Getting rich off GNU

What strategies are there for maximizing your profit of a GNU project you control? The standard answer I see is to offer support services, and we see this fairly often in industry. Would the following alternatives be viable?

Strategy #1: Your have a successful software project, for arguments sake let's pretend it's an OS that you sell twice a year. Customers are happy, but you'd like to publicize it more, and put it into the hands of more users (to help the greater good in the hopes of getting more paying customers). You decide to GPL version N-2 of your OS and release that (doing N-1 annoys your paying customers too much). I presume this is possible to do, and doesn't stop you selling future proprietary options?

Strategy #2: In this case you're once again a successful developer of an OS, but this time it's GPL. Now you either get greedy or just need to raise funds, and decide you want to sell a proprietary variant of your OS. This is tricky, because you're bound to the terms of your license which prohibit you from distributing the GPL'd part with your premium add-ons. What workarounds are there here? Is there a way to sell patches to paying customers while also delaying them for the free users?

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this doesn't stop the linus from obfuscating his source code on a regular basis to protect intel from a massive embarrassment.

Sell to enterprises. They don't care how much it costs as it is literally nothing to them.

Write a messaging app.
Put it on Google play for 3 bucks or so.
Dumb americans will buy.
Smart europeans will download it from FDroid.

If you own all of the copyrights to the OS in strategy #2, you can dual license the software under GPL and a commercial license if you want. Adacore does that with its Ada and Spark development software. So does Oracle with MySQL.

But than would not respect the users freedom.

Funny enough, I was thinking about Adacore as I wrote it, but aren't they following Strategy #1?

I guess so. The same principle is at work in either case: having licensed something under the GPL doesn't preclude the copyright owner(s) of the software from also licensing it under another license, or even changing the license at any time. Copyright is still king.

this is why linus can violate his own copyright at intel's pleasure

*license* not copyright

actually that doesn't make any sense, so to get this straight..

i can write some software and release it as GPL, and then at any time declare the next update is no longer GPL and proprietary

if anyone forks my GPL code and/or use's it in their own software project, it must remain GPL and their whole project must remain GPL indefinitely, they can not declare a future update to be proprietary.

if i create a new proprietary product using my own GPL code that I have copyright over, can I ignore that GPL license all together? it doesn't seem like I should be able to, but that's exactly what linus does when he obfuscates code for "security" reasons.

As I understand it, the GPL'd version is GPL for perpetuity. You will always have full rights afforded to you for that particuar version. What the copyright holder does, can not apply retroactively.

What I was not aware of, is that the copyright holder can violate the terms of GNU. I suppose this makes senses, because only the copyright holder can decide to pursue litigation. This seems unfair, if in the OS scenario, you contributed 90% of the code to a GPL project that I have the copyright for, but I suppose nothing can be done about it.


Probably correct, but it depends on what you mean by "uses it in their own software project." If they link their code to your GPL software, their code has to be GPL. If they create a derivative work of your software, their derivative work has to be GPL.

However, they could include your GPL software as part of a compilation with their own work which is not a derivative work and does not link to yours, and they can license their own work however they want.

Also, they could write some code that linked to a GPL library you wrote, and I believe they could license their code itself under whatever license they wanted. They could say "his library is GPL, my code is MIT." But as soon as he distributes a binary, the binary is under the GPL, and he has to release the code under those terms. There's an IRC program (uirc3) that's licensed permissively, but it uses GNU Readline, so as soon as you compile it, it's GPL.

Yes, because it's not fundamentally "GPL code" it's fundamentally "code to which you own the copyright." You can change the license at any time, or refuse to license it anymore altogether. The only thing you can't do is ignore your prior obligations. So if you distributed a binary of the software under the GPL last month, you have to respond to requests for the source code for those binaries for however long the license requires.

If you wrote, aka have copyright over the codebase, you can relicense the code to anything you want at any time.

Correct. Other people can not make the fork proprietary. Only the copyright holders of the code can.

The copyright holder part is quite interesting, and is something that has to be taken into account when deciding to contribute your time. It isn't enough to check for GPLv3 I suppose, one also has to check the copyright holder isn't Scrooge McDuckshekelzuckersteingeltcoinblattsilverberg, lest your efforts be cucked.

thanks, this license shit get's complicated. it seems with so much shit out there released under GPLv3 already, if you wanted to release anything proprietary, on any platform (i don't even know about windows god knows what kind of kikery goes on if you use .net libraries or something), then your really going to have to re-invent the wheel.

your going to have to go library by library, and go through every library that every library uses, license by license, and make sure you can use all of this in something proprietary, and if not, re-invent the wheel. that's got to be difficult on to pull off on linux.

