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Title: "Open Source Software: Free Provision of Complex Public Goods"
Author: James Bessen Boston University School of Law and Research on Innovation
Publication Date: July 1 2005
Free/Fee: Free Access
Reads: 3690
Abstract: Open source software, developed by volunteers, appears counter to the conventional wisdom that without ownership rights or government intervention, public goods will not be efficiently provided. But complexity makes a difference: contracts are incomplete and ownership rights do not necessarily elicit socially optimal effort. I consider three mechanisms that improve the provision of complex software: pre-packaging, Application Program Interfaces and Free/Open Source software (FOSS). FOSS extends the range of products available to consumers, complementing, rather than replacing, proprietary provision. Pre-packaged software addresses common uses with limited feature sets, while firms with specialized, more complex needs use FOSS.
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