P2P Foundation

Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices




Archive for 'Copyright/IP'

Video of the Day: Copyright Is Brain Damage

photo of Guy James

Guy James
18th November 2015

The provocative title of her TEDxMaastricht talk gives some indication of where graphic artist Nina Paley is coming from. She says she has decided to remove herself from the “permission culture” of copyright altogether and simply uses any art she feels suits the current piece she is working on. This seems to me to be extremely empowering and liberating on a personal and artistic level, however I don’t see the concept of simply not recognising copyright standing up in court, which is presumably where she is going to end up having to defend her actions, if she hasn’t already. I think her point is that the more people that ignore copyright altogether, the less power it is going to ultimately have over us. However those most interested in copyright are usually not artists, but lawyers and businesspeople for whom it is a way of making money, and they are not likely to stop respecting it any time soon.

She makes the very good point that those most defensive of their own copyright are those who most insistently force their symbols into the public consciousness (reminding me of the great Sean Tejaratchi rant popularised by Banksy, “Advertising Shits In Your Head“).


Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Featured Video, Videos | No Comments »

UN Special Rapporteur: “Copyright might run counter to human rights”

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
11th November 2015


Extracted from TechDirt. You can read the full article here.

Back in March, Tim Cushing wrote about a rather remarkable report from the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, in which she warned that copyright might run counter to human rights. As if that weren’t enough, Shaheed is back with another bold attack, this time on patents. As the summary to her report puts it:

There is no human right to patent protection. The right to protection of moral and material interests cannot be used to defend patent laws that inadequately respect the right to participate in cultural life, to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, to scientific freedoms and the right to food and health and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Patents, when properly structured, may expand the options and well-being of all people by making new possibilities available. Yet, they also give patent-holders the power to deny access to others, thereby limiting or denying the public’s right of participation to science and culture. The human rights perspective demands that patents do not extend so far as to interfere with individuals’ dignity and well-being. Where patent rights and human rights are in conflict, human rights must prevail.

The report touches on many issues previously discussed here on Techdirt. For example, how pharmaceutical patents limit access to medicines by those unable to afford the high prices monopolies allow — a particularly hot topic in the light of TPP’s rules on data exclusivity for biologics. The impact of patents on seed independence is considered, and there is a warning about corporate sovereignty chapters in trade agreements, and the chilling effects they can have on the regulatory function of states and their ability to legislate in the public interest — for example, with patent laws.

Read the rest of the article here.


Posted in Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Peer Property | No Comments »

Video of the Day: Michel Bauwens & Kevin Flanagan at Idea Camp 2015.

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
8th November 2015

During the Idea Camp 2015, Vivian Paulissen, Knowledge Manager at the European Cultural Foundation hosted a conversation with Michel Bauwens and Kevin Flanagan of the P2P Foundation, about their personal interest in the Commons. Why do they dedicate their entire work and life to the cause of the Commons?

ECF’s second Idea Camp took place between 23 and 25 September. This year’s theme “Build the City” applies the principles and ethics of the commons. The Idea Camp explored how citizens and communities can get directly involved in participatory democratic processes that shape and govern our cities.


Posted in Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Featured Video, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Theory, Videos | No Comments »

Thinking about licensing

photo of Steve Herrick

Steve Herrick
5th November 2015

In essence, the problem is that Creative Commons allows people to grant others freedom, but with very specific and often mutually exclusive conditions. And that’s only sort of freedom.


delacroix-y-la-devolucionThe Indianos put all their work in the public domain. As I began to translate their books, I didn’t follow their lead, but rather, used a Creative Commons license. They didn’t say anything, and I didn’t give it any further thought. With their new Juan Pop project, however, I’ve felt the need to sit down and really think through my position on licensing.

I found a number of reasons not to use CC licenses, in spite of the thoughtful way the idea was developed. The first is the sheer complexity of the system. There are multiple steps in choosing a license, and while none of them is particularly tricky, it does lead to a wide variety of combinations of options. This allows for fine-grained control of content… in theory. The reality, and the second reason, is that people who re-use content are terrible about complying with the specifics of CC licenses. Many of them don’t know or don’t care about the differences between them. It’s not easy to find statistics on this (particularly since people who do comply with the licenses often do so by not using the content at all, leaving no record), but it is easy to find anecdotal evidence in the form of content creators complaining about it. What this means is that the CC system is very difficult to enforce.

