What Kind of a Commons Is Free Software?
CEUR Workshop Proceedings, 739 (Proceedings of the 6th Open Knowledge Conference). Berlin, 2011
11 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 29, 2011
This paper analyzes free software under the light of commons theories, and tries to answer whether it is a managed or open access commons. It briefly presents commons studies and its main concepts, as well as the discussion on immaterial commons, arguing that goods’ intrinsic characteristics should not be viewed as absolute, but rather contextualized in social struggles. Then, it proposes a two-tier structure for analyzing free software as a commons, considering its dual nature as source and machine code. The two connected layers of the proposal – use and development – are characterized according to commons theory categories; Android and software forking are explored as examples. It concludes that the first layer resembles an open access commons, but with intentional boundaries, and that the second one resembles multiple managed commons. This disparity is associated with the category of nested enterprises and with the layers’ relations to appropriation and production.
Keywords: commons, governance, free software, community
JEL Classification: L86, D7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation