The open-source model is a decentralized software development model that encourages open collaboration. A main principle of open-source software development is peer production, with products such as source code, blueprints, and documentation freely available to the public. The open-source movement in software began as a response to the limitations of proprietary code. The model is used for projects such as in open-source appropriate technology, and open-source drug discovery.
Open source promotes universal access via an open-source or free license to a product's design or blueprint, and universal redistribution of that design or blueprint. Before the phrase open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of other terms. Open source gained hold with the rise of the Internet. The open-source software movement arose to clarify copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues.
Generally, open source refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use or modification from its original design. Open-source code is meant to be a collaborative effort, where programmers improve upon the source code and share the changes within the community. Code is released under the terms of a software license. Depending on the license terms, others may then download, modify, and publish their version (fork) back to the community.
Many large formal institutions have sprung up to support the development of the open-source movement, including the Apache Software Foundation, which supports community projects such as the open-source framework Apache Hadoop and the open-source HTTP server Apache HTTP.
The sharing of technical information predates the Internet and the personal computer considerably. For instance, in the early years of automobile development a group of capital monopolists owned the rights to a 2-cycle gasoline-engine patent originally filed by George B. Selden. By controlling this patent, they were able to monopolize the industry and force car manufacturers to adhere to their demands, or risk a lawsuit.
In 1911, independent automaker Henry Ford won a challenge to the Selden patent. The result was that the Selden patent became virtually worthless and a new association (which would eventually become the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association) was formed. The new association instituted a cross-licensing agreement among all US automotive manufacturers: although each company would develop technology and file patents, these patents were shared openly and without the exchange of money among all the manufacturers. By the time the US entered World War II, 92 Ford patents and 515 patents from other companies were being shared among these manufacturers, without any exchange of money (or lawsuits).
Early instances of the free sharing of source code include IBM's source releases of its operating systems and other programs in the 1950s and 1960s, and the SHARE user group that formed to facilitate the exchange of software. Beginning in the 1960s, ARPANET researchers used an open "Request for Comments" (RFC) process to encourage feedback in early telecommunication network protocols. This led to the birth of the early Internet in 1969.
The sharing of source code on the Internet began when the Internet was relatively primitive, with software distributed via UUCP, Usenet, IRC, and Gopher. BSD, for example, was first widely distributed by posts to comp.os.linux on the Usenet, which is also where its development was discussed. Linux followed in this model.
The term "open source" was first proposed by a group of people in the free software movement who were critical of the political agenda and moral philosophy implied in the term "free software" and sought to reframe the discourse to reflect a more commercially minded position. In addition, the ambiguity of the term "free software" was seen as discouraging business adoption. However, the disambiguation of "free" exists primarily in English as it can refer to cost. The group included Christine Peterson, Todd Anderson, Larry Augustin, Jon Hall, Sam Ockman, Michael Tiemann and Eric S. Raymond. Peterson suggested "open source" at a meeting held at Palo Alto, California, in reaction to Netscape's announcement in January 1998 of a source code release for Navigator. Linus Torvalds gave his support the following day, and Phil Hughes backed the term in Linux Journal. Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement, initially seemed to adopt the term, but later changed his mind. Netscape released its source code under the Netscape Public License and later under the Mozilla Public License.
Raymond was especially active in the effort to popularize the new term. He made the first public call to the free software community to adopt it in February 1998. Shortly after, he founded The Open Source Initiative in collaboration with Bruce Perens.
The term gained further visibility through an event organized in April 1998 by technology publisher Tim O'Reilly. Originally titled the "Freeware Summit" and later known as the "Open Source Summit", the event was attended by the leaders of many of the most important free and open-source projects, including Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Brian Behlendorf, Eric Allman, Guido van Rossum, Michael Tiemann, Paul Vixie, Jamie Zawinski, and Eric Raymond. At that meeting, alternatives to the term "free software" were discussed. Tiemann argued for "sourceware" as a new term, while Raymond argued for "open source". The assembled developers took a vote, and the winner was announced at a press conference the same evening.
