean?

But regardless of the amount, I don't think a business model could be made around charging extravagant amounts for the source code, since there is no way to prevent the next person from distributing it for less or free. Now, I suppose Company X might get a distribution of GNU/Linux and make some changes and then sell the revised version for $100,000 to Company Y. Company Y might not want to just give it away after investing that amount. So they don't share either. But is this a big problem? These two companies are going to be outside of the flow. They will have a lot of work on their hands to maintain their isolated versions in-house. They won't have the wider community supporting and improving their version. And I don't think many copies will go for $100,000 so it doesn't seem like a viable business model.

As far as the versions that are out there that are essentially free as in free beer because so many people are using them, to a large extent you are relying on the community to keep this thing going so you can continue to enjoy using the software for free. Theoretically you have the source code and can maintain it yourself if the community went away, but that's not very likely in practice.

But the system works great so far and we've reached critical mass for a lot of projects. And success keeps breeding more projects. It's lots of fun, and I can't wait to be more immersed in it. (Too much time writing and not enough time playing with this great free stuff.)

These are just some random thoughts. I haven't studied the licensing all that closely and am instead relying on the reassurance and opinions of others. I welcome any feedback about why my scenarios above are wrong or way out of line or irrelevant in some way. They're not meant to be authoritative, just speculative :-)

Terry Hancock's picture

There are a few "open source"/"free software" licenses which carry a restriction against charging for the software, but they allow you to charge a "reasonable fee" for distribution, etc. They also allow you to bundle the software with something else (i.e. "aggregation") that you do charge for.

These aren't very popular licenses, though (and I don't feeling like diving to find one at the moment -- I just remember reviewing licenses of this type).

The popular GPL license, has no restrictions against sale price. However, because it removes all of the monopoly advantage, it lets the market drive the price to nearly zero (to be exact, it drives it to the "marginal cost of reproduction and distribution", which for web-based distribution can mean "less than what you get from Google ads on the page", so essentially "free").

Strictly speaking, of course, we are paying something in the form of our local internet providers. Peer-to-peer distribution (and Bit Torrent, which uses the same technological approach), attempts to leverage this by distributing the cost of distribution over the whole network. Thus, you essentially pay-in-kind for the distribution cost when you pay your ISP for bandwidth. Some of it will be used to send files on to other people.

As for charging for the source code, the GPL specifically ties the cost to the cost of the binary distribution. GPLv2 said they had to be equal, GPLv3 loosened this up to "within 10X the cost" and provided some multi-channel costs. This is mainly to accomodate things like embedded devices for which source distribution "on like media" is potentially troublesome.

The 10X rule is also useful for artistic works, where the sources might be much larger than the final product (e.g. the movie "The Lord of the Rings" was maybe 10 hrs long all together, but the footage shot for it may well have run into 1000+ hrs, with all the re-takes, multiple component shots, unused scenes, etc). A "source" distribution of a big movie like can easily be many times the size of the "binary". So far, there isn't a lot of free-licensed art of this caliber, and it can be argued that GPLv3 won't be used for it anyway (but rather, say, CC-By-SA), but it is interesting.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

This view on intellectual software is interesting and I would say Orwellian. If it were possible this sort of business model would have been implemented years ago

I would say that the deciding factor here is the overall economy and lawmakers instead of software companies.


Scott Carpenter's picture

Right -- it hasn't been possible, previously. If it became possible in the future, then you can bet companies would like to extract every penny they can. (It's their job, after all.)

Despite the miserly future presented, I'm actually pretty optimistic about the promise of free software and its ability to compete with proprietary software. *If* it is allowed to go on as it has, and that's where politics comes in to play. Software patents are a big threat.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

if you are talking about personal use, here is what i have to say:

1. interesting. i didn't know that
2. have you ever heard of "real alternative" or "quicktime alternative"? which are free!
3. 7zip - also free
4. -
5. software should be free

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

its a joke

Mike Swanson's picture

Real Alternative and QuickTime Alternative aren't free as in freedom, and they might possibly violate the EULA of the respective products. They're simply packages for Windows that installs the codec modules of both, but without the GUI of either.

BitShifter's picture

I found that those financial programs for accountants really help in budgeting. Though of course not just for software per se. And I am not the one who uses it primarily. My wife does, an accountant, and it helps me budget all my expenses. Excuse my rambling. The tips show a lot of promise and I hope to save more with it!

Author information

Scott Carpenter's picture


Scott Carpenter has been lurking around the fringe of the free software movement since 1998 and in 2006 started a more concentrated effort to "move to freedom." (Chronicled at the Moving to Freedom blog: http://www.movingtofreedom.org/.)

He has worked as a professional software developer/analyst since 1997, currently in enterprise application integration.

(Views expressed here and at movingtofreedom.org are strictly his own and do not represent those of his employer. Nor of miscellaneous associates including friends and family. Nor of his dog. It's possible they're representative of his cats' opinions, but unlikely. Void where prohibited. Local sales tax applies.)