World Transformation: Battle for the Commons
 Battle for the Commons
26 Apr 2004 @ 07:36, by ming

From Ming the Mechanic: Howard Rheingold at SmartMobs:
"I have come to believe that new understandings of cooperation and collective action are emerging in a dozen different fields, with implications far beyond the "technologies of cooperation" that enable smart mobs. I am embarking on a project with The Institute for the Future to map and catalyze a broad interdisciplinary study of cooperation and collective action. This PDF (a preprint from IFTF's latest Ten Year Forecast) highlights some of the issues near and dear to smartmobbers, but also looks beyond the horizons of the work I did in Smart Mobs to sketch out the broader landscape we are beginning to explore. This is an ambitious project and we are looking for foundation or angel funding or corporate funding. If you are an angel or a foundation or a corporation who understands what we are getting at, contact me for a more detailed proposal.

Commons foster innovation. Consider the Internet: at its core, it’s a public good. Anyone who follows the technical protocols can use it. But it’s also a source of commercial innovation and wealth. Tim Berners-Lee did not have to ask permission or pay a fee to launch the World Wide Web. The founders of Amazon and Yahoo! became billionaires through their use of the Internet commons to create new kinds of private property.

The literature of science is also a commons. Once the law of gravity or the antibiotic property of penicillin mold was discovered, people were free to open ski resorts or start pharmaceutical companies. But Newton’s equation and Fleming’s discovery entered the public domain—to benefit humankind and enable others to build on their discoveries for both private and public interest. control the emerging innovation commons.

Large content distributors have stretched copyright laws into territory that formerly was held in the public domain. Broadband carriers are seeking permission to control the content of the data that moves through their parts of the Internet. Incumbent license holders in the TV and radio frequencies are encouraging the Federal Communications Commission to maintain 1920s-style regulation over the new wireless spectrum (although treating it as a commons instead of private property could potentially enable millions more broadcasters than today—with much more innovative programming and services).
Yep, very important battle. Increasingly, and more and more openly, a very small percentage of the population are very actively trying to keep the rest of us from sharing, cooperating, collaborating and taking collective action. By pretending they own most of the ways we might think of doing so.

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