Does Open Source Software influence economic growth?

Tadeusz Chełkowski

Open Source Software (OSS) community is challenging the traditional meaning of property rights. The way the OSS products are developed and distributed is questioning the right to exclude others from using the goods and introduces the right to distribute and modify software for free. The economic impact of the Open Source Software contribution is significant, it has been estimated that it represents c.a. 30% of the software market. There is an increasing interest in studying OSS communities, however there have been a small number of studies investigating the general role of the OSS in the economic growth. Therefore the lack of theory linking the economic growth and OSS contribution represents the main theoretical problem of this paper. The goal of this article is to prove that the existence of OSS communities increases the quantity of non-rival and non-excludable goods, which - according to endogenous model of growth - leads to economic growth. Additionally the study findings undermine the neoclassical theory of property rights in terms of non-rival and non-excludable goods. The structure of the paper is organized as follows. In section 1 the article focuses on the literature addressing the role of the non-rival and non-excludable goods in the theory of growth and theory of property rights. Section 2, contains the literature review of the OSS socio-economic phenomena and argues that the neoclassical theory of rights is inadequate to explain OSS market existence. Section 3 of the paper summarizes the main conclusions and discusses the general motivation behind the creation of the non-excludable and non-rival goods as well as the diminishing role of the egoism as the origin of the economic growth. From the methodological point of view the paper represents a literature review and a critical analysis of the endogenous growth theory and the theory of property rights.


  • Benkler Y., The Penguin and the Leviathan: The Triumph of Cooperation over Self-Interest, Crown Business, New York 2011.
  • Benkler Y., The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2006.
  • Carillo K., Okoli C., The Open Source Movement: A Revolution in Software Development „Journal of Computer Information Systems” 2008, Vol. 49, No. 2, s. 1-9.
  • Castells M., The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. 1: The Rise of the Network Society, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Cambridge 2000.
  • Chesbrough H., Open Business Models, Harvard Business School Press, 2006.
  • Claessens S., Laeven L., Financial Development, Property Rights, and Growth, „The Journal of Finance” 2003, Vol. 58, No. 6, s. 2401-2436,
  • Demsetz H., Toward a Theory of Property Rights, „The American Economic Review” 1967, Vol. 57, No. 2, 347-359,
  • Eliasson G., Wihlborg C., On the macroeconomic effects of establishing tradability in weak property rights, „Journal of Evolutionary Economics” 2003, Vol. 13, No. 5, s. 607-632,
  • Gilbert M., Rationality in Collective Action, „Philosophy of the Social Sciences” 2006, Vol. 36, No. 1, s. 3-17,
  • Hars A., Ou S., Working for Free?? Motivations for Participating in Open-Source Projects, „International Journal of Electronic Commerce” 2002, Vol. 6, No. 3, s. 25-39,
  • Hippel E. von, Democratizing Innovation: The Evolving Phenomenon of User Innovation, „Journal Für Betriebswirtschaft” 2005, Vol. 55, No. 1, s. 63-78,
  • Hippel E. von, Krogh G. von, Open Source Software and the 'private-Collective' Innovation Model: Issues for Organization Science, „Organization Science” 2003, Vol. 14, No. 2, s, 209-223,
  • Jones C.I., Romer P.M., The New Kaldor Facts: Ideas, Institutions, Population, and Human Capital, NBER Working Paper No. 15094, 2009,
  • Lakhani K., Wolf R., Why Hackers Do What They Do: Understanding Motivation and Effort in Free/open Source Software Projects, MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 4425-03, 2003,
  • Lakhani K.R., Wolf R., Does Free Software Mean Free Labor? Characteristics of Participants in Free and Open Source Communities, BCG Survey Report, 2001.
  • Lerner J., Tirole J., Some Simple Economics of Open Source, „Journal of Industrial Economics” 2002, Vol. 50, No. 2, s. 197-234,
  • Lerner J., Tirole J., The Economics of Technology Sharing: Open Source and Beyond, „Journal of Economic Perspectives” 2005, Vol. 19, No. 2, s. 99-120,
  • Merges R.P., A New Dynamism in the Public Domain, „The University of Chicago Law Review” 2004, Vol. 71, No. 1, s. 183-203,
  • Montes L., „Das Adam Smith Problem”: Its Origins, the Stages of the Current Debate, and One Implication for Our Understanding of Sympathy, „Journal of the History of Economic Thought” 2003, Vol. 25, No. 1, s. 63-90, 2003.
  • Niedner S., Hertel G., Hermann S., Motivation in open source projects: An empirical study among Linux developers, 2000,
  • Raymond E.S., The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary (Revised Edition), O'Reilly Media Inc., Sebastopol, CA, 2001.
  • Romer P.M., Endogenous Technological Change, „Journal of Political Economy” 1990, Vol. 98, No. 5, s. 71-102,
  • Romer P.M., The Origins of Endogenous Growth, „The Journal of Economic Perspectives” 1994, Vol. 8, No. 1, s. 3-22,
  • Schumpeter J.A., The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle, Transaction Publishers, New Jersey 1983.
  • Sedlacek T., Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street, Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Smith A., The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Penguin Books, 2009.
  • Smith A., An Inquiry into the Nature an Causes of the Wealth of Nations, MetaLibri, 2007.
  • Spinellis D., Gousios G., Karakoidas V., Louridas P., Evaluating the Quality of Open Source Software, „Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science” 2009, Vol. 233, s. 5-28,
  • Stamelos I., Angelis L., Oikonomou A., Bleris G.L., Code Quality Analysis in Open Source Software Development, „Information Systems Journal” 2002, Vol. 12, No. 1, s. 43-60,
  • Weber S., The Success of Open Source, Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • West J., Gallagher S., Challenges of Open Innovation: The Paradox of Firm Investment in Open-source Software, „R&D Management” 2006, Vol. 36, No. 3, s. 319-331,

Tadeusz Chełkowski

Kozminski University

Table of contents

About the article

DOI: 10.15219/em59.1173

The article is in the printed version on pages 69-75.

pdf download PDF

pdf read the article (Polish)


T. Chełkowski, Czy wolne i otwarte oprogramowanie może przyczyniać się do wzrostu gospodarczego?, "e-mentor”" 2015 , nr 2(59), s. 69-76,