Competition with Open Source as a Public Good

Abstract:  The open source paradigm is often defined as a "collaborative effort," implying that firms and consumers come together in a non-competitive climate.  We show here that open source development can arise from a competitive climate.  Under competition, we find that open source is a surplus maximizing outcome and can be a equilibrium if cost asymmetries are small.  However, when cost asymmetries are large, contradictions between equilibrium and welfare maximization result.  Considerations typical to public good problems arise, with issues of asymmetric contributions and free-riding.  These issues should guide the firm's as well as the society's decisions to implement open source in particular environments.  We analyze this problem in the framework of a dynamic duopolistic competition, with firms controlling their investments in software.