There are also reasons not to use the specific elements of the system, even in the absence of the above problems.

The Attribution aspect is something nearly every creator wants, regardless of any other consideration. It’s such a universal expectation that in most jurisdictions, it’s considered a “moral right” resulting from the act of creation itself, not the license. This makes it redundant under CC, which doesn’t even make it an option, but includes it in every permutation of its licenses (except CC0).

The Non-Commercial option is very common. Many people don’t think it’s fair for someone else to profit from their work. (I think they overestimate the chances of that happening, but that’s a side issue.) This, however, shows a misunderstanding of what the commons is. Throughout the history of the idea of the commons, it has been the source of people’s livelihood. The transition from a physical commons to a knowledge commons should not change that. If it does, then the commons is merely an academic exercise, and not a head-on challenge to the extractive corporate economy. If we only share our hobbies, then nothing has changed, nor will it.

The No-Derivatives option, frankly, is not very popular. People can tell it’s self-defeating.

The Share-Alike option, on the other hand, is quite popular. And it’s the one that kept me using CC the longest. Even those of us who are OK with others using our content for commercial purposes find it repellent to think that those others could wall off their derived works from the commons, refusing to pass on the benefit they themselves had received. It’s such a compelling argument that the P2P Foundation is promoting a whole new license to prohibit exactly that. But, as discussed by Dave Wiley more than eight years ago, Share-Alike-licensed content can only be combined with other content with an identical CC license, which is very limiting—and that’s really just a subset of the general compatibility problems with CC-licensed content (updated various times and still complicated). This really defeats the purpose of the commons, as Wiley illustrates with another graphic. As the saying goes, the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.

In essence, the problem is that Creative Commons allows people to grant others freedom, but with very specific and often mutually exclusive conditions. And that’s only sort of freedom. Does that mean people who use CC are evil, and that I’m boycotting their content? Certainly not. It simply means I find it simplest and most effective to use the public domain (with a fallback to CC0 in jurisdictions that don’t recognize the public domain) to build the commons.

That leaves the question of free riders, meaning those who would copyright their derived works. At this point, I don’t believe that a further fragmentation of licenses that are complicated to apply and almost impossible to enforce will serve to both build the commons and prevent this problem. Of the two, my priority is the former, but I do still want to keep corporations from strip-mining the commons.

One way might be to simply ignore them and keep doing our own thing. It’s important to remember that they cannot remove anything from the public domain, nor can they copyright an idea in the public domain itself, only a work derived from it. So, if future iterations of an idea in the public domain are better than those derived works, then the gamble of having produced them will not pay off. Similarly, if small workshops make and sell the products in short runs, not bothering to copyright them, large corporations simply won’t be able to compete. Copyrights take a minimum of three months to register, and that’s enough time for P2P production to move on to something better. In fact, the threat of a copyright might actually spur innovation.

Another consideration is that corporations creating derived works doesn’t have to result from content being in the public domain or in the commons. They repeat each others’ ideas all the time, in spite of trademarks and copyrights. It’s the idea that attracts attention, not how it’s licensed.

Finally, I think our greatest defense against corporate enclosure of the commons is each other. If the commons is very active, and also very public, that will make it harder for corporations both to compete with it and to expropriate value from it.


Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Guest Post, Open Models, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Legal Dev., Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Patterns of Commoning

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
2nd November 2015

L-R: Frédéric Sultan, Anne Salmond, Tristan Copley-Smith, Soma KP and Monica Vasile

L-R: Frédéric Sultan, Anne Salmond, Tristan Copley-Smith, Soma KP and Monica Vasile

David Bollier and Silke Helfrich introduce Patterns of Commoning, a new compilation describing thriving Commons around the planet. For a brief overview, we also invite you to download (and share!) this short fact sheet.

Dear friend of the commons,

We are thrilled to announce the release of a new anthology of original essays, Patterns of Commoning, about dozens of lively, innovative commons that are pioneering exciting new forms of production, governance and ways of living.

The book, edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich of the Commons Strategies Group, is arguably the most accessible and far-ranging survey of contemporary commons in print.

