Government Policy Toward Open Source Software

Intellectual Property and Open Source

Article Snapshot


James Bessen, David S. Evans, Robert W. Hahn and Lawrence Lessig


AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, 2002


In this book, four experts consider government policy toward open source software.

Policy Relevance

Experts disagree about the best government policy toward open source software.

Main Points

  • Open source software lets users change the code to suit their own needs; open source  code under the General Public License (GPL) must be distributed free.


  • James Bessen argues that governments should favor open source, which serves the special needs of some users, by limiting software patents.


  • David Evans and Bradford Smith each argue that traditional software markets work well and no need for government to favor open source.


  • Lawrence Lessig argues that government could be neutral and still support open source, because free access is in the interest of the public.


  • Bradford Smith and David Evans both argue that government funded software research should allow commercialization, and that free redistribution should not be required.

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