Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Public Policy

Reader 1

Richard K. Worthington

Reader 2

Michael A. Erlinger

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Rights Information

© 1999 Mitchell L. Stoltz


A new method for making software is stealthily gaining ground in the computer industry, offering a promise of better, cheaper software and the empowerment of the user. The open source movement could revolutionize the software industry...if it succeeds. Open source means software that you are allowed to copy, modify, and give to friends. Source code , the lists of instructions which tell computers how to run, is readily available, allowing you to look inside the workings of a program and change it to suit your needs. A group of programmers, companies, users, and activists have gathered in support of this empowering technology, seeking to persuade businesses and users that open source is the way to go. However, open source faces stiff challenges. The economic basis for the software industry is to charge users by the copy when they buy software. Copying and modification are illegal. The industry and its customers are so mired in this worldview that the idea of giving out a program's "recipe," along with a license to change or copy it at will, seems preposterous. Powerful players in the software industry, such as Microsoft, see open source as a threat to their bottom line, and have devoted their energies to discrediting and marginalizing the movement. Beginning from the assumption that cheap, reliable software that empowers the user is a good thing, this thesis looks at the claims made by advocates about the benefits of open source. I explore how the advocates make their case to the business world, the public, and government. I also look at ways in which the government could help bring about an open source revolution, using the policy tools of procurement, research funding, standards enforcement, and antitrust law. I conclude that programmers and public interest lobbyists must join forces to carry this revolution forward, and that the time for action is now, while Microsoft is on trial.