I guess this was the entire point when stallmann made the GPLv3.

I assume this also goes for dual licensing. If you use a GPL library at any point, or any license that doesn't allow you to go commercial with it, you can't release one copy as GPL, say your good, then say "commercial use only with license", or can you? the code is still available, if there's no difference between the GPL version and the commercial version.

Correct. GPL acts like a virus in that regard.

If you link your software, statically or dynamically, with a GPLed library, you must distribute your software under the terms of the GPL.

Unless you assign ownership of your copyright to the copyright holder of the rest of the project, you keep ownership of the code you wrote. That means they'd have to get your permission to relicense, or they'd have to remove all your code first.
Most projects don't do copyright assignment. It's a hassle. A lot of GNU projects do, with the interesting twist that in the same contract they make a legal promise to keep your code free software (and maybe even copyleft, I don't remember the details).

Not strictly correct, because the GPL doesn't forbid commercial use. It forbids proprietary use.

Note that you don't have to license your own software under the GPL, you just have to comply with the GPL's terms. Using the MIT license is fine, as long as you keep providing source code. If you later get rid of all GPL links that requirement drops.

that seems like a good enough reason to never even look at a pull request

You're right.

Why would you want to relicense?

Argh... so if I intend to dual license, I should never accept external contributions.

*unless they are willing to transfer copyright to me.

someone offers me a billion dollars? or some significantly smaller amount

this license shit is getting too complicated, is it possible to just say, this is all GPL code, but your not getting it unless you pay for it? i want to release shit as GPL, but i would like to option to make money off it if it's feasible. forget about dual-licensing, how do you go about selling GPL software? if you require permission to use it which you obtain with a purchase, is that not another license?

That is against freedom 0 which the GPL protects

You can sell exceptions to the GPL. The FSF tactitly approves of it.
that's interesting, i guess that's totally legit.

So essentially what that's doing is selling another copy of that software that is not licensed under the GPL, it can be anything you want. but that's also going to mean you can't use GPL libraries in whatever your trying to do it with.

As the copyright holder you can release the software under as many licenses as you want. you can release it as GPL and then turn around and release it as something else at the same time, even proprietary.

What I've thought about doing in the past is just putting stuff on the app store as straight GPL and providing paid versions that are identical, for donations or something. After all this discussion, it doesn't even have to be identical. You, as the copyright holder, are not bound to the terms of the GPL license if your not using other GPL libraries. You can perfectly well sell a "lite" version as GPL and sell a "premium" version that use's the same code and declare it proprietary, or re-use your own GPL code inside of another purely proprietary project, but nobody else can take your code and do that.

If you're the developer and owner of the software, the GPL can't forbid you from anything. As the owner you can change the license when you see fit, like Apple did with CUPS.

You can still sell the binaries. The best way to make money from software is to not actually make money from the software, though. Instead, monetize related services like Google and Red Hat do.

also a nice guilt trip tidbit from the field trip to FSF

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The caveat to this, which has been brought up in the thread, is that it becomes more complicated when your project has contributors.

more fsf clarification

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Freetards put WAY too much weight on "Freedom" as a selling point for their software
Seeing the source code to a program is fantastic. But it's not a primary selling point, usability is. And there's little evidence to suggest FOSS was ever an actual benefit to the end-user experience vs proprietary.

the non-free shaming is all over their faq

You fail to realize we're literally hippies

I don't think the problem is an emphasis on freedom per se, but the emphasis on Richard's very particular, very idiosyncratic definition of freedom. It's a totally unintuitive concept, which is why the "free-as-in-beer" vs "free-as-in-speech" distinction has to be made, followed by a long spiel about what that actually means. Meanwhile, unless you're talking to an autist, they've already tuned out before you've even gotten to explain "Freedom 0" (which, btw, is yet more fucking autism: zero-indexing the freedoms, 'cause it's about software GET IT??!?!).

