Open-Source Software Poses Challenges for Legal and Public Policy

Intellectual Property and Open Source

Article Snapshot

Author(s)

David S. Evans

Source

Washington Legal Foundation Legal Backgrounder, Vol. 18, No. 4

Summary

This paper looks at whether governments should promote open source software.

Policy Relevance

Governments are likely to do more harm than good by intervening in the software market.

Main Points

  • Open source software lets users change the code to suit their own needs; open source  code under the General Public License (GPL) must be distributed free.

  • The GPL could stifle innovation because it restricts downstream developers from selling their code.

  • The costs of government promotion of open source in Brazil, China and the U.S. are likely to exceed the benefits.
    • Benefits include increased competition for commercial software.
    • Costs include allowing protectionism and preventing the adoption of productivity-enhancing commercial software.

  • Governments should not intervene in the software market because markets are serving consumers well.

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