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Open Science: Open Source Licences in Scientific Research

35 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2005  

Andrés Guadamuz

University of Sussex

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 19, 2005


The use of non-proprietary software licenses - such as the Free Software (FS) and Open Source Software (OSS) license models - is definitely on the increase, showing that the open development models are viable and sometime even commercially successful systems. Amongst these models, one of the most interesting licenses is that offered by so-called copyleft licenses, which are licenses that allow software to be transferred with the insurance that the source code will remain open, with the caveat that anyone who redistributes the software, with or without changes, must pass along the freedom to further copy and change it.

However, software development is not the only area in which this licensing model could apply. The viral nature of copyleft licenses has generated a considerable amount of interest in circles that transcend software development. The idea of sharing materials is not new, and has been made more evident by the chaotic and sometimes anarchic nature of the internet. However, shared materials tend to suffer from the possibility of third parties that use the freely acquired information to turn them into proprietary works. That is why many different organisations are turning to the copyleft model to protect works that are being freely shared online. One such project is the OpenContent License (OPL), a collaborative effort that sets a similar license to the GPL, ensuring that shared works will continue to remain free to subsequent users. A more ambitious project is the Creative Commons, which offers a wide range of licenses applicable to all sorts of creative material. In the area of biotechnology, there have been some suggestions that the copyleft model could be used to protect the public results of the human genome race being placed in the public domain by several researchers, something that has been suggested by a leading member of the Human Genome Consortium, although the idea has never been implemented.

This paper will explore the application of copyleft licenses to other areas of research and development, and will try to explore if these can be successfully adapted to various different areas where creators want to share their works to the public but want to make sure that there will not be any further commercialisation of their creations.

Keywords: Open source, open science, open biotechnology, patents, creative commons, databases

JEL Classification: K10, K39

Suggested Citation

Guadamuz, Andrés mname, Open Science: Open Source Licences in Scientific Research (July 19, 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Andres Guadamuz (Contact Author)

University of Sussex ( email )

Brighton, BN1 9QN
United Kingdom

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