That's true, but Stallman's vision was never really about end-users who couldn't program. It was always about people like him, or, indeed, just him. Whatever benefit GNU and the GPL and the FSF may have had in the world, none of it would ever have happened if Stallman hadn't been denied the source to a printer driver back in the 1970s so he could make it work for MIT's workflow. Everything that Stallman has done in "free" software goes back to his titanic butthurt over that printer driver. If he'd had access to all of the source he wanted at MIT, he never would have started GNU or the FSF and would have been content to have the world's software users go fuck themselves as long as he got his.

As a developer, the only value I see in opening the source to users is so that they verify it's not doing anything evil (they trust me), and that they can fix their own problems as in Richard and the Printer. GPL goes too far for my liking in also signing away distribution rights. I'm more than happy for people to peak into the internals, but I don't want them profiting from my labour.


Hippies wouldn't shame other people for not adhering to their way of life though. That's the antithesis of the hippy "live and let live" attitude.

i feel the same for the most part, there has to be a license to copypaste that is essentially that.
or i guess that's just a standard proprietary "All rights reserved unauthorized use prohibited.."etc type license and you just make the the source available.

Why can't they profit off their own labor of fixing bugs, adding features, or hosting server infrastructure?
Why I use exclusively free software on my desktop (minus the bios) is that it gives the users, me, control over the software instead of the software having control over me. Even if I had the source code of the program, but the program was proprietary I wouldn't use the software. Things like being able to fix bugs my self is very important because their might be a critical bug which only effects my system (turned out to be a race condition during initialization).

it doesn't have to be libre for you to do that if you have the source code available but it's still proprietary, you just can't release or distribute your changes.

i think the big advantage of the FSF gpl tyranny is it's become much easier to write software in general with all the source code and libraries available. imagine the polar opposite and everything is proprietary, now you can't write or distribute anything for the platform unless you give microsoft a 90% cut on profits, like what goes on with the steam workshop.

Proprietary software and Free Software can both coexist and the way I see it they both have their uses

If you want your program to adhere to published software standards, and want standards bodies and other users to compare your programs compliance to such standards, then go FOSS.

If you develop security software that you feel will benefit from mass-audits, go FOSS.


If you do not want to bother with adhering to strict code readability standards, and favor "just werkz" over code-correctness, go proprietary.

If you want to maintain trade secrets in your code, go proprietary.

If you want to sell your software on a per-unit or per-license basis, which may even be something like a video game, go proprietary.

If it's unlikely your code will ever run natively under the hardware of anyone but your employer, or if the hardware target is something that will not benefit from being released to open source such as firmware, go proprietary.

People will often complain "just go FOSS man" to a lot of developers. But the problem is FOSS code requires maintenance, it requires keeping with good terms on both the community and the license itself. And that is just too expensive for many people.

Is Europe so bad these days that you have to invent fan fiction to make yourself feel better? Have some /int/ cartoons, you deserve them.

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the problem is unless your a mega corporation and even then, nobody is going to trust your binaries these days.

would you download and run a binary from some random website from a developer you've never heard of? even if it clears the virus scanner? it's less of an issue on app store's because it's a controlled platform, people expect and for the most part it's true, that they aren't going to be getting a virus off google play, that's not the case for general computing.


Protip; only a very tiny market segment actually cares about privacy. This is known as "reality" and it's not your freetard think tank

It literally doesn't. All you have to do is make your VCS server public. That takes 0 extra maintenance. If you aren't using a VCS, you just have to take the time and zip up the source for every release.

If you're constantly making updates to your code it does require a level of maintenance. Again, because your code is being constantly audited by other people, a pressure is there to maintain a level of code-correctness lest you feel the wrath of the community. You also need to keep the code of your build up to date

you don't have to do any of those things. fuck the "community". there's no need to participate in the github social media site.

It's not that really. The point is you own the rights to your code and you can distribute it under any (legal) license you wish, including different ones in parallel. Think how you just get the binaries for Windows but China gets the source to. Microsoft is not violating the Microsoft License it makes you accepthere.

You're referring to the Microsoft Shared Source Initiative. World governments and educators get access to Windows Source Code. It's not as exclusive as it sounds.

You've never heard of "The Dark Side of the Hippie Movement"? "The Love and Terror Cult"? It's like not pompusness, it's just "Dude. It's pretty different way of thinking over here and I get it. I'm just trying to help you is all. Save a tree, don't use that wasteful thing."

