Input on anticompetitive characteristic of public code

David Boddie david at
Tue Jul 3 21:53:45 UTC 2018

Sorry for the late response. I wasn't going to add anything to this thread
but I found a fragment of a discussion from many years ago that talked about
the idea of a Free Software product in a monopoly position, referencing this

The summary of the discussion was the following. One party mentioned that the
article suggested a Free Software product might be found to be exclusionary
if interoperating with it meant that proprietary software had to comply with
the license or stay out of the market. Another party suggested that this was
FUD because there was no reason one business model should be favoured over

Anyway, it led me to think about these questions because they cover related
scenarios but not precisely the one above.

On Thu Jun 21 12:33:21 UTC 2018, Erik Albers wrote:

> Now my questions:
> * How can we oppose the argument that publicly financed software released as
> Free Software is anticompetitive?

In the case where a public institution is selling a piece of software in
competition with existing players, perhaps it would be anticompetitive, but
only because it is subsidised by the taxpayer not because it is Free

However, the example you gave about the BBC (putting aside the hybrid nature
of the BBC's business) indicates to me that the software could be used by
companies in some market. There's nothing to stop them from using the
software except perhaps for license incompatibility but, unlike in the
article above, nobody is forced to use it to stay in the market. The software
may well stimulate new development as existing companies take advantage of it
and new companies enter the market with products based on it. Perhaps those
companies who cannot use the software will develop the same features to
improve their products. This sounds like competition to me!

If the new software duplicates an existing product on the market then that's
unfortunate. However, nobody has a right to occupy a position in the market.
Just because a company occupies a position in a market doesn't mean that
anything that competes with them is automatically anticompetitive. Maybe the
market is distorted, or there is a monopoly, or perhaps companies had a nice
business selling software to the BBC which they now no longer need to buy.

> * What can we bring up on the other hand in favor of publishing as Free
> Software from a competitive point of view?
> (except the usual non-dependencies)

It gives players in a market a platform they can innovate on. It also
provides a level playing field for all players to compete on. It doesn't
always work like that because some players have more resources than others,
but at least there's no barrier to entry or gatekeeper.


More information about the Discussion mailing list