NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Open Source Software: The New Intellectual Property Paradigm

Stephen M. Maurer, Suzanne Scotchmer

NBER Working Paper No. 12148
Issued in April 2006
NBER Program(s):   PR   LE

Open source methods for creating software rely on developers who voluntarily reveal code in the expectation that other developers will reciprocate. Open source incentives are distinct from earlier uses of intellectual property, leading to different types of inefficiencies and different biases in R&D investment. Open source style of software development remedies a defect of intellectual property protection, namely, that it does not generally require or encourage disclosure of source code. We review a considerable body of survey evidence and theory that seeks to explain why developers participate in open source collaborations instead of keeping their code proprietary, and evaluates the extent to which open source may improve welfare compared to proprietary development.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12148

Published: Hendershott, Terrence (ed.) Economics and Information Systems, Volume 1. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 2006.

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