XXVI World Congress of Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy

Open source software, access to knowledge and software licensing

The world depends more and more on computers. Open source and free software create the ideal conditions to access the fundamental digital tools,
allowing the advance of knowledge, research and development in countries such as Brazil that would be otherwise deprived of these kinds of benefits.
In spite of the common terms, there are different ways to license and distribute open source software. The open source spectrum ranges from complete grant of commercial uses to those that demand that derivative works are distributed under the same license terms. These differences have important economical, legal and technical consequences. Those different structures affect software development, longevity of projects and software distribution.
In USA there is a better developed and structured legal precedent collection. In Brazil, however, the legal sphere is yet to study the precise rules and consequences of open source software, especially concerning intellectual property and patents. Nevertheless, in the past decade Brazil government had supported the utilization of the open source software in its internal organizations. There is also a new legislation that illuminates the uses and advantages of those technologies. In this paper we present this Brazilian legislation regarding open source software licensing, and also analyses the gains of productivity or economic benefits derived from the adoption of those systems. This way, we intend to show that the availability of open source and free tools is a fundamental factor to promote development that could otherwise be haltered due to high costs and private control of technology. The access and availability of open source software is a vital way to create better governments, public transparency and human rights enforcement.

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