Will Blender 3D Ever Become A Paid Application?


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For as long as most people can remember, the 3D application known as Blender has been freely available to download for everything to use. It has always been regarded as the free alternative to other 3D applications like Maya and Zbrush. But just how long will this remain true and will we ever need to start paying to use Blender Software.

Blender will never become a paid product that users will have to pay for to use, either from a one-time payment or a subscription license. That is according to Ton Roosendaal, the creator of the software and founder of the Blender Foundation.

In this world of ever-changing scenarios, Blender users and fans will at least have comfort in the knowledge that they will never have to pay to use their favorite software.

Is Blender Really Free?

The 3D software is owned and developed by the Blender Foundation, which is a not-for-profit charity organization that exists solely for the development of the Blender software. The money that is donated to the Blender foundation primarily funds the wages of Blender developers so that they can continue to improve the software.

The simple fact that the Blender Foundation is a charity means that it cannot sell Blender 3D as a commercial product unless it changes into an entirely new business entity. It is not a case where the software is just one aspect of the Blender Foundations’ work, but rather the fact that the Blender Foundation exists purely for Blender to work and continue to develop.

The software itself falls under a very special license, known as the GNU General Public License, and it is the rules of the license that make Blender truly free.

As Blender falls under the GNU GPL, it is considered a form of open-source software. This means several things, the first being that the source code of the software must be made available for users to download.

This allows the Blender community to not only use the software but to also change their version of the application in whatever way that they desire.

Blender is free software in just about every sense of the word, with the only real restriction being that the license prevents the application from ever being sold for a fee other than zero. This is true both for the Blender Foundation itself, as well as users of Blender, who are allowed under the license to redistribute their own versions of Blender that they created using the source code but are not allowed to sell even their own versions.

Will Blender Stay Free Forever?

To sum up this question in the words of Ton Roosendaal, creator of Blender and founder of the Blender Foundation, Blender is free, Forever!

Is it in any way, shape or form possible for Blender to ever become paid software, technically yes? To do so, however, would require a change in license and even a change in ownership. But these are very difficult to achieve and that is by design.

The ultimate goal of Blender and the Blender Foundation is to provide professional-grade software to everyone, and not have anyone pay for the ability to learn incredible new skills and even start on new career paths thanks to Blender 3D.

There are no plans to change this now and it is likely that Blender will always remain in its current state as a free, open-source 3D application under the GNU GPL and will be free to access for everyone.

Below is a tweet from Ton Roosendaal confirming his stance on Blenders availability…

Blender is Free Software. It’s free to use for everyone. Free to use for any purpose, also commercially. Blender is free to share with others, free to study its sources and free make new versions. Blender is free, forever.

Ton Roosendaal, 2019

How Does The Blender Foundation Make Its Money?

In order for Blender to continue developing and improving as a software, money is required to fund that development, mainly in the form of the salaries of the Blender developers that work so hard at the Blender Foundation to improve the software.

But as the Blender Foundation is a charity organization, it does not generate its own income. As Blender itself is not a paid project and does not generate any revenue for the Blender Foundation, other means of acquiring money to continue Blender’s development are obviously required.

There are generally two ways that Blender goes about achieving this. The first method is through donations and contributions from the Blender community. This is a straightforward process in which you can contribute whatever you like to Blenders development from the website.

The second method is with patrons who invest in Blender with a subscription-style model. This works through the Blender development fund, which is a tier-based system designed to allow patrons to invest at various levels. For example, you can enter the Bronze tier and invest 5 euros a month.

Or if you wanted to also promote your youtube channel or website on the Blender site then you could go with the diamond tier and donate 250 a month and also get a link to your site from the fund page.

You can access the fund page directly using this link to see all the patrons who donate to Blender.

In addition to singular patrons, entire companies can also contribute to the developer fund with the use of corporate memberships.

This is a tier system within itself that has three levels, which are Bronze, Silver, and Gold. This allows companies to invest much larger sums to Blender on a yearly basis.

At the highest level, companies can even go with the Corporate Patron tier, which starts at 120,000 a year and can rise even higher, depending on the agreement made between the company and the Blender Foundation.

Is It Easy To Donate To Blender Either As A One Time Or As Part Of A Tier System?

In both cases, the answer is yes. With the tier system, you can easily decide how much you want to invest in Blender by using the tier system to decide how much you are looking to invest each month.

Of course, you will also have the ability in the standard tier list to alter which tier you are in at any time and can even end your ‘subscription’ at any time. And we only use the term subscription very loosely as there are no real commitments here.

The one-time donations are even easier, as Blender allows you to donate single payments using any of the following methods.

