Is Open Source Software?

Decent Essays

In fact, all the mottoes of free software development have their counterparts in the theory of democracy and open society; “with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” is merely the most obvious example. Karl Popper would have cheered.57 The importance of open-source software is not that it introduces us to a wholly new idea; it is that it makes us see clearly a very old idea. With open source the technology was novel, the production process was transparent, and the result of that process was a “product” which out-competed other products in the marketplace. “How can this have happened? What about the tragedy of the commons?” we asked in puzzlement, coming only slowly to the realization that other examples of commons-based, non-proprietary …show more content…

These are all guesses, however. At the very least, there is some possibility, even hope, that we could have a world in which much more of intellectual and inventive production is free. “‘Free’ as in ‘free speech,’” Richard Stallman says, not “‘free’ as in ‘free beer.’”61 But we could hope that much of it would be both free of centralized control and low cost or no cost. When the marginal cost of production is zero, the marginal cost of transmission and storage approaches zero, the process of creation is additive, and much of the labor doesn’t charge—well, the world looks a little different.62 This is at least a possible future, or part of a possible future, and one that we should not foreclose without thinking twice. Yet that is what we are doing. The Database Protection Bills and Directives, which extend intellectual property rights to the layer of facts;63 the efflorescence of software patents;64 the UCITA-led validation of shrink wrap licenses that bind third parties;65 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions66 — the point of all of these developments is not merely that they make the peer-to peer model difficult, but that in many cases they rule it out altogether. The free software and open-source software movements have produced software that rivals and, many would say, exceeds the capabilities of conventional proprietary, binary-only software. 52 Its adoption on the “enterprise level” is impressive, as is the number and

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