Open Source Information

Open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product's source materials. Some consider open source a philosophy, others consider it a pragmatic methodology. Before the term open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of phrases to describe the concept; open source gained hold with the rise of the Internet, and the attendant need for massive retooling of the computing source code. Opening the source code enabled a self-enhancing diversity of production models, communication paths, and interactive communities. Subsequently, a new, three-word phrase "open source software" was born to describe the environment that the new copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues created.

The open source model includes the concept of concurrent yet different agendas and differing approaches in production, in contrast with more centralized models of development such as those typically used in commercial software companies. A main principle and practice of open source software development is peer production by bartering and collaboration, with the end-product available at no cost to the public. This is increasingly being applied in other fields of endeavor, such as biotechnology.

The concept of open source and free sharing of technological information has existed long before computers existed. There is open source pertaining to businesses and there is open source pertaining to computers, software, and technology. In the early years of automobile development, a group of capital monopolists owned the rights to a 2 cycle gasoline engine patent originally filed by George B. Selden. By controlling this patent, they were able to monopolize the industry and force car manufacturers to adhere to their demands, or risk a lawsuit. In 1911, independent automaker Henry Ford won a challenge to the Selden patent. The result was that the Selden patent became virtually worthless and a new association was formed. The new association instituted a cross-licensing agreement among all US auto manufacturers: although each company would develop technology and file patents, these patents were shared openly and without the exchange of money between all the manufacturers. Up to the point where the US entered World War II, 92 Ford patents were being used freely by other manufacturers and were in turn making use of 515 patents from other companies, all without lawsuits or the exchange of any money.

Wikipedia, Open Source, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Source (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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