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Copyright versus Patents: The Open Source Software Legal Battle

June 2007

Review of Economic Research on copyright Issues

Article written with Yann Ménière.

Open Source Software is often viewed as an anti-intellectual property regime. In contrast, we argue how intellectual property law is at the heart of open source model since licenses that organize the innovation and business relationships between developers, distributors and end-users are based on copyright law. The proliferation of software patents can, however be seen as a threat for the development and deployment of open source software.

We present the nature of the threat and review a series of initiatives undertaken by the open source community to address them effectively. These initiatives, such as the redesign of licenses and the creation of patent commons, are a testiment to a genuinely creative use of intellectual property law by the open source community, not its undermining.  

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