Klang, Mathias,"The Digital Commons: Using Licenses to Promote Creativity."
The paper beings with the concept of property as "mine", which at an early age is always contrasted with the concept of sharing. The new digital age tests out currently property regulation, since things are now copied with ease. Importantly, "that which is owned is no longer simply the item itself but the privileges which it provides to the owner". How, then, do we reconcile property rights and the public domain (the commons)? Property law in Western civilization tends to bestow all rights onto a single person. He defines ownership as a "collection of rights which complement each other and grant to the owner the authority to legitimately enforce conditions". The focus on possesion complicates the property law when dealing with intagible objects.
Klang offers the differing views people have of the commons, citing sources as far back as Aristotle and as recent as Lessig. The first, and considerably widespread, is the belief in the "tragedy of the commons". The second argues that the idea of the tragedy is false since it does not consider the environment in which the commons exists. The commons itself is a considerably vague term (consisting only of notions of property and sharing), and the public doman is defined only as what it is not (it is not legally protected intellectual property). According to Klang, what the public domain is "is our collective culture". He continues to explain the basics of the current copyright law and how owning the content of something limits the creativity of others. Creative Commons was developed to help ensure an ease of sharing and the creativity that the commons encourages. He explains, as most do, the basics to how Creative Commons licenses work, concluding that though copyright is a tricky game, "we can also be certain that we will always need a commons or a public domain from which we can create and recombine into new culture for us to enjoy".
This article provides a great overview of the debate that currently surrounds copyright and Creative Commons, extending into the idea of the commons itself. As we saw, there are those who believe that the commons is nothing but a vast wasteland or an "overgrazed pasture", which my project hopes to discredit by emphasizes the good things that have come out of the commons. There are others who believe in the benefit of the commons, taking into consideration the situation in which they exist and the fact that the web allows for social cohesion and trust among those involved. It is this view that conforms to the models that I expand on, showing the many different ways that online communities have been affected by the commons and vice versa. Importantly, this article explain Creative Commons licenses as well and helps to illuminate the debate about property by offering definitions of terms that are really, less than clear in the law today. It really is the basis for this project.
"The Tragedy of the Commons," Garrett Hardin, Science, 162(1968):1243-1248.
The article begins with the idea that there is a class of problems which Hardin calls the "no technical solution problems," to which he assigns the "population problem". For Hardin, the problem is that population is constantly growing in a finite world, and "a finite world can support only a finite population". This is where the tragedy of the commons comes in, which he relates to an open pasture. He believes that each herdsman will seek to maximize his gain and that there is one negative and one positive outcome from his addition of another animal to the herd. The positive is that the animal will bring in more profit for the herdsman (+1) and the negative is that it will add to overgrazing. The negative, however, affects not only him but many others so therefore it is only equivalent to a fraction of -1. The decision then is easy to add another, and another, and another animal until the pasture can no longer sustain the herds. "Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all."
He uses pollution, oceans, national parks, and overgrazing as examples of the tragedy of the commons in the world today. All of these are a consequence of population. This leads him to argue that the morality of decisions regarding the commons are "system-sensitive"; that is, morality is dependent on the situation at the time (so, killing an endangered species is no longer okay but it was before the species became endangered). Hardin calls for a limitation on breeding. According to him, in a welfare state where everyone is born with an equal right to the commons is a world in "a tragic course of action". An appeal to conscience to control breeding, however, will never work since only some will acquiesce. Instead, he argues for mutual coercion, or "definite social arrangements that will keep [something] from becoming a commons". He cites taxes as an example, since no one enjoys them, but they understand the necessity. Recognizing the necessity of something, like "abandoning the commons in breeding" is the key to finally asserting control.
This article was written long before Creative Commons came about, and even before mass use of the internet. Yet, though times have drastically changed, scholars still site Hardin's work to argue against the commons online (and more specifically Creative Commons licenses which suddenly makes this commons legal) because the sentiment found in his article still runs deep in the minds of many today. The commons seems to many a wasteful form of property and people have argued that the easy access to works, especially things like photographs that are not easily marked with a creator, will create a sort of digital overgrazing and original work will lose its value. However, it is important to remember that Hardin wrote about a finite world. The internet has created something infinite. This distinction changes the whole argument because suddenly there are fewer restrictions. However, this article remains important to the discussion of the commons because it has shaped so much of the current debate that it cannot simply be ignored.
tagged commons finite_space population_problem by kristea ...on 09-APR-09
Goldsmith, Kenneth. "If It Doesn't Exist on the Internet, It Doesn't Exist." EPC- Kenneth Goldsmith.
According to Goldsmith, "if it doesn't exist on the internet, it doesn't exist" has gone from being a hyperbole to a truism. He points out that if you can't find something on Google, including yourself, it's pretty frustrating. His argument is that academics should publish their work online with "free and unfettered access to all". For the time being, this call is only directed toward scholarly work, but Goldsmith is certain to point out that it doesn't apply to "painters, potters, printmakers, book artists or metal workers. Yet". In short, eventually the call will be for everything to exist on the internet. For the time, he argues that one major reason works should be published online is because most people don't have access to subscription services like LexusNexus. He brings up his own website, UbuWeb as an example of a site dedicated to free distribution of avant-garde work that "never really made money in the first place" and that otherwise would no longer exist. He also mentions PennSound, which is a huge open-access poetry sound archive that was given credibility as a distribution source due to its affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania, pointing out that most academics have "institutional leverage" on their side.
He continues by pointing out the benefits to scholars for placing their content on the web. Using his own experiences as a guide, he points out that though he has never made a penny from his writings, he's traveled the world with all expenses paid, gained many awards, and connected with his readers (a peer group, as he calls them). Academic blogs, he argues, offer another type of peer group in which "peer-based consensus garners credibility" and that bloggers have benefited from the feedback of their readers before sending something to print on paper. Lastly, he argues that "CDs are dead". He wasn't joking when he believed that everything not on the internet and, almost as importantly, not capable of being shared, didn't exist. He believes that models such as Netflix won't last unless they distribute files online, instead of DVDs. Even if he hasn't called for anything beside academic research online, obviously the day for other things as well isn't far off.
Though this focuses on academic research and not art, it's the basic idea of one model of commons that exists on the web. UbuWeb, the author's website, hosts tons of avante-garde work without the permission of the copyright owners (if someone complains, they take it down) that Goldsmith's is right in arguing wouldn't exist without the web. While Creative Commons will be shown to prove a powerful model for the commons to operate on, in such cases as these where there is no market value lost, the idea of a free distribution culture might have something. Goldsmith's advocacy for filing sharing and free content on the web is an idea prominent in many younger interest users today and a model that currently dominates so much of the internet (and has sparked the fight against piracy as well). However, it's important to note that Goldsmith is advocating free distribution for things that don't really make money anyway and in such a context provides a great model for the commons.