they have made they benefit in numerous ways, including increased community reputation, positive networks effects, and because often “others then improve or suggest improvements . . . to mutual benefit.”49 In particular, the way a solution is implemented can be improved upon by others with different and perhaps more applicable solution knowledge. Another reason is that similar to commercial products where designers control the “of icial” version, every open source project has leaders who decide what is included in the of icial release. By having their individual modi ications included in the collective version it is easier for people to upgrade their software in the future, without going back and making the change again. By being a part of the community people play a part in evolving the product at a higher level, beyond their individual copy.
Outside of the open source world legal restrictions often hamper the creation and growth of user communities focused on product adaptation. Companies use patents to lay claim to a particular innovation or idea, which disallows others from using or building on top of that. To ward off competition “Major firms can invest to develop large portfolios of patents. They can then use these to create ‘patent thickets’—dense networks of patent claims that give them plausible grounds for threatening to sue.”50 In the software and media worlds copyright is used for the same purpose, companies control how people can modify products they legally own, justifying these restrictions with laws created to thwart piracy. A tension exists between these sorts of business practices and product evolution because people are being legally hampered from adapting products. The patent/copyright business model has worked well in the past, and at times today there is evidence that it drives innovation and healthy competition. It