Exactly like the personal computer and the Internet, open source software3recently got the attention of the press as a totally new thing that `suddenly appeared'. Many people believe that the impact of open source software in the information technology industry and in society in general will be huge, and without precedent in its nature, to the point that the current rules by which the software industry behaves will completely change.
The European Commission services, concerned by the effects of this new paradigm on Europe and on the landscape of information technology promoted the creation of a working group on libre software. This document has been written by this group, at the request of the European Commission, with the intent of clarifying the nature of the open source movement, its impact on the way that software products are created, maintained and used, and on the industry that currently produces and maintains such software.
In this document we start by presenting, in section 2, a brief history of open source software, showing that it has a long tradition, and that this heritage is fundamental to the understanding of the peculiar aspects of this not-so-new way of thinking about software. Later on, in section 3, a definition of open source and free software is discussed, providing the reader with a background which will help to understand later sections. In section 4, the development models for open source software are discussed, including the advantages and perceived disadvantages of these models. Some emphasis is also devoted in this section to the issue of how open source models achieve a productive mix of cooperation and competition.
Section 5 introduces some notes on the economy of open source software, including a taxonomy of open source business models (with special emphasis on those that seem to be sustainable), some comments on the impact of the adoption of open source software on total cost of ownership, and some notes on macroeconomic effects. After that, issues related to intellectual property are discussed in section 6, including how copyright and patent law affect open source software, and in section 7 some specific impacts of open source on information technologies (promotion of protocols, diffusion of technology, and security) are presented.
At the end of the document, we describe some possible scenarios for the future of the open source movement (in section 8), and make also some recommendations intended to take better advantage of open source software, and to help to remove the barriers which could hinder its development, for the European Commission and any concerned national government (in section 9). After some conclusions (in section 10), some appendixes with useful information are also included.