An Open Proposal to Canonical

Firstly, this post is a personal one. I am not speaking on behalf of the Banshee community, any corporation, foundation, or my maintainer peers.

Since Banshee will be shipped in the upcoming release of Ubuntu, Canonical has decided it will take 75% of the Amazon MP3 referral revenue that, in the upstream/default codebase and configuration of Banshee, has historically been donated to the GNOME Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

25% will continue to flow to the GNOME Foundation. Of course this change will only affect those running Banshee as distributed by Canonical/Ubuntu. Other builds and distributions are unaffected.

Given that this decision appears to be final, I propose to Canonical my vision of the execution of this revenue sharing from a technical and accounting perspective:

  • Let Banshee handle the revenue sharing on the server. Currently, when launching the Amazon MP3 store in Banshee, the user is redirected through a proxy on This proxy does a few important things:
    • Use IP address geo-location to redirect users to the most appropriate Amazon MP3 store (e.g.,, etc).
    • Inject the appropriate Amazon MP3 referral code depending on the store chosen (and in this new case, also depending on whether the user is coming from a Canonical build).
    • Act as a level of indirection in case changes are made on Amazon’s side – if something happens, we can update our server and users remain unaffected as software updates do not need to be pushed.
    • Finally send the user to Amazon MP3.
  • With revenue sharing happening through the existing proxy, we can ensure that funds to the GNOME Foundation are delivered through the existing referral codes, and in a timely manner. We will be able to continue to provide public disclosure of referral revenue for GNOME.

    I am very concerned about accountability, and want to ensure that 25% is indeed making it to GNOME in a timely manner, consistent with what we already have in place.

Additionally, as part of Canonical’s decision to donate 25% of Banshee’s Amazon MP3 referral revenue to GNOME, they have also stated that 25% of referral revenue from their own UbuntuOne Music Store and from referral revenue from their builds of Rhythmbox will also be donated to the GNOME Foundation. I applaud them in this choice, especially around U1MS, as this is their own service and investment.

However, as partly implied by the Ubuntu News article on the matter, 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.

6 Replies to “An Open Proposal to Canonical”

  1. Thanks for trying to keep it in the good mood side!

    It’s going to be really exciting to see Mac OS X and Windows users start contributing to GNOME Foundation :)

    Thanks for all your work!!

  2. Personally I think that this should be about giving the user choice and freedom. Rather than being proscriptive, why can’t the user decide where the money goes?

    This could be rather like the search engine choice you get when using Internet explorer. I would want to support both Canonical and Gnome but would split the differently.

    If it worked well and we could develop a standard interface method, I think that this could become a way of supporting open source could be applied to loads more programs or marketplace.

  3. Hi Aaron,

    Thanks for looking at this facet of the implementation. We’ll talk more about it on our call, but my plan is to implement this in the same way we handle other revenue share and donation arrangements of this kind – thereby ensuring that all aspects are looked after, including the technical, accounting and taxation sides.

    I also believe that this proposal inadvertently positions Canonical as an untrustworthy party, which is very disappointing as we have tried to be open and forthright throughout this episode. We have a track record of continued investment and donation to Ubuntu, upstream projects and the broader open source ecosystem and we will continue to live up to the commitments we make.

    Happy to explore this further on our call.

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