Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SAE Ends Financial Support For Ardour

Unfortunately it was recently announce soon after the release of Ardour SAE Edition that SAE would no longer support the development of Ardour financially. That has placed the lead developer of the project, Paul Davis, in the position of considering how to supplement his income to make up for the shortfall. According to the main page for Ardour, he is considering consulting to other open source projects. This, of course, would leave him with less time to work on Ardour development. For the community around Ardour that would mean slower releases and implementation of new features.
Currently the project receives $1632 per month from 195 subscribers using their PayPal accounts to show continued support for Paul's work. However, Paul is making a plea to the community to increase the monthly contributions to the project to $4500 per month($54,000 per year). This would allow Ardour development to continues as it did with SAE's financial support.
I have to admit that, although I use Ardour nearly daily, I hadn't contributed to the project financially. As soon as I heard the news though I went to the site and subscribed at the $10 per month level. Shamefully, deep down I know the reason I didn't support the project financially before was most likely because of SAE's financial contribution. I guess I had the attitude that the project was doing all right and didn't need any of my hard earned money. I also think that this was pretty common among Ardour users.
So, in a strange way, albeit bad for Paul in the sort term, this might just be a catalyst in the community to take more responsibility for the project. It's just not acceptable to sit back and hope that another SAE is going to come along an make everything right. I don't use free software because I'm cheap, maybe complacent sometimes but not cheap. I use it because it's what is right.
It's scary to think that the music that is being recorded right now is held in proprietary formats and in 50 years from now, when the next great development in music technology comes down the pipe, we won't be able to work with that material in it's native format. Think about digitally re mastering audio for CD. Sure, Pro Tools might be an "Industry Standard" but the format is not a Open. There is no competition or alternatives that read all the info contained in a Pro Tools session. That means that very talented producers and mixers work is going to be forfeited to the history books because we won't be able to read automation data, what plug-ins they used, etc. Instead of taking advantage of digitals ability to preserve data we are trapping our data into undocumented file formats and doing nothing about it.
This brings us to the heart of "Free Culture". Enabling creators to create by giving them the tools to develop their art freely. Not based on how much money they have, but by how much skill they have at their art. Eventually art becomes public domain and I would hate to think that the works of Mozart or Bach would be lost to eternity because we couldn't read the paper it was printed on because of proprietary ink technology or even works some type of DRM that coded the music so it could only be read by special glasses that aren't made any more.
Art should not be about elitism, as Apple would wish, it should be about expression of anthropomorphic ideas and of the human experience. Supporting projects like Ardour breaks down barriers that are being forced on us by our technology. I urge everyone to step up to the plate and make the continued development of Ardour a reality.
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