"Open source" has never managed to entirely supersede the older term "free software", giving rise to the combined term free and open-source software (FOSS).
Some economists agree that open-source is an information good or "knowledge good" with original work involving a significant amount of time, money, and effort. The cost of reproducing the work is low enough that additional users may be added at zero or near zero cost – this is referred to as the marginal cost of a product. Copyright creates a monopoly so the price charged to consumers can be significantly higher than the marginal cost of production. This allows the author to recoup the cost of making the original work. Copyright thus creates access costs for consumers who value the work more than the marginal cost but less than the initial production cost. Access costs also pose problems for authors who wish to create a derivative work—such as a copy of a software program modified to fix a bug or add a feature, or a remix of a song—but are unable or unwilling to pay the copyright holder for the right to do so.
Being organized as effectively a "consumers' cooperative", open source eliminates some of the access costs of consumers and creators of derivative works by reducing the restrictions of copyright. Basic economic theory predicts that lower costs would lead to higher consumption and also more frequent creation of derivative works. Organizations such as Creative Commons host websites where individuals can file for alternative "licenses", or levels of restriction, for their works. These self-made protections free the general society of the costs of policing copyright infringement.
Others argue that since consumers do not pay for their copies, creators are unable to recoup the initial cost of production and thus have little economic incentive to create in the first place. By this argument, consumers would lose out because some of the goods they would otherwise purchase would not be available. In practice, content producers can choose whether to adopt a proprietary license and charge for copies, or an open license. Some goods which require large amounts of professional research and development, such as the pharmaceutical industry (which depends largely on patents, not copyright for intellectual property protection) are almost exclusively proprietary, although increasingly sophisticated technologies are being developed on open-source principles.
There is evidence that open-source development creates enormous value. For example, in the context of open-source hardware design, digital designs are shared for free and anyone with access to digital manufacturing technologies (e.g. RepRap 3D printers) can replicate the product for the cost of materials. The original sharer may receive feedback and potentially improvements on the original design from the peer production community.
|Ranking||Project||Leading company||Market Value|
|1||Linux||Red Hat||$16 billion|
|10||Selenium||Sauce Labs||$470 million|
The rank given is based on the activity regarding projects in online discussions, on GitHub, on search activity in search engines and on the influence on the labour market.
Alternative arrangements have also been shown to result in good creation outside of the proprietary license model. Examples include:
Social and political views have been affected by the growth of the concept of open source. Advocates in one field often support the expansion of open source in other fields. But Eric Raymond and other founders of the open-source movement have sometimes publicly argued against speculation about applications outside software, saying that strong arguments for software openness should not be weakened by overreaching into areas where the story may be less compelling. The broader impact of the open-source movement, and the extent of its role in the development of new information sharing procedures, remain to be seen.
The open-source movement has inspired increased transparency and liberty in biotechnology research, for example by open therapeutics and CAMBIA Even the research methodologies themselves can benefit from the application of open-source principles. It has also given rise to the rapidly-expanding open-source hardware movement.
Open-source software is software which source code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees. Open-source code can evolve through community cooperation. These communities are composed of individual programmers as well as large companies. Some of the individual programmers who start an open-source project may end up establishing companies offering products or services incorporating open-source programs. Examples of open-source software products are:
Open-source hardware is hardware which initial specification, usually in a software format, is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the hardware and source code without paying royalties or fees. Open-source hardware evolves through community cooperation. These communities are composed of individual hardware/software developers, hobbyists, as well as very large companies. Examples of open-source hardware initiatives are:
Some publishers of open-access journals have argued that data from food science and gastronomy studies should be freely available to aid reproducibility. A number of people have published creative commons licensed recipe books.
An open-source robot is a robot whose blueprints, schematics, or source code are released under an open-source model.
The rise of open-source culture in the 20th century resulted from a growing tension between creative practices that involve require access to content that is often copyrighted, and restrictive intellectual property laws and policies governing access to copyrighted content. The two main ways in which intellectual property laws became more restrictive in the 20th century were extensions to the term of copyright (particularly in the United States) and penalties, such as those articulated in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), placed on attempts to circumvent anti-piracy technologies.
Although artistic appropriation is often permitted under fair-use doctrines, the complexity and ambiguity of these doctrines creates an atmosphere of uncertainty among cultural practitioners. Also, the protective actions of copyright owners create what some call a "chilling effect" among cultural practitioners.
The idea of an "open-source" culture runs parallel to "Free Culture," but is substantively different. Free culture is a term derived from the free software movement, and in contrast to that vision of culture, proponents of open-source culture (OSC) maintain that some intellectual property law needs to exist to protect cultural producers. Yet they propose a more nuanced position than corporations have traditionally sought. Instead of seeing intellectual property law as an expression of instrumental rules intended to uphold either natural rights or desirable outcomes, an argument for OSC takes into account diverse goods (as in "the Good life") and ends.
Sites such as ccMixter offer up free web space for anyone willing to license their work under a Creative Commons license. The resulting cultural product is then available to download free (generally accessible) to anyone with an Internet connection. Older analog technologies such as the telephone or television have limitations on the kind of interaction users can have.
Through various technologies such as peer-to-peer networks and blogs, cultural producers can take advantage of vast social networks to distribute their products. As opposed to traditional media distribution, redistributing digital media on the Internet can be virtually costless. Technologies such as BitTorrent and Gnutella take advantage of various characteristics of the Internet protocol (TCP/IP) in an attempt to totally decentralize file distribution.
Open-source ethics is split into two strands:
Irish philosopher Richard Kearney has used the term "open-source Hinduism" to refer to the way historical figures such as Mohandas Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda worked upon this ancient tradition.
Open-source journalism formerly referred to the standard journalistic techniques of news gathering and fact checking, reflecting open-source intelligence, a similar term used in military intelligence circles. Now, open-source journalism commonly refers to forms of innovative publishing of online journalism, rather than the sourcing of news stories by a professional journalist. In the 25 December 2006 issue of TIME magazine this is referred to as user created content and listed alongside more traditional open-source projects such as OpenSolaris and Linux.
Weblogs, or blogs, are another significant platform for open-source culture. Blogs consist of periodic, reverse chronologically ordered posts, using a technology that makes webpages easily updatable with no understanding of design, code, or file transfer required. While corporations, political campaigns and other formal institutions have begun using these tools to distribute information, many blogs are used by individuals for personal expression, political organizing, and socializing. Some, such as LiveJournal or WordPress, utilize open-source software that is open to the public and can be modified by users to fit their own tastes. Whether the code is open or not, this format represents a nimble tool for people to borrow and re-present culture; whereas traditional websites made the illegal reproduction of culture difficult to regulate, the mutability of blogs makes "open sourcing" even more uncontrollable since it allows a larger portion of the population to replicate material more quickly in the public sphere.
Messageboards are another platform for open-source culture. Messageboards (also known as discussion boards or forums), are places online where people with similar interests can congregate and post messages for the community to read and respond to. Messageboards sometimes have moderators who enforce community standards of etiquette such as banning spammers. Other common board features are private messages (where users can send messages to one another) as well as chat (a way to have a real time conversation online) and image uploading. Some messageboards use phpBB, which is a free open-source package. Where blogs are more about individual expression and tend to revolve around their authors, messageboards are about creating a conversation amongst its users where information can be shared freely and quickly. Messageboards are a way to remove intermediaries from everyday life—for instance, instead of relying on commercials and other forms of advertising, one can ask other users for frank reviews of a product, movie or CD. By removing the cultural middlemen, messageboards help speed the flow of information and exchange of ideas.
OpenDocument is an open document file format for saving and exchanging editable office documents such as text documents (including memos, reports, and books), spreadsheets, charts, and presentations. Organizations and individuals that store their data in an open format such as OpenDocument avoid being locked into a single software vendor, leaving them free to switch software if their current vendor goes out of business, raises their prices, changes their software, or changes their licensing terms to something less favorable.
Open-source movie production is either an open call system in which a changing crew and cast collaborate in movie production, a system in which the end result is made available for re-use by others or in which exclusively open-source products are used in the production. The 2006 movie Elephants Dream is said to be the "world's first open movie", created entirely using open-source technology.
An open-source documentary film has a production process allowing the open contributions of archival material footage, and other filmic elements, both in unedited and edited form, similar to crowdsourcing. By doing so, on-line contributors become part of the process of creating the film, helping to influence the editorial and visual material to be used in the documentary, as well as its thematic development. The first open-source documentary film is the non-profit "The American Revolution", which went into development in 2006, and will examine the role media played in the cultural, social and political changes from 1968 to 1974 through the story of radio station WBCN-FM in Boston. The film is being produced by Lichtenstein Creative Media and the non-profit Filmmakers Collaborative. Open Source Cinema is a website to create Basement Tapes, a feature documentary about copyright in the digital age, co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Open-source film-making refers to a form of film-making that takes a method of idea formation from open-source software, but in this case the 'source' for a filmmaker is raw unedited footage rather than programming code. It can also refer to a method of film-making where the process of creation is 'open' i.e. a disparate group of contributors, at different times contribute to the final piece.
Open-IPTV is IPTV that is not limited to one recording studio, production studio, or cast. Open-IPTV uses the Internet or other means to pool efforts and resources together to create an online community that all contributes to a show.
Within the academic community, there is discussion about expanding what could be called the "intellectual commons" (analogous to the Creative Commons). Proponents of this view have hailed the Connexions Project at Rice University, OpenCourseWare project at MIT, Eugene Thacker's article on "open-source DNA", the "Open Source Cultural Database", Salman Khan's Khan Academy and Wikipedia as examples of applying open source outside the realm of computer software.
Open-source curricula are instructional resources whose digital source can be freely used, distributed and modified.
Another strand to the academic community is in the area of research. Many funded research projects produce software as part of their work. There is an increasing interest in making the outputs of such projects available under an open-source license. In the UK the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has developed a policy on open-source software. JISC also funds a development service called OSS Watch which acts as an advisory service for higher and further education institutions wishing to use, contribute to and develop open-source software.
On 30 March 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which included $2 billion over four years to fund the TAACCCT program, which is described as "the largest OER (open education resources) initiative in the world and uniquely focused on creating curricula in partnership with industry for credentials in vocational industry sectors like manufacturing, health, energy, transportation, and IT".
The principle of sharing pre-dates the open-source movement; for example, the free sharing of information has been institutionalized in the scientific enterprise since at least the 19th century. Open-source principles have always been part of the scientific community. The sociologist Robert K. Merton described the four basic elements of the community—universal ism (an international perspective), communal ism (sharing information), disinterestedness (removing one's personal views from the scientific inquiry) and organized skepticism (requirements of proof and review) that describe the (idealised) scientific community.
These principles are, in part, complemented by US law's focus on protecting expression and method but not the ideas themselves. There is also a tradition of publishing research results to the scientific community instead of keeping all such knowledge proprietary. One of the recent initiatives in scientific publishing has been open access—the idea that research should be published in such a way that it is free and available to the public. There are currently many open access journals where the information is available free online, however most journals do charge a fee (either to users or libraries for access). The Budapest Open Access Initiative is an international effort with the goal of making all research articles available free on the Internet.
The National Institutes of Health has recently proposed a policy on "Enhanced Public Access to NIH Research Information". This policy would provide a free, searchable resource of NIH-funded results to the public and with other international repositories six months after its initial publication. The NIH's move is an important one because there is significant amount of public funding in scientific research. Many of the questions have yet to be answered—the balancing of profit vs. public access, and ensuring that desirable standards and incentives do not diminish with a shift to open access.
Farmavita.Net is a community of pharmaceuticals executives that has recently proposed a new business model of open-source pharmaceuticals. The project is targeted to development and sharing of know-how for manufacture of essential and life-saving medicines. It is mainly dedicated to the countries with less developed economies where local pharmaceutical research and development resources are insufficient for national needs. It will be limited to generic (off-patent) medicines with established use. By definition, a medicinal product has a "well-established use" if it is used for at least 15 years, with recognized efficacy and an acceptable level of safety. In that event, the expensive clinical test and trial results could be replaced by appropriate scientific literature.
New NGO communities are starting to use the open-source technology as a tool. One example is the Open Source Youth Network started in 2007 in Lisboa by ISCA members.
Copyright protection is used in the performing arts and even in athletic activities. Some groups have attempted to remove copyright from such practices.
In 2012, Russian music composer, scientist and Russian Pirate Party member Victor Argonov presented detailed raw files of his electronic opera "2032" under free license CC-BY-NC 3.0. This opera was originally composed and published in 2007 by Russian label MC Entertainment as a commercial product, but then the author changed its status to free. In his blog  he said that he decided to open raw files (including wav, midi and other used formats) to the public in order to support worldwide pirate actions against SOPA and PIPA. Several Internet resources, called "2032" the first open-source musical opera in history.
The following are events and applications that have been developed via the open source community, and echo the ideologies of the open source movement.
Open Education Consortium — an organization composed of various colleges that support open source and share some of their material online. This organization, headed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was established to aid in the exchange of open source educational materials.
Wikipedia — user-generated online encyclopedia with sister projects in academic areas, such as Wikiversity — a community dedicated to the creation and exchange of learning materials‹See TfM›[failed verification]
Synthetic Biology- This new technology is potentially important because it promises to enable cheap, lifesaving new drugs as well as helping to yield biofuels that may help to solve our energy problem. Although synthetic biology has not yet come out of its "lab" stage, it has potential to become industrialized in the near future. In order to industrialize open source science, there are some scientists who are trying to build their own brand of it.
The open-access movement is a movement that is similar in ideology to the open source movement. Members of this movement maintain that academic material should be readily available to provide help with “future research, assist in teaching and aid in academic purposes.” The Open access movement aims to eliminate subscription fees and licensing restrictions of academic materials
The free-culture movement is a movement that seeks to achieve a culture that engages in collective freedom via freedom of expression, free public access to knowledge and information, full demonstration of creativity and innovation in various arenas and promotion of citizen liberties.
Creative Commons is an organization that “develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.” It encourages the use of protected properties online for research, education, and creative purposes in pursuit of a universal access. Creative Commons provides an infrastructure through a set of copyright licenses and tools that creates a better balance within the realm of “all rights reserved” properties. The Creative Commons license offers a slightly more lenient alternative to “all rights reserved” copyrights for those who do not wish to exclude the use of their material.
The Zeitgeist Movement is an international social movement that advocates a transition into a sustainable "resource-based economy" based on collaboration in which monetary incentives are replaced by commons-based ones with everyone having access to everything (from code to products) as in "open source everything". While its activism and events are typically focused on media and education, TZM is a major supporter of open source projects worldwide since they allow for uninhibited advancement of science and technology, independent of constraints posed by institutions of patenting and capitalist investment.
P2P Foundation is an “international organization focused on studying, researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices in a very broad sense”. Its objectives incorporate those of the open source movement, whose principles are integrated in a larger socio-economic model.
The problem with it is twofold. First, ... the term "free" is very ambiguous ... Second, the term makes a lot of corporate types nervous.
"In contrast to commercial software is a large and growing body of free software that exists in the public domain. Public-domain software is written by microcomputer hobbyists (also known as "hackers") many of whom are professional programmers in their work life. [...] Since everybody has access to source code, many routines have not only been used but dramatically improved by other programmers."
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