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Open Source Software Development Patterns and License Terms

  • Alexandre Gaudeul

    (University of East Anglia - Norwich)

This paper examines the choice of license terms along the development of a piece of software. Three licenses are compared, the proprietary one, the Berkeley Software Distribution, and the General Public License. The choice of one or the other license depends on the characteristics of the software's user base, the market conditions on the developers' job market and the costs involved in maintaining a proprietary software vs. the costs involved in coordinating a software project in a decentralized fashion. That choice influences the distribution of welfare between users, developers and the software's development leader. It also determines the software's pace of development and thus the level of welfare generated. The model explains why a software's license terms may change along its development. Several scenarii may arise, depending on the initial conditions and the chance events along the life of the project. In the context of this paper, open-source license terms are chosen even when they result in a reduction in global welfare. Welfare is increased by forbidding the use of the GPL license terms and going back to the alternative between proprietary and public domain licenses.

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File URL: http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/io/papers/0409/0409008.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Industrial Organization with number 0409008.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: 17 Sep 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0409008
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 44
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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  1. Cowan Robin & Jonard Nicolas & Özman Müge, 2003. "Knowledge Dynamics in a Network Industry," Research Memorandum 003, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  2. Stanley M. Besen & Leo J. Raskind, 1991. "An Introduction to the Law and Economics of Intellectual Property," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 3-27, Winter.
  3. Bruno Biais & Enrico Perotti, 2008. "Entrepreneurs and new ideas," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(4), pages 1105-1125.
  4. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Alex Gaudeul, 2004. "The LaTeX project: A case study of open source software," Industrial Organization 0409010, EconWPA, revised 20 Apr 2005.
  6. Gene M. Grossman & Carl Shapiro, 1985. "Dynamic R&D Competition," NBER Working Papers 1674, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Justin Pappas Johnson, 2002. "Open Source Software: Private Provision of a Public Good," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(4), pages 637-662, December.
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