Subject: Re: FW: Why would I pay for Ximian software?
From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2002 00:47:05 +0100

On Wed, Jan 02, 2002 at 05:22:19PM -0500, Perry E. Metzger wrote:
> The problem with the open source world is that we end up constructing
> a public goods problem. Software -- especially open source software --
> is very classically under the definition -- non-rivalrous consumption
> (you and I can both run a program without impacting each other's use),
> and (in an open source world) non-excludability. In fact, the open
> source definition more or less defines open source software in those
> terms (though as a lawyer would understand them rather than as an
> economist.)
> The classical theory of public goods is that you end up with commons
> problems -- the thing will tend to be overconsumed and underproduced
> because there isn't a sufficient mechanism to reward the producer for
> their efforts given the amount of economic benefit derived by the
> consumer -- i.e. we get a "market failure". The fact that a producer's
> efforts help the world more than he is rewarded is called an
> "externality", and externalities obsess public goods minded
> economists.

If you go back to the "tragedy of the commons paper, you will see that
it does not apply to software ... very precisely because of these
qualities you mention that make it naturally a public good.  The
tragedy of the commons occurs when the ressource made public is

  On the other hand, excessive IP, especially patents, create the
inverse problem of anti-commons.  So many people control a tiny part
of a ressource, that no one can manage to use it effectively because
of the too many barriers to overcome.


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