The Collaborative Integrity of Open-Source Software

139 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2004

See all articles by Greg R. Vetter

Greg R. Vetter

University of Houston - Law Center


This Article analyzes legal protection for open-source software by comparing it to the venerable civil law tradition of moral rights. The comparison focuses on the moral right of integrity, with which one may object to mutilations of her work, even after having parted with the copyright and the object that embodies the work. The parallel apparatus in open-source licensing is conditional permission to use a copyrighted work. The conditions include that source code be available and that software use be royalty free. These conditions facilitate open-source collaborative software development. At the heart of both systems is the right for creators to control the view that a work presents. In the open-source system, this is the Collaborative Integrity of open-source software. The history and legacy of moral rights help us better understand Collaborative Integrity in open-source software. The right of integrity in some international jurisdictions may apply to software, thus raising questions whether it hurts or helps open-source software. Building from these insights, this Article evaluates whether the Collaborative Integrity in open-source software deserves protection as a separate right, just as the right of integrity developed separately from pecuniary copyright in civil law jurisdictions.

Keywords: software, foss, f/oss, open source, software development, oss, moral right, right of integrity, collaboration, programming, linux, GNU/Linux, GPL, general public license, OSD, open code, apache, SCO

JEL Classification: D29, K29, L86, Z13

Suggested Citation

Vetter, Greg R., The Collaborative Integrity of Open-Source Software. Utah Law Review, p. 563, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Greg R. Vetter (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Law Center ( email )

100 Law Center
Suite 201F TU2
Houston, TX 77204-6054
United States


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