Subject: Re: FW: Why would I pay for Ximian software?
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2002 16:14:03 -0800
Wed, 2 Jan 2002 16:14:03 -0800
on Thu, Jan 03, 2002 at 12:47:05AM +0100, Bernard Lang ( wrote:
> 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
> rivalrous.
>   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.

More generally, see Lessig, particularly  The Future of Ideas , which
addresses this specifically, and  Code and other laws of cyberspace ,
which touches on the topics.


Karsten M. Self <>
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