TimOReilly on the essay linked from OpenSource/ParadigmShift (here) says :

The most common version of the history of free software begins with Richard Stallman's ethically-motivated 1984 revolt against proprietary software. It is an appealing story centered on a charismatic figure, and leads straight into a narrative in which the license he wrote – the GPL – is the centerpiece. But like most open source advocates, who tell a broader story about building better software through transparency and code sharing, I prefer to start the history with the style of software development that was normal in the early computer industry and academia. Because software was not seen as the primary source of value, source code was freely shared throughout the early computer industry.

The Unix software tradition provides a good example. Unix was developed at Bell Labs, and was shared freely with university software researchers, who contributed many of the utilities and features we take for granted today. The fact that Unix was provided under a license that later allowed ATT to shut down the party when it decided it wanted to commecialize Unix, leading ultimately to the rise of BSD Unix and Linux as free alternatives, should not blind us to the fact that the early, collaborative development preceded the adoption of an open source licensing model. Open source licensing began as an attempt to preserve a culture of sharing, and only later led to an expanded awareness of the value of that sharing.

Thus joining EricRaymond's interpretation of the TheFreeSoftwarePhenomenon


The Economist says : Another factor helped the duo of C and Unix to spread much faster than they otherwise would have. AT&T was required under the terms of a 1958 court order in an antitrust case to license its non-telephone-related technology to anyone who asked. And so Unix and C were distributed, mostly to universities, for only a nominal fee. When one considers the ineptness of AT&T's later attempts to commercialise Unix—after the court order ceased to be applicable because of another antitrust case which broke up AT&T in 1984—this restriction, an accidental boost to what would later become known as the open-source movement, becomes even more crucial.


Anyone know what the truth is about the original licensing of the Unix source? Was Unix floating freely around because this was just the "obvious" and "natural" culture, before software became valued in it's own right.

Or was it due to the beneficience of government anti-trust regulation?