I'm pretty sure no country in the EU is getting access. The point is that they get a different license, since for example you are not allowed to decompile or reverse engineer Windows.

you don't even have to comply with any of the gpl you release it under, it only applies to other people. you could release your binaries and not release the actual source code to them 6 months later and still release it under the GPL, your not held to the standard of the license, only the receivers of the software are, just like what linus does with the kernel when he fixes some security shit, obfuscates the source code, released the binaries, and then doesn't reveal the source code until the 6 month embargo is over.

that's might actually be another way to monetize, charge people for early access. GPL lags 6 months behind or something and paid access get's the current version with the source but a nonfree license.

What's stopping a patreon from leaking the source code early?

a lawsuit
that's where games get played with the source you give out where variable names are changed etc, to identify the leaker

but really it's back to piracy at that point, tweaked source code or not which is naturally the bane of all proprietary software, you fight it the same way, DMCA takedowns, ways to identify the leaker, DRM (the 6 month ahead version is proprietary you don't have to release the DRM part), you could do all kinds of unfavorable shit, but your probably not going to have much of a userbase then.

That's literally specified in the OP.

Take Poo to the Loo.

Well said. And this just causes people to talk past each other. Many people in tech that I know have heard of Stallman, considered his arguments, and concluded that his definition of freedom doesn't match what they consider to be freedom. A more neutral term would be "ability" and then one would have to argue why forfeiting certain abilities was an ethical or political problem.

It's like progressives try to win by definition, by saying things they don't like are "hate".

I don't know in what kind of alien planet you live on, but here on Earth the main causes for software sales are: a) inertia; b) network externalities. People use what they've used yesteryear because that's what they know and they develop stuff either to using established programs or aimed towards such programs because that's what other people know and use. Quality and usability don't enter anywhere in this process except through the deceived eyes of the corporate wage-slaves who push out this garbage and pretend that it is useful.

We believe that all forms of proprietary software is a form of social injustice. The ethical way to fix this injustice is to promote freedom respecting software. Freedom is a benefit to end-user experience because all users have the freedom to develop their software into perfection.

That's what that sounds like to me, and I hate it.

Good. That's how I want it to sound. And if you don't like it, then you find a project which is more agreeable to you. In the end though, dealing with the freetards is probably more hassle than it's worth, so it'd be easier to just go straight proprietary.

This is the reason why we say proprietary software doesn't respect the user's freedom!

Yes I know, you repeat it often. The problem you see, is that most people don't care about your definition of "freedom", they want software which solves a task for them.

I know this for a fact. Nobody is born with the instinct that they need to choose proprietary software. The reason why people do this is because this is what the corporations are teaching to people! The corporations who distribute proprietary software teach society to look at only the practicality of the software that is available right now i.e. it is a superficial view of the state of an application. The reason why we, free software activists, are so noisy about freedom is to push a different voice about freedom in computing. We are teaching people that it is possible to have freedom in computing in this world. In this world, the corporations are doing their best to subjugate as many users as possible into their own fiefdoms of proprietary software.

Both the GPL and proprietary have their uses. As you'll see in the thread, it requires people to go through quite a large number of hoops to use GPL while still finding ways to be profitable. When that is too much, or the customers simply do not care, then proprietary is the way to go.

Also what makes proprietary so successful, is that an end user can transfer the responsibility that the program should work correctly to the developers. In the GPL world, the response could very well be, "just fork it ;-O". My printer driver doesn't work? That's Apple/Microsoft's fault!

and this is just what they've allowed to be visible, 100 times as many are just outright deleted

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What I see in this thread are people who are so distorted by the world of proprietary software that they've forgotten how anybody ran a business earning a profit before the age of computers. In the GPL world, the key to earning a profit is to sell the software for a profit! This is how all of humanity has operated since the idea of bartering and money were first invented.

Good god, that's worse than I imagined.

Sorry, but your Pollyanna view breaks down when it comes to copying and redistributing. You know the GPL well enough, to know this is the case. One man buys the software, and can then give it to everyone for free. And no, charging millions for one item of software, and just hoping customers can arrange to do some sort of group buy is a non-starter.

