The coproduction of open source software by volunteers and big tech firms

Mathieu O'Neil, Xiaolan Cai, Laure Muselli, Fred Pailler, Stefano Zacchiroli

    Research output: Book/ReportReports

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    This report maps how firms are collaborating with communities of unpaid volunteers to produce open source code, which is used in most digital applications and infrastructures. We map firm employee contributions to top GitHub repositories, finding that though firm employee contributions are dominant, volunteers still play an important role. We analyse how the IT press portrays this coproduction: the issue of volunteer labour is absent. We show how IT firm and foundation employee presentations at open source conferences reveal contrasting visions of digital infrastructure, business models, and the firm-community relationship. The IT news media, big tech firms and commercial foundations define firms and projects as a unified ‘community.’ Yet big tech firms such as Amazon are using cloud computing and Software as a Service to transform open source software, which is intended to be shared and modified, into closed assets. The report outlines strategic responses to big tech appropriation and reviews current debates about the recognition of volunteer work, money in FOSS, software licenses and universal basic incomes. The report also features invited comments exploring alternative perspectives by French open source specialists from the fields of academia, industry and activism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationCanberra
    PublisherNews Media Research Centre, University of Canberra
    Number of pages70
    ISBN (Electronic)9781740885201
    ISBN (Print)9781740885218
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


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