Research Paper: Managing Commercial Conflicts of Interest in Open Source Foundations

Abstract: When companies opt to open source their software, they may choose to offer the project to an open source foundation. Donating the software to an open source foundation offers a number of advantages, such as access to the foundation’s existing tools and project management. However, in donating the software, the company relinquishes control of the software and grants other foundation members—including competitors—the same rights to the software. Using a multiple-case study research approach, this paper examines how foundations manage conflicts of interest in the open sourcing donation scenario. We find that foundations primarily use a set of well-defined mechanisms to prevent such conflicts from arising, and that the use of these mechanisms can depend on the foundation type.

Keywords: open source foundations; sponsored open source; commercial open source; open source software

Reference: Florian Weikert, Dirk Riehle and Ann Barcomb. 2019 (November). Managing Commercial Conflicts of Interest in Open Source Foundations. 10th International Conference on Software Business. Jyväskylä, Finland.

A preprint of the paper is available as a PDF.