Not at all. What should happen is that the user should approach a software developer with an idea of a software. The developer will analyze the situation and offer a quote to develop the software. That quote should be big enough to cover the cost of developing the software. That quote should not be smaller than the cost of development. This is how all of society did business for all of humanity.

You're living in a dream world. Even modern manufacturing doesn't work like that, so this extends beyond computing. You can't just decide you liked how things were in ancient times because they simply don't scale with efficient business practices. The industrial revolution occurred, sorry. I know I've explained it to you before on this board so I'll be brief, production costs are amortized over total sales, not the cost to build a lone item.

It's called a programmer for hire. This is how all intellectual works are done. If people still hire architects, town planners, design engineers, artistic painters, and story writers in this day and age, programming for hire is equally as valid. Amortization of cost is the client's problem just as it is for every single other intellectual work.

Get paid by the NSA for "consulting services" which consist of sneaking a vulnerability into the codebase.

It's perfectly acceptable in the GPL to package source code access with the software and make neither available to any but paying customers. It's okay because everyone who owns the program has full GPL'd source code. Of course, these paying customers would be have to be able to distribute/modify the program and source code for free, but most people won't do that and most people won't trust unofficial distributions. To ensure a profit of those few who will, you can make a custom piece of hardware which is the only thing your software is useful for. There's no need to tivo-ize or prevent users from loading custom software onto the hardware or anything like that. It doesn't matter, because even if autists do load unofficial builds onto the hardware, you've already profited off of the initial purchase.

This doesn't prove what you think it proves.

It's also how almost all proprietary developers operate, few of them do their own licensing. It's bloodsuckers running the corporations that extract rent from all the users and subjugate them, the developers just get some lump sum. But they still benefit a little from the exploitation, so most if them, as seen here, oppose freedom preservation and try to morally justify it.



It's somewhat common out there to find programs that charge you for specific ports. One quite commom configuration is that it's free on Linux, BSD, Mac, etc., but if you want it on Windows or Android you have to pay. It makes sense as a lot of Linux users wouldn't pay anyway, and even if they did it would be a tiny demographic, so you still retain profit from the biggest by far market, and you get to give freedom to those who care about it, while still making money off of people who absolutely don't care anyways or they wouldn't be using Windows.

Fallacy. Stallman constantly gives several examples of possible consequences for violating the templates established by the FSF for freedom in the use of software, and how it can impact your usage and experience directly.
You, and others like you, may not care for these consequences, but that doesn't change the consistency of his argument.
It is a common and valid usage, recognized both in linguistics and philosophy, to define a concept by its relation to a given context. It's why words have a value of connotation. It's a common tool for thinking complex subjects, an ability that you maybe don't have.
Stallman is not pretending that his definition of freedom redefines the absolute concept of freedom, like the people you allude to do with hate, rape, abuse and many other notions. Only that he had several ideas and dedicated a lot of time thinking about how this universal concept would apply to the use of computer programs.
When he argues that others people's suggestions for creating freedom with software is not based on actual freedom, he is pointing out how what one expects of freedom with other things does not necessarily create freedom in this context, as it leads to consequences that will contradict that initial appearance of freedom.
By the way, you don't see any of those people who attack him with the argument that they know better what freedom is having actual hard principles in the defense of that freedom of theirs, they're always compromising it for one or another reason. Which clearly shows that in fact their worries are not even about freedom in the first place. They usually start attacking Stallman's notion of freedom for a while, then when it doesn't stick they go to 'but we gotta eat', 'but I have kids', invariably. Which in itself may be a good argument against some arguments of the GPL, but if you pretend this has anything do with freedom, or if you let such contingencies change your vision of freedom, then you're just a fucking hypocrite.

It does make sense, but it was brief because it has been explained to that user in more detail before. He has previously argued that the the cost of an item should be the cost to create the item, yet this doesn't really apply to large scale manufacturing which involves modelling and R&D costs, which are paid off gradually.

For the most part, proprietary solutions are of substantially greater quality. That, is what the majority of end users care about. Not "muh freedom". I cite the existence of every major tech company as a strong argument for this. Even with the option of Linux for gratis, Microsoft still reigns supreme. Now, are all those users dumb, or does Microsoft (or Apple) solve certain problems more effectively than any Linux distribution?

