If one thing has become clear since the financial collapse of 2008, it is that some privileged players were abusing the system for their private, competitive advantage. They were, in the language of the commons, free riders. They could milk the system for unfair profits at the expense of everyone else.
As more of daily life moves to the Internet, the political implications of software design become more apparent. A case is point: the Russian government's practice of seizing computers from various citizen advocacy groups because they allegedly contain "pirated" Microsoft software.
The gift economy is alive and global among an improbable network of "Couchsurfers" who stay in strangers’ homes when traveling. The idea got its start when Casey Fenton impulsively booked a flight to Iceland because of a cheap online airfare, and then realized that he didn’t know anyone there and had no idea what to do there.
So he found a list of email addresses for students at the University of Iceland in Rejkevik, and sent out emails asking if he could crash with them on their couches. He got lots of invitations and had a fantastic weekend with utter strangers.
Why has the international community been unable to bring the full range of commons issues and their representatives into strategic discussions? James Quilligan tackles this question in the spring/summer 2010 issue of Kosmos magazine, "the journal for world citizens creating the new civilization."
Four years ago, the international press sent up red flares when the President of Boliva, Evo Morales, announced that he would reclaim his country’s natural resources for the benefit of Bolivians. As I wrote at the time, most press coverage took the “skeptical and fearful perspective of foreign investors, who consider themselves the rightful beneficiaries of Bolivia’s natural wealth. ‘Dammit!’ goes the subtext.
The public domain — long a stepchild in the fierce politics of copyright law — is finally starting to come into its own. A diverse array of individuals and organizations associated with COMMUNIA, the European “thematic network” on the digital public domain, have issued a major manifesto explaining the importance of the public domain to democratic culture.
A sweeping international treaty to regulate how knowledge and creativity may flow on the Internet is now being negotiated. Haven’t heard of it? Funny thing, that’s exactly what the backers of the treaty want. The film, music, publishing and information industries don’t want a public debate about the issues or an open debate in Congress. So they have been working hand-in-glove with the U.S. Trade Representative to move U.S. policymaking offshore and throw a dark cloak of secrecy around everything. The next stop: draconian penalties for anyone who is accused of violating copyright law.
As the world attention converges on Copenhagen climate summit, a little-mentioned issue is the proper role of patents in encouraging the development of emissions-free energy technologies. Large tech companies like to claim that they need broad patents to encourage their investment in innovative new technologies. And they are poised to make a fortune off of selling patent licenses for new "green technologies" designed to abate carbon emissions.