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Open Source Software Development Patterns and License Terms

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  • Alexandre Gaudeul

    (University of East Anglia - Norwich)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexandre Gaudeul, 2004. "Open Source Software Development Patterns and License Terms," Industrial Organization 0409008, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0409008
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 44
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    File URL: https://econwpa.ub.uni-muenchen.de/econ-wp/io/papers/0409/0409008.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bruno Biais & Enrico Perotti, 2008. "Entrepreneurs and new ideas," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(4), pages 1105-1125.
    2. Grossman, Gene M & Shapiro, Carl, 1987. "Dynamic R&D Competition," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(386), pages 372-387, June.
    3. 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.
    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. 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.
    6. 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).
    7. Alexandre Gaudeul, 2004. "The LaTeX project: A case study of open-source software," Industrial Organization 0409009, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen M. Maurer & Suzanne Scotchmer, 2006. "Open Source Software: The New Intellectual Property Paradigm," NBER Working Papers 12148, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Johnson, Justin P., 2006. "Collaboration, peer review and open source software," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 477-497, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Internet; open source; software; BSD; GPL; Public domain; intellectual property; licenses; LaTeX; TeX;

    JEL classification:

    • L - Industrial Organization

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