My son just took my old laptop and replaced the Windows XP operating system with Ubuntu, a Linux operating system. Ubuntu is a open source operating system which grants its users a license to run the program for any purpose, to study and modify the program, and to redistribute copies of either the original or modified program. Gone is Windows, and all the programs that run on Windows. Now, the laptop uses only open-source software: Firefox web browser, Evolve email app, and Open Office word processor. An experiment of sorts for him, although I am an interested observer.
Open source software evolves. Many variations. Some are adaptive to other instantaneous changes occurring in hardware and software. It is much easier for a software developer to create new software if he has access to the code in the operating system, and even easier if the software developer can tweak the operating system’s code to improve the integration between the two.
I just mention the idea to make the point that open source is itself a strategy of development, competition, economic growth. Restrictions on the use of knowledge comes in many different forms: Copyright, patents, regulations, licenses, trade secrets confidentiality/secrecy agreements, and non-competes. Each of these represents outcomes of the law’s balancing of competing interests.
And even open source markets have rules. However, there is a cost-benefit for every rule, every restraint; the law of non-competes is trending toward being more restrictive, less open. But, at what costs?