PatternsCOverIt introduces readers to the commons, an ancient but rediscovered social system for creating and sharing wealth, beyond markets and the state.  Patterns of Commoning examines successful, innovative commons around the world — from community forests in India to high-tech Fab Labs in Germany, and from alternative currencies that are reviving poor neighborhoods in Kenya to Swiss irrigation systems that have lasted for hundreds of years.

A central theme that emerges is how the inner dynamics of commons can transform how we think and act.  Commoning gives us new aspirations and ways of being in the world, whether it is a theater commons in Rome or Farm Hack, the global network developing open source farm equipment. The social practices of commoning are opening up practical new possibilities for a post-capitalist future.

Patterns of Commoning was written by an illustrious group of activists, academics, journalists, technologies and project leaders from 20 countries. Contributors include such celebrated writers as Dame Anne Salmond of New Zealand, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, anthropologist Arturo Escobar and ecophilosopher Andreas Weber.

You can learn more about Patterns of Commoning at its website, http://www.patternsofcommoning.org.

You can learn more about the German edition, Die Welt der Commons Muster gemeinsamen Handelns,published by transcript Verlag, at http://band2.dieweltdercommons.de.

Copies of the 418-page softbound book can be purchased for US$15 plus shipping costs via Off the Commons Books — https://store.collectivecopies.com/store/show/0fc20 — and Amazon.com (US).

The book is the second book of a trilogy anthologies about the commons.  The first volume was The Wealth of Commons, published in 2012.  (The German version is Commons:  Für eine neue Politik jenseits von Markt und Staat).

We hope you enjoy the book!

Best regards,

David Bollier & Silke Helfrich
Patterns of Commoning


Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Book, Food and Agriculture, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Bibliography, P2P Books, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

Patterns of Commoning is Now Published!

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
30th October 2015

PatternsCOverAfter two years of working with more than 50 contributors, Silke Helfrich and I are pleased to announce that Patterns of Commoning is now available in both English and German editions. The books have just arrived back from the printer and are available from our distributor Off the Common Books and Amazon (US). You can learn more about the anthology at its website.

Patterns of Commoning is arguably the most accessible and broad-ranging survey of contemporary commons in print. It introduces readers to more than fifty notable commons from around the world and explores the inner dynamics of commoning with great sensitivity.

A primary goal of Patterns of Commoning is to show the great scope and vitality of commons initiatives around the world. There are chapters on alternative currencies and open source farm equipment, community forests and co-learning commons, theater commons and collaborative mapping, urban commons and dozens of others. Margaret Thatcher once championed neoliberal capitalism with the harsh ultimatum, “There IS no alternative!” Patterns of Commoning shows in vivid detail that there are plenty of alternatives!

As editors, Silke and I are grateful that dozens of international activists, academics and project leaders agreed to share their deep knowledge about commoning learned from their particular commons. A special set of longer essays in the book probe the personal, social and spiritual dimensions of commoning among specific groups, such as Scottish fishermen, the Maori in New Zealand, and the shantydwellers movement in South Africa. Other essays explore the new political rationality of commoning through the lens of property rights in African farmland. Other pieces explore the metaphysics of the commons and the commons as a “pluriverse” of relational worldviews. (Contents page here.)

Patterns of Commoning is a companion volume to The Wealth of Commons anthology published in 2012 (the German version, Commons: Für eine neue Politik jenseits von Markt und Staat). Once again, we are grateful to the Heinrich Böll Foundation for its unwavering support, especially from Barbara Unmüssig, President of the Böll Foundation, and Heike Löschmann, the head of the Department of International Politics.

We’re hoping the book will open up some new conversations and provoke greater media coverage of commoning. If you have any good ideas for promoting the book among Web communities, academics, activists, the press or ordinary citizens eager to learn about fresh alternatives, please let me know. I also invite you to use Facebook and Twitter to spread the word. We’re recommending use of the hashtags #patternsofcommoning, #commoning or #4thecommons.

The German edition, Die Welt der Commons: Muster Gemeinsamen Handelns was published this month by transcript Verlag; it is already attracting welcome media attention in Germany. You can learn more about the German edition and download an epub version here.