  • Paypal
  • Bank Transfer
  • Cryptocurrency
    • Bitcoin
    • BitcoinCash
    • LightCoin
    • Etherium

WHO Donates To The Blender Foundation?

From the fund page of the Blender website, we are able to see exactly who donates to Blender through either the basic tier system or the corporate one, and there are some very big companies that have invested in Blender.

In the patron tier, we see companies that benefit strongly from Blenders’ development. For example two of the world’s most reputable game engine developers, Unreal Engine and Unity, are major backers of Blender as it plays an important role for many creators in the process of creating assets to use in those game engines.

We also have large tech companies whose products define the ability of our hardware, the likes of Nvidia, AMD, and Intel.

Blender is actually a great software for demonstrating the effectiveness of new products like graphics cards and showing the power of the hardware in a real-life application that anyone can use. Blender has been used in promotional material in the past to highlight gen on gen improvements with hardware.

At this point, most of the big names in the tech space are backers of Blender on this list of corporate investors, including amazon, google, and Microsoft.

Companies of this size don’t just invest for the sack of it, however, and there is always going to be a bit of give and take.

Decentraland for example is an incredible sponsor that has built an entire virtual world that is owned by its user base. It invests in Blender to help the development of Blenders’ VR and AR capabilities.

Adobe is another major company that invests in Blender so that it can integrate the functionality of its own products with the 3D application, as this is one of the few areas of the adobe ecosystem that is lacking, compared to the dozens of other creative apps that they have available. In particular, they help to invest in functionality that helps integrate Blender with the Substance suite of apps used for PBR texturing and materials.

How Much Does Blender Make Each Year From Donations?

As of January 2022, no less than 34 companies invest in Blender and the Blender Foundation. This is in addition to 2828 individuals who all contribute to Blender to various degrees of investment. What this means is that the current monthly contribution stands at 148,146 euros, which ironically is more than what most companies make of a similar size.

This is based on all of those who have entered into an agreement to donate on a monthly basis using the tier system and does not include the one-off payments that you can make at any time via the one-time donations page here.

Blender does make it very easy for you though if you do want to donate as a one-time payment and offers numerous methods that you can choose ranging from bank transfers, to Paypal, to even using different forms of cryptocurrency.

Is This Number Likely To Change In The Future?

The number changes all the time, even now, as new patrons, companies, and donations enter the fold on a regular basis. The number itself has followed a steady upward trend as the number of investors has continued to increase these past few years in particular.

Can I Use Blender For Commercial Projects?

There are a lot of similar applications out there that allow you to begin downloading and using these applications for free, some of which even grant you full access to all of the features that the software offers without any sort of payment required.

But one barrier that is actually quite common here is the ability to use the software for commercial purposes. In other words, using the tool as a means to create an income.

Even if it is not always a hard limit, some applications will ask that you either pay a fee to use a pro version, which has the license permitting you to use it for commercial purposes. Or they instruct you that you can only use the software for free until you hit a certain threshold of income using the software.

If this all sounds complicated, you don’t have to worry, because none of this applies to Blender. There are many different licenses that applications can fully under but the license that Blender has allows users to generate income from assets created using Blender immediately, with no restrictions on creative use.

How Does Blenders License Work And How Much Does It Cost?

Blender 3D is an open-source program as a result of the GNU General Public License. This is also referred to as free software. The license applies to the use of the software itself and allows for the free distribution of the application as well as the source code. Which allies users to download Blender and then reshape it into whatever they deem necessary for their purpose.

Everything about the Blender software has to be made public, from its development cycle to its source code and library data.

You are free to use the Blender software for any purpose under this license, whether that be commercial or personal projects.

You have the ability to redistribute Blender from your own website or eCommerce store, provided that you make it available for free.

By downloading the source code you can make changes to the Blender software and how it functions, from adjusting how the user interface behaves to the render engines that are used, and far beyond.

Finally, you have the freedom to distribute the versions of Blender that you have made changes to the same as you can with vanilla Blender. Again you must distribute the software for free as it falls under the GNU GPL license.

What Happens If The Blender Foundation Closes?

In the event that funding for Blender’s development ends, and the Blender Foundation closes or is no longer able to pay its developers, Blender will still be able to continue existing. As it is open-source, it will remain in the public domain forever, and you will always be able to download it.

You will also be able to continue editing your version of Blender with access to the source code which is the reason why it is called open source.

In truth the only thing that will stop is the development cycle put in place by the Blender Foundation, so you wouldn’t see the levels of improvement that come with new versions being released every three to four months.

In short, don’t expect Blender to be going anywhere anytime soon, if at all.

Thanks For Reading Through The Article

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