OSS AS Digital Infrastructure:
Legal Technologies & Institutional Design

Streams of car lights on a street in the dark as metaphor for infrastructure

The legal regime governing the development and use of open source software (OSS) contributes significantly to the under-supply of critical digital infrastructure maintenance. This project seeks to develop creative readjustments of ‘legal technologies’ and adapted or novel institutional designs (e.g. entities such as fiduciary trusts, ‘global digital infrastructure maintenance hubs’) in close coordination with interested participants in the open source software ecosystem.

The project will explore and propose possible legal devices and institutions to best support open source elements of digital infrastructure, reflexively with rigorous examination of problems of open source software creation, release, and maintenance for which improved legal regimes could be part of the solution. This requires close interaction with different digital infrastructure ecosystems and their diverse range of stakeholders, interests and incentives as well as understanding of values and core commitments in open source communities. The inherently global nature of digital infrastructure necessitates the creation of non-jurisdiction bound “legal technologies” and institutions, which raise special issues of law and governance and pose distinctive opportunities and challenges for transnational open source software development communities.

This project is being conducted in cooperation with the Institute for International Law and Justice (IILJ) project on Infrastructures-as-Regulation (InfraReg).

This project receives funding from the Ford Foundation which, together with the Sloan Foundation, supports research projects on digital infrastructure. Read more.

Project contact: Thomas Streinz