Monday Mar 26, 2007

Open Source and Property Rights

Open Source development—whether it is OpenOffice, Apache, Open Solaris, Linux (Debian), Sun Studio, Open JDK, Apache Derby (Java DB), PostgreSQL, Glassfish or Netbeans—engages communities in production of value governed by a revolutionary model for property rights, emphasizing open distribution of software rather than the traditional "exclusive-rights" notion of property.

The new property model finds its grounding in the use of the Internet as the backbone for parallel development of relatively complex systems of value generated by (non-idyllic) communities of developers—large quantities of value being generated for little, direct financial compensation. 

In the exclusive-rights model of property ownership, the state uses force (or the threat of force) to prevent "unlawful" use, in order to "secure" those rights and encourage their development. 

In the open-source model of property ownership, the width of distribution and availability represents the only "security" that needs to be provided.

The state's role must be vastly different, and it must be focused on rights of distribution and use, and of mixing. Being a vastly different model of ownership, open source has often confronted a state which wants to apply its traditional understanding of property and its "security." We have witnessed this with property "rights" over content because general content in the digital-distribution world possesses many characteristics similar to software.

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