From Medieval Guilds to Open Source Software
* Article: Robert P. Merges, From Medieval Guilds to Open Source Software: Informal Norms, Appropriability Institutions, and Innovation., p. 8,
"This essay draws on recent scholarship concerning the nature and function of medieval guilds. I argue that certain features of these guilds appear in modern institutions that further collective invention ("appropriability institutions"): patent pools, industry-wide standard-setting organizations, informal knowledge exchange among academic scientists, and (in a more limited way) open source software development.
In particular, guilds and modern institutions share three features:
(1) an "appropriability structure" that makes it profitable for individual entities to develop new technologies and sometimes share them;
(2) reliance on group norms, as opposed to formal legal enactments, as an enforcement mechanism; and
(3) a balance of competition and cooperation which determines what information is to be shared with the group, and what (if any) individual-proprietary information is not.
The current trend toward greater dispersal and atomization of economic activity may increase the importance of such inter-firm appropriability institutions."