Open Source Software and Private Property

I’ve lamented periodically about the fact that consumers don’t own the software they “buy.” When you “buy” a piece of software, you’re usually entering into a license agreement, and an extremely one-sided agreement at that. However, there is respite from this onslaught against the concept of ownership and, ironically, it comes from a model that is usually claimed to be communistic by both its proponents and critics. That respite is open source software.

Open source software is the only software that you can seriously claim to own. While not all open source software licenses are equal, most of them do allow you to modify the code in whatever way you desire. With the source code in hand and the right to modify it at will, you can make whatever changes you want to an application. If a developer drops support for the application, you can either continue to support it yourself or hire a third-party to continue supporting it for you. If you’re not happy with a change a developer made, you can remove that change while still potentially including other added functionality that you did want. If the application is designed to be run on a server, you can host the application on your own server if you so desire.

In this way a movement that is usually considered communistic has done a better job of enabling private property rights over software than the model that is usually considered capitalistic.