Fair point, I had looked at before but not the rest of

I value individual privacy, autonomy and security though I don't think the four freedoms are necessary or sufficient for these in the context of tech. They are not necessary because some proprietary software could run in a sandbox, using obfuscation or other technical means for DRM instead of relying on locked-down hardware. They are not sufficient because a lot of privacy issues are to do with what we communicate with web servers, not what software runs on either end.

This is not true in my case. I have views that are very similar to Stallman but not exactly the same. For example I think that we have the technical means to construct sandboxes for apps so the the apps are proprietary but don't require locked down hardware for copy protection. And (unlike for operating system or browsers) such apps would not have negative consequences for users. The web sandbox and app sandboxes on mobile operating systems are somewhat like this, though each have their own problems. The web sandbox lacks privacy since everything you do in the app can be monitored, while the app sandbox effectively relies on locked down hardware as DRM.

By my standards, the current situation is still bad from the perspective of privacy and security. So I agree with you that a lot of my objection (and others) is about the extent to which we should trade-off "freedom" (however you precisely want to define it) vs economic growth, which is different to arguing about the definition of "freedom". This goes back to whether it makes more sense to define something as "freedom" (and hence a hard principal) or just to consider tradeoffs between costs and benefits of proprietary software.

A brief summary of the sandboxing approach I have in mind:

1) Apps should be sandboxed so they have no access to the internet, or filesystem outside their sandbox.

2) Apps use the following approach to "phone home"

a) The app generates some "random" hash based on its internal state. It doesn't have access to hardware IDs etc.

b) The app asks the sandbox to "phone home" to the app's server to sign the hash, to prove that the user is registered.

c) The app checks the signature.

d) In order to prevent the hash from leaking the user's private information, the user must be able to provide a salt for this hash. This salt is known to the user and the app but not the app's registration server. Therefore all the user's private information is kept on the user's machine, and the server only verifies the hashes that have been salted by the user

You don't need to dual license in order to sell commercially unless you intend to differentiate the two versions.

I toured their offices and while they named the rooms after "open source" software, they all used Windows...

To realistically sell commercially you do. Go to bank or VC and give them your autistic spiel about how you'll turn a profit selling a GPL product, do you think they'll fund your venture?

Not strictly necessary but fair enough:
Why wouldn't they? Because you don't have a EULA specifically banning redistribution? People download proprietary software all the time.

I fail to see how having the same exact FreeSource binary also distributed under a second license is going to alleviate a venture capitalist, unless perhaps he has no idea how legal licenses works -- in that case I'd wonder how he's still in the business after I cashed his check.


Oh you don't see why they wouldn't like that? If that's really true, you're too far gone into your GPL cult, and I'm not going to waste energy trying to pull you out. If you want to make a living selling GPL software, good luck to you.

they aren't going to fund your shit anyway unless you already have a substantial userbase and are already drawing money in, your a 300 lb blue haired zir, or the prized negro woman.

Euromutts love to pretend they're superior to white people on other continents, but the reality is they're just as cucked as the rest of the world. They conveniently forget about the Ottomans controlling the Balkans for most of the past 500 years, and the Islamic invasions of Europe during the medieval period. That, and American and Asian megacorps pretty much rule us all.

Eastern Europe's probably the exception though, leave it to the slavs to realize how fucked it is to be cucked.

The irony of the GPL is that it requires copyright law for it to be viable, even though Stallman is clearly very anti-copyright.

You dumb piece of shit. Can you even speak English? I swear it was you posting in the Ring thread about IPs.

You said dual license in the GPL. How are you going to enforce non-redistribution if the same exact software is also licensed under the GPL?

You are even more retarded than the theoretical venture-capitalists. Fucking hell, get off Zig Forums and lurk on 4/g/ until they find a cure for down syndrome.

I think everyone is against the current system of copyright, unless you're a Disney lawyer (i.e. Jewish).

The current copyright system us pretty fucked, not so much in the length your copyright us viable, but in the fact you can easily shut down anything vaguely resembling your work. It's really screwed over a lot of people.
The worst part of it is really how you pretty much have to tread on eggshells if you're doing something like fan films/tributes to a IP you really like (see Srar Trek Axanar). Honestly, as long as you aren't selling your fan film/game mod/whatever for money or distributing pirated copies of copyrighted works, you should be free to do whatever you want.

Your post doesn't make sense, all I can gather from it is that you're projecting your own inability to write a cogent English sentence. Reword it, and try again.