Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

Summary: Canonical, makers of Ubuntu Linux, and the Banshee music player developers have reached a de facto agreement, and the Banshee programmers aren't happy.


Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, has spoken with the developers of Banshee, which is to be the default music player in next version of Ubuntu Linux, and announced a "compromise" on how to handle Banshee's revenue from its built-in Amazon Store connection. Banshee's programmers are not happy.

Banshee had been devoting all the funds it made from its Amazon Store connection to the GNOME Foundation. Canonical wanted Banshee to either disable the Amazon Store connection coming on by default, which competed with its own Ubuntu One music store, or take a 75% cut of any revenue from the Banshee/Amazon stream.

So, Canonical started to talk with Banshee about finding a more equitable solution. Well, Canonical did come up with another proposal, but it hasn't made the Banshee community very happy.

Here's what Canonical's of Online Services, Cristian Parrino, proposed,

As discussed, I wanted to follow up with the plan I outlined on the call - and reiterate my apologies and responsibility for a situation that has resulted in the worst outcome for everyone, including putting the Banshee team in an awkward position. As such:

Recognizing that it is important to not only bring choice to Ubuntu users, but to also generate revenue to continue our investment in Ubuntu, and to ensure we can contribute effectively to the GNOME Foundation--we believe this plan fairly addresses the interests of all parties.

Sources on the Banshee side feel that Canonical dictated these terms. As written 75% of Banshee's Amazon MP3 sales will still go to Canonical, and 25% of all music sales on Ubuntu, not just from Banshee, will go to GNOME.

This is not what the Banshee developer community wanted.

Aaron Bockover, Banshee's creator, wrote that, while he was "not speaking on behalf of the Banshee community," he did have a "vision of the execution of this revenue sharing from a technical and accounting perspective" and that

One thing that does concern me is that while this issue was discussed between Canonical and the Banshee maintainers many times, I am not aware of Canonical involving anyone in the actual Ubuntu community. I will be interested to see how we end up handling this matter technically, and what, if anything, Canonical does regarding packaging, patching, and involving the existing Ubuntu packagers and contributors.

Finally, I am excited about the new potential Banshee has in the near future to generate truly significant referral revenue for the GNOME Foundation as we near Banshee 2.0 and its availability on Windows and Mac OS X, where we will fully control its distribution as an upstream.

I think we can safely say that the Banshee community isn't happy. I can't blame them.

The stakes are small--Banshee's Amazon revenue to date is less than five-figures and it all went to another open-source project--but the principle isn't. Open-source companies and projects shouldn't dictate terms to one another, and that's what sounds to me is what happened.

I understand the potential is there for music purchasing on Ubuntu to become a sizable revenue stream, but Canonical handled this badly. I think it would better if Canonical were to offer a fairer share of the revenue to Banshee. As it is, sorry my Ubuntu buddies, this just doesn't look good.

To prevent this kind of thing happening in the future I suggest that open-source projects that include provisions that have the potential to self-generate revenue come to agreement before they're bundled together on how this revenue is to be handled. In some ways this is a classic case of what happens when people, groups, and companies makes deals without contracts: everyone starts with good intentions but then the details ends up causing an avoidable mess.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Amazon, Banking, Open Source

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  • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

    So this is more money going to GNOME than what was originally proposed.
    • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

      @choyongpil yea it does seem that way
    • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

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  • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

    30% is too much for some, so 75% is???
    • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

      75% is 100% minus 25%, Your question was answered. Please expand on what you are getting at.
      • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree


        The "greed" of the Ubuntu "tax".
    • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree


      You are confused. 30% is the money Apple requires from anyone selling anything on iOS regardless whether is be software, a subscription, or content. Things are reversed.

      Amazon is offering a commission to 3rd party wishing to make Amazon's music on their platform or application.

      Pretend Apple was not big enough to have their own music store. They could integrate the Amazon music store into iTunes and get a cut of the profits. Apple is saying, "We know you have got your own application, your own store, etc, but we still want 30% of your money because we can force you to." Apple is like the Mafia in this regard.

      Now Canonical the Banshee developers are arguing over the percentage of the percentage.
      • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree


        Ubuntu is taking a 75% cut of Banshee sales.

