The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

The Rise of Open Source Licensing. A Challenge to the Use of Intellectual Property in the Software Industry

Mikko Välimäki

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to be presented with due permission of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for public examination and debate in Auditorium T2 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 3rd of June, 2005, at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 952-91-8779-3)   [5202 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 952-91-8769-6)


Open source software – from Linux to Firefox and MySQL database – has changed software business as we knew it. New start-ups have challenged industry heavyweights from Microsoft to Oracle with innovative copyright licensing strategies and courageous anti-patent policies. Almost every major software company has been forced to react to the commodification trend. The overall argument of the book is that open source licensing has indeed changed the ways the software industry thinks of and actually uses intellectual property.

The thesis further argues that the implications of open source to the management of intellectual property are twofold. First, intellectual property infringement risks must be taken more seriously when open source software is used. This is because open source increases the negative effects from the continuous expansion of intellectual property rights. Second, "Internet-businesses" are finally breaking through into software markets. This means that the value of intellectual property increases from sharing but also becomes more complex to appropriate.

Finally, this book argues that open source can have relevant implications on intellectual property rights policy. First, openness balances commercial regulation. Open licensing systems have proved how potential drawbacks from overregulation can be fixed without state intervention. Second, open source also emphasizes a more material study of intellectual property rights. When a substantial number of right holders in a given industry decide not to enforce their core intellectual property rights – relying on economic-rational arguments – the premises of the policy discussion can be seen in a new light.

Keywords: open source, software licensing, intellectual property, copyright, patents

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© 2005 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26