L-R: Frédéric Sultan, Anne Salmond, Tristan Copley-Smith, Soma KP and Monica Vasile

L-R: Frédéric Sultan, Anne Salmond, Tristan Copley-Smith, Soma KP and Monica Vasile

I’m especially proud of using a commons-oriented publishing model for Patterns of Commoning. We wanted to bypass the conventional publishing channels that raise prices and deliver less to authors and readers. Thanks to 32 pre-orders for hundreds of books by committed commoners, we were able to self-finance a lot of the printing costs. By working with Off the Common Books – the self-publishing arm of Levellers Press, which published The Wealth of the Commons – we are able to distribute the books directly to readers via the Web at substantial savings. The 406-page paperbook sells for $15.

Ebook versions in Kindle, Nook and epub formats will be available shortly. Bulk orders of ten copies or more can be purchased for US$10 per copy plus shipping. You can buy Patterns of Commoning and The Wealth of the Commons together at a discounted rate of US$30 by contacting Levellers Press at levellerspress1 /at/ gmail.com.

By controlling the publishing process ourselves, we are also pleased that we could use a Creative Commons BY-SA license without having to overcome a publisher’s resistance. The entire contents of Patterns of Commoning will be available later on the book’s website, just like The Wealth of the Commons.

Here’s hoping that you enjoy the many fantastic essays by the book’s talented, brilliant contributors!


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Book, Food and Agriculture, Open Content, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Bibliography, P2P Books, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Lifestyles, Peer Property, Politics, Sharing | No Comments »

The Commons Law Perspective, Open Hardware and Digital DIY

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
14th October 2015


Wouter Tebbens, from the Free Knowledge Institute, interviews our colleague David Bollier. You can find the original here.

On October 1st I had an interview with David Bollier. Given his decade long work on the commons, as researcher and activist, author of books like Viral Spiral and in particular his work on Laws and the Commons, I thought that his perspective would be meaningful for our research in the DiDIY project. In particular for our work on rights and responsibilities, but also more in general to the various workpackages that make up the project.

Bollier’s previous work on law for the commons was his book Green Governance (2013), co-authored with Burns Weston, professor of Law at the University of Iowa, on the Commons Law Project. More recently, Bollier wrote a memo “Reinventing Law for the Commons.”

That memo starts «Although it is customary for mainstream economists and politicians to consider the commons a failed management regime – the “tragedy of the commons” – it is in fact a pervasive and highly generative system for meeting people’s needs. More: commons tend to function in more culturally satisfying, ecologically responsible ways, which is more than can be said for conventional markets and government systems.«

In the context of the DiDIY project we’re exploring the legal and ethical challenges, among other dimensions, to see how these challenges could best be addressed. In particular because the rise of low-cost digital fabrication technologies and microelectronics have made it possible for people to engage in small scale (as small as 1) production of advanced goods and solutions connected to the Internet. As this new world is unfolding, we are witnessing many of the legal foundations based on technologies from years or centuries ago are being challenged. In short new legal foundations might benefit from a commons perspective.

And let’s be honest, taking the commons perspective isn’t very strange. The paradigm of the commons, and its governance models, are in the elevator again, after centuries of repression and oblivion. Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 for her lifelong research on the commons; the Internet is based on open standard protocols that are governed as a commons, while the Encyclopedia Brittanica stopped the presses in 2012, opening the way for the commons-based Wikipedia. And let’s not forget the Free Software movement (a.k.a. Open Source) that has been growing steadily over the last 30 years, so much that there’s hardly any computer user that doesn’t use any piece of it.

Also the rise of 3D printing was spurred when in 2005 the first issued patent of fused filament printing expired, and in particular because of a project called RepRap, a project that started sharing its design files and instructions under a free license. Something we can now call Open Source Hardware, which forms part of the digital commons. When we talk about low-cost digital fabrication technologies and microelectronics, RepRap and Arduino are one of the first examples that come to mind, both of which use commons governance models and free licenses.

As a matter of fact in the Knowledge Framework that we’re developing at the DiDIY project, to define what Digital DIY really is, the sharing of knowledge is considered foundational for what Digital DIY really is about. And we acknowledge that while not all Digital DIYnecessarily has to be adhere to open source principles, it certainly is often the case.

