Law in the Internet Society
-- StephanieLim - 06 Dec 2008

As governments, markets, and global communities become increasingly networked, free and open source software has emerged as a critical platform for a variety of civic institutions worldwide for reasons ranging from cost-efficiency to technological autonomy. This paper will explore how government-sanctioned use of OpenSourceSoftware in developing regions can affect the global nature of IntellectualPropertyRights? and create an environment that is more conducive to innovation, technological diffusion, and liberalization of the knowledge commons.

Note: In policy discussions on Free/Libre and Open Source Software, many acronyms are used. For the purposes of this discussion, we will use the general term of FOSS and refer to the FSF’s user-driven definition of free software.

Intellectual Property Rights in the Knowledge Economy

In the United States, the role of FOSS has been dictated largely by market forces. Because it has proven to be more or as efficient as proprietary software in many circumstances, as well as competitive in the commercial sector, FOSS has evolved in a tenuous relationship with proprietary software. The proprietary software companies have a tremendous amount of capital, power, and influence, but faced with the decentralized nature of OSS development and the strength of redistributive copyleft licensing, they continue to fight ambiguous battles of the nature of DerivateWorks? and collection of royalties.

Other battles are impacting more directly FOSS development such as ReverseEngineering? as covered under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act attack interoperability issues and protect proprietary software markets

In developing regions of the world, where many newly industrializing nations face pressures to rapidly integrate into the knowledge economy, it is critical for governments to take progressive stances on national policies toward use of FOSS. These regions face several threats when dealing with challenges of technological advancement to which FOSS can give rise to opportunities.

In regions of underdeveloped software markets (low demand for income, linguistic, or legal issues), FOSS can respond to unmet local market demand.

Legacy ICT infrastructure and other conditions contributing to scarcity of access can lead to compatibility issues with proprietary software.

In developing countries, software copyright infringement rates are estimated to be above 90 percent. Statistics like this affect the amount of foreign direct investment a country is able to attract, and can even prevent a nation from gaining membership benefits from the WTO.

As the world becomes increasingly networked, cooperative approaches to FOSS are necessary to achieving critical mass in regional economies of scale.

Technological Autonomy in the Networked Age

Although direct government procurement of specific FOSS platforms is a largely untested model, it can be used as a way to promote a diversity of smaller enterprises, promoting a healthier climate for innovation and equity, particularly for use in civic institutions. Because most government procurement contracts are too large for most small enterprises, this suggests a need for a shift in the way civic institutions are organized.



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r3 - 09 Dec 2008 - 17:19:32 - StephanieLim
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