The economics of open source hijacking and the declining quality of digital information resources: A case for copyleft
The economics of information goods suggest the need for institutional intervention to address the problem of revenue extraction from investments in those resources characterized by high fixed costs of production and low marginal costs of reproduction and distribution. Solutions to the appropriation issue, such as copyright, are supposed to guarantee an incentive for innovative activities at the price of few vices marring their rationale. In the case of digital information resources, apart from conventional inefficiencies, copyright shows an extra vice since it might be used perversely as a tool to "hijack" and privatise collectively provided open source and open content knowledge assemblages, even in the case in which the original information was not otherwise copyrightable. Whilst the impact of hijacking on open source software development may be uncertain or uneven, some risks are clear in the case of open content works. The paper presents some evidence of malicious effects of hijacking in the Internet search market by discussing the case of The Open Directory Project. Furthermore, it calls for a wider use of novel institutional remedies such as copyleft and Creative Commons licensing, built upon the paradigm of copyright customisation.
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