The positive effects of open sourcing
In recent years open sourcing has begun to attract the attention of many economists and social scientists for two main reasons: the growing importance of the open source movement in the software industry and some of the features of open source development appear quite paradoxical to traditional economic reasoning or intellectual property rights. But what is the open source movement and how is it impacting on the software industry? How does the open source licensing scheme compare with intellectual property rights? What are the benefits of open source and how does it play into the proposal of the 'Long Tail' theory? Open source is a term that became popular with the internet. It falls under the GNU General Public License which is a copyleft license. Copyleft provides a method for software or documentation to be modified, reproduced, adapted, and/or distributed once it is bound by the same scheme. It can also be viewed as a copyright licensing scheme in which an author surrenders some but not all rights under copyright law. Instead of allowing work to fall complete into the public domain an author can impose some but not all copyright restrictions on those who want to engage in activities that would otherwise be copyright infringement. Richard Stallman pioneered the concept of copyleft and is the main author of several copyleft licenses including the GNU General Public License, the most widely used free software license which was revolutionary for its time. He launched the Free Software movement in 1983 for both practical and ethical reasons. Free software in this sense isn't referring to price but to freedom, “To understand the concept of Free software , you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer” (Puttonen, 2001, The Code). Stallman is still an outspoken political campaigner for the movement as he believes that intellectual property rights in regards to software are fundamentally wrong and not in the best interest of humanity. The Open Source movement started in 1998 when a group that were part of the free software community splinter off and started a campaign in the name of “open sourcing”. Today the meaning of open sourcing is in flux. The definition of open source as taken from the open source initiative website, an oversight organization for the open source movement, is as follows: “1. Free Redistribution. The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale. 2. Source Code. The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed. 3. Derived Works. The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software. 4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code. The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software. 5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups. The...
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