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Propriety vs. Public Domain Licensing of Software and Research Products

  • Alfonso GAMBARDELLA
  • Bronwyn H. HALL

We study the production of knowledge when many researchers or inventors are involved, in a setting where there tensions can arise between individual public and private contributions. We first show, with the aid of a simple model, that without some kind of co-ordination, production of the public knowledge good (science or research software or database) is sub-optimal. Then we demonstrate that if "lead" researchers are able to establish a norm of contribution to the public good, a better outcome can be achieved. We show that the General Public License (GPL) used in the provision of open source software is one such mechanism. We then apply our results to the specific setting where the knowledge being produced is software or a database that will be used by academic researchers and possibly also by private firms, using as an example a product familiar to economists, econometric software. We conclude by discussing some of the ways in which pricing can ameliorate the problem of providing these products to academic researchers.

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Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2004/15.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2004/15
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  1. Geuna, Aldo & Nesta, Lionel J.J., 2006. "University patenting and its effects on academic research: The emerging European evidence," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 790-807, July.
  2. Nuvolari, A., 2001. "Collective Invention during the British Industrial Revolution: The Case of the Cornish Pumping Engine," Working Papers 01.04, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
  3. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Some Simple Economics of Open," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 197-234, June.
  4. Hertzfeld, Henry R. & Link, Albert N. & Vonortas, Nicholas S., 2006. "Intellectual property protection mechanisms in research partnerships," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 825-838, July.
  5. von Hippel, Eric, 1987. "Cooperation between rivals: Informal know-how trading," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 291-302, December.
  6. Paul A. David, 2005. "The Economic Logic of “Open Science” and the Balance between Private Property Rights and the Public Domain in Scientific Data and," Development and Comp Systems 0502006, EconWPA.
  7. Harhoff, Dietmar & Henkel, Joachim & von Hippel, Eric, 2003. "Profiting from voluntary information spillovers: how users benefit by freely revealing their innovations," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 1753-1769, December.
  8. Bronwyn H. Hall & Albert N. Link & John T. Scott, 2001. "Barriers Inhibiting Industry from Partnering with Universities: Evidence from the Advanced Technology Program," Development and Comp Systems 0012003, EconWPA.
  9. Owen-Smith, Jason & Powell, Walter W, 2001. " To Patent or Not: Faculty Decisions and Institutional Success at Technology Transfer," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 26(1-2), pages 99-114, January.
  10. Anton, James J & Yao, Dennis A, 2002. "The Sale of Ideas: Strategic Disclosure, Property Rights, and Contracting," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(3), pages 513-31, July.
  11. Suzanne Scotchmer, 1991. "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Cumulative Research and the Patent Law," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 29-41, Winter.
  12. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
  13. Thursby, Jerry G & Jensen, Richard & Thursby, Marie C, 2001. " Objectives, Characteristics and Outcomes of University Licensing: A Survey of Major U.S. Universities," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 26(1-2), pages 59-72, January.
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