The questions that we have refer to what norms can we develop to address the challenges. Activities like engaging in self-repair may challenge various exclusive rights like patents. We agree that fair use exemptions may apply and we might need to reclaim the right to repair (see my post here). But however intuitive this claim, it doesn’t really solve the bigger question of protecting the commons – in this case the hardware design commons.

Says David: «I have found that one of the biggest problems in “digital law” is “jumping the tracks” of the conventional policy discourse — a move that is essential in developing a richer commons-based orientation and logic. It is a difficult task because mainstream policy considers its categories of discussion to be self-evident and non-controversial (as it quietly limits the scope of debate). Commoning, collective “property” and “social norms as law,” are generally “incomprehensible” to the guardians of state law, which is not an accident. State law wants to focus on individual property rights, market exchange and state regulatory authority — and not a reformulation of governance and individual sovereignty.

To develop a functional commons law therefore requires one to “go meta” — to step outside of the existing foundational structures and discourse, and to develop a different language and even ask “what is law?”

I think that we commoners — free culture, open design, open source hackers and countless others — need to self-consciously imagine and assert a new body of “law” that is based not only on conventional state law but also on social norms and architectures of code. In short, a new typology of law itself. (Old-style law will never make an adequate account of the fluid, informal and dynamic social “rules” that any community will negotiate and embrace as its unwritten ethic.)»

While the digital commons uses a smart hack – of copyright-based licenses that enable the sharing based on exclusive copyrights, such as the copyleft GPL – David expresses also criticism on the libertarian position of many of the free/open leaders. «Here is where the commons discourse may help sharpen the implications of the two worlds — e.g., libertarian freedom tends to devolve into capitalist centralization and consolidation, as we’ve seen on the Internet; commoning tends to enshrine a more durable form of “freedom.” Can commoners put forth a strong counter-narrative along these lines?»

David presents in his memo about 60 projects that illustrate the infrastructure and organisational prototypes that are being formed to lay the foundations of such new commons oriented society. The examples are set forth in a wiki at the Commons Transition Plan website. We discuss some of the more important ones.

Online collaborative communities

Digital platforms are also incubating some innovative new organizational forms. One of the

most intriguing is the Open Value Network (OVN), which has been described as an “operating system for a new kind of organization” and a “pilot project for the new economy.” OVNs consist of digital platforms that facilitate new modes of open, decentralized and self-organized social governance, production and livelihoods.

Two of the leading OVN projects, Sensorica and Enspiral, are organized in ways that let anyone to contribute to the project, and be rewarded based on their contributions, as measured by actual contributions, experience and other collectively determined criteria.

Unlike “conventional commons” that tend to eschew market-based activity, open value networks have no reservations about engaging with markets; OVNs simply wish to maintain their organizational and cultural integrity as commons-based peer producers. This means open, horizontal and large-scale cooperation and coordination; responsible stewardship of the shared wealth and assets while allowing individual access, use, authorship and ownership of resources “where appropriate”; careful accounting of individual “inputs and outcomes” via a common ledger system; and the distribution of fair rewards based on individual contributions to the project.

Some notable keywords for describing OVNs: equipotentiality, anti-credentialism, self-selection, communal validation and holoptism.

Sensori.ca is in particular an interesting case for DiDIY, as it’s community/business performs research and development of open source hardware in sensor systems.

Open Cooperatives

Sometimes the convergence is new territory to both parties: digital commons trying to protect their shared resources are starting to engage with the co-operative movement in trying to develop new organizational models for cooperatives – “open co-operatives.” One example is the «omni-commons» network of the Cooperative Integral Catalana (CIC), which sees itself as a strategic

intermediary for commoners in dealing with state taxes and regulations and with complex legal and bureaucratic issues. CIC also provides financial support to such enterprises. Some CIC members and other partners are now launching FairCoop and FairCoin in an audacious attempt to invent a new global financial system. Las Indias, rooted in the Basque Country is another example, which has a guild-like structure producing digital commons, allowing new members to work in their network of cooperatives after an initial acquaintance period.

Michel Bauwens, the Belgian peer-to-peer theorist and co-founder of the Foundation for P2P Alternatives, who partners with Bollier in the Commons Strategy Group, has built a strategic alliance with CIC and FairCoop. Bauwens considers crucial the building up of political and economic structures that empower people to make a living participating in the commons (see video interview).

Blockchain based distributed applications

Blockchain technologies such as pioneered by Bitcoin are now laying the foundations for really decentralised network based infraestructures. «Although Bitcoin itself has been designed to serve familiar capitalist functions (tax avoidance, private accumulation through speculation), the blockchain ledger is significant because it can enable highly reliable, versatile forms of collective action on open networks.» French-Italian researcher Primavera Di Filippi is investigating the concept of “governance-by-design” as it relates to online distributed architectures at Harvard Law School. One of her interests is a project called Ethereum. This is a blockchain based distributed platform, run by its peers, on top of which one can run distributed applications, SmartContracts and more. When it was crowdfunded in 2014 I was among the first to participate in its so called «genesis sale», precisely because the interesting new opportunities – and challenges – it promises to bring. By taking out intermediaries and trusted third parties it promises to unleash so much value.

One of the new concepts is Smart Contracts which are coded and computer executed contracts. According to the agreed smart contract, when certain conditions are met, it will execute the agreed-upon actions, for example, pay the agreed-upon amount when a product is handed over to the buyer, upon confirmation by the shipping company. Middlemen like eBay could be bypassed through this so called «trustless» technology – because of the decentralised blockchain. A more interesting example is cited by David. «Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt has proposed using blockchain technology to create distributed networks of solar power on residential houses coordinated as commons. The ledger would keep track of how much energy a given homeowner generates and shares with others, and consumes. In effect the system would enable the efficient organization of decentralized solar grids and a “green currency” that could serve as a medium of exchange within solar microgrids or networks, helping to propel adoption of solar panels.»1 Also electronic voting could be done in a safe and auditable way, on top of such distributed ledger.

A recently released report suggests that blockchain technology could provide a critical infrastructure for building what are called “distributed collaborative organizations” (sometimes “distributed autonomous organizations”). These are essentially self-organized online commons. A DCO could use blockchain technology to give its members specified rights within the organization, which could be managed and guaranteed by the blockchain. This set of rights, in turn, can be linked to the conventional legal system to make those rights legally cognizable.»

Commons based licenses

The free licenses as pioneered by the Free Software movement, flipping «all rights reserved» into «all rights reversed», based on current copyright legislation have been used in virtually all domains of knowledge by now. From software, to data, content of all forms, learning materials, hardware designs and diagrams etc. Typically free/open licenses guarantee the existence of four freedoms, 1) to use for any purpose, 2) to study how it works and adapt it to your needs, 3) to copy and share, and 4) to distribute modified versions. These licenses are arguably the basis for the commons governance in collaborative peer production communities generating their commons resources.

However, as David points out, we have seen how major companies, from IBM to Google and Facebook simply exploit these digital commons to have free of charge resources to make their corporate controlled platforms more valuable. Bauwens and the P2P Foundation consider that the commoners don’t protect their self-built resources well enough and have been working on so called «commons reciprocity licenses». Dimitry Kleiner introduced in an essay published in 2007 the first of this kind of license, the CopyFarLeft, which basically intends to protect the commons from market appropriation by non-commoners. In short, it is a modified CC BY-NC-SA license that allows commercial usage only when 1) You may exercise the rights granted in Section 3 for commercial purposes only if:

  • you are a worker-owned business or worker-owned collective; and
  • all financial gain, surplus, profits and benefits produced by the business or collective are distributed among the worker-owners

I remember that when FKI co-organised the Free Culture Forum in 2009 we debated with Kleiner the possible implications of such license. The Free Software and the Free Culture movements have not adopted the suggested license, probably because a large part of their constituency are not «worker-owners» clause and therefore they would fall out of that commons.

Kleiner and Bauwens worked together to draft a next version, the Peer Production License (PPL). This kind of licenses makes sense for worker-owner collectives willing to produce digital commons, where there is no need to be compatible with existing types of free/open digital commons, such as Wikipedia. Otherwise license incompatibility will occur, which can only be solved if there is political will inside the communities to change license conditions. Remember that Wikipedia was initially licensed under the GNU FