Measuring the new economy: Industrial classification and open source software production

Fernando Elichirigoity, Cheryl Knott Malone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We analyze the way in which the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) handles the categorization of open source software production, foregrounding theoretical and political aspects of knowledge organization. NAICS is the industry classification scheme used by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States to carry out their respective economic censuses. NAICS is considered a rational system that uses the underlying economic principle of similar production processes as the basis for its classes. For the Information Sector of the economy, as formulated in NAICS, a key production process is the acquisition and defense of copyright. With open source, copyleft licensing eliminates copyright acquisition and protection as major production processes, suggesting that the open source software industry warrants a separate NAICS category. More importantly, our analysis suggests that NAICS cannot be understood as a taxonomy of objective economic activity but is instead a politically and historically contingent system of data classification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-127
Number of pages11
JournalKnowledge Organization
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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