        75% is more than 30% (which is "greedy"), 75% is downright usurious.
      • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

        @andrewjg: Apple makes their own audio player and their own music store. They take a percentage of music purchases because they own the store. They offer referral cuts to anybody that has a LinkShare account (there might be other referral service providers).

        Amazon also takes a percentage of music purchases. If you're in the browser on they take the whole pie unless you've been brought to the store by someone with an Amazon Associates referral.

        The cuts between the two might be different, but it's a free market. They can do that. And Apple can demand more because they probably process more music download sales.

        Ubuntu probably feels that their popularity will increase Banshee's userbase exponentially and that, even at 25% Gnome will get a great deal more money than they would otherwise. AND on top of that they are agreeing to give 25% of Ubuntuone revenues from Rhythmbox to Gnome, which they didn't do before. (Which is interesting since Rhythmbox is the "official" music player for Gnome as far as I know and it's been the default on Ubuntu since the beginning.)

        Calling Apple, or Ubuntu, "The Mafia" is silly. They are the market leader and the market leader always uses their advantage while they have it. In that regard Ubuntu and Apple are in similar positions.
  • Just go the Apple route

    and ask for 30%.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

      @goff256 lol ok
  • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

    It's an interesting question. Are the people who'll be buying through Banshee on Ubuntu doing so because they've chosen Ubuntu because of Banshee or because they've chosen Ubuntu for other reasons and it just happens to have Banshee as the (or a) gateway to music stores? Banshee might be the immediate interface to the store but to what extent has Banshee earned that particular users eyeballs as opposed to the rest of the distro?

    I'm always somewhat suspicious when software is released under a free licence and people then try to attach some moral constraints or obligations to it's use or distribution. It seems to me that you either value other peoples ability to make their own choices for their own reasons or you don't. To release free software and then attempt to dictate what others do with it seems, at the very least, inconsistent.

    Canonical of course is in a difficult position. It benefits greatly from the wider community and should be seen to do the right thing by that community. It also needs to make money to continue to do what it does.

    In many respects I think drawn out discussions over what is fair only hurt them. They need to make their own assessment of what is appropriate, state clearly what that is and why and then move on. I don't really see how ongoing discussion of precisely how the split works benefits anyone.
    • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

      @paulm3000 The "...moral constraints or obligations to it's use or distribution" is the license under which the software is distributed. Canonical is well with in their rights to simply take the software and do what they want with it and any associated revenue the can create. The fact that they are trying to work it out with the "community" show they are committed to the open source ideals that make it great.
  • Lets start with the fact that Banshee is a .NET App

    Who uses it?[1]
    Sure as h3ll, not me.
    This is a non-event.
    [1] Banshee is written in Mono, a wrapper on the .NET Framework.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate I've never even seen banshee. I'm on 10.10 right now and it didn't come with this version. So I guess its only gonna be in the new one, which I probably won't be getting since they changed their default desktop away from GNOME.
      • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree


        It's in the repos, has been for years. It is better than Rythmbox btw.
    • RE: Canonical & Banshee Agree to Disagree

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate<br>Mono is definitely NOT a wrapper on the .NET framework. It is an open source implementation of a published specification. There is no shared code. MS published the specification for the CLI and a 3rd party (MONO developers) implemented it. Some of the languages are common (e.g. C#) but so is C++. Mono actually does some things that .NET does not. For example, Mono utilizes SIMD instructions for floating point.<br><br>I'm sure you've used JAVA or run some JAVA application and it has been seriously controlled by SUN/Oracle. The MONO project provides C# and the CLR and there is the potential to run Perl, Python, Cobol, Ruby, F#, Eiffel, JAVA, VB, C++ and others on the MONO CLR. I like that flexibility and no other technology has that.
  • Nice to see Open Sourcers working together

    Then again when money is concerned, even the Open Source types get greedy.
    The Nasty Old Troll
  • What stopped Canonical from disabling it?

    Should have been easy enough. Standard practice is that Distros decide their own defaults and users modify to their liking. Why screw with the app's developers?

    It's just plain anti-competitive BS. Canonical should be ashamed.
  • Do we really need lawyers...

    to prevent greed? No. Writing contracts can help to reduce the results of targeted bad behavior, but it can't teach people to decide to be less greedy.

    A good working relationship is based on trust and common goals, not fear of litigation. Think about the happy marriages you know about or are involved in. How many are successful because of pre-nuptial (contract) agreements?