Guarding the Commons: How Community Managed Software Projects Protect Their Work

TitleGuarding the Commons: How Community Managed Software Projects Protect Their Work
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsO'Mahony, S
Secondary TitleResearch Policy
Date PublishedFebruary
KeywordsCommon Pool Resources, email, email archives, intellectual property, mailing list, open source, Public Goods, Software, Survey

Theorists often speculate why open source and free software project contributors give their work away. Although contributors make their work publicly available, they do not forfeit their rights to it. Community managed software projects protect their work by using several legal and normative tactics, which should not be conflated with a disregard for or neglect of intellectual property rights. These tactics allow a project?s intellectual property to be publicly and freely available and yet, governable. Exploration of this seemingly contradictory state may provide new insight into governance models for the management of digital intellectual property.


"Data was collected from three primary sources: 1) observation at project and user group meetings, technical presentations and conferences; 2) informant interviews; and 3) project data archived on the Internet that detailed project interactions and structural developments."

"Project data was collected from online archives and included documents such as: mission statements, charters, bylaws, meeting minutes, and mailing list archives."

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