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Project Title

Standard Economic Theory and OSS Incentives


Dr. Julio R Robledo, University of Nottingham

Project Abstract

"Standard" economic theory predicts that you need patents to set an incentive to write software. The OSS movement is clear proof that this is not necessarily true, so standard ecnomic theory must be amended. The project aims to analyze the motivation and incentives of people contributing to OSS. I believe it is important to extend the standard economic theory to cover OSS incentives. This would also help when discussing the need for software patents. The standard economic reasoning for advocating software patents is to give an incentive. This project will aim to show that there are other incentives that give rise to Apache, Mozilla, etc. and that these efforts may be threatened by software patents. There are some other theories why people contribute to a public good, but they have not been applied to OSS and they have not been tested empirically. Usually they are only tested in the lab, where people play against each other. The SourceForge data offers a unique opportunity to analyze how people contribute to OSS. This would be what economics call a "natural field experiment". because it is the real effort and not just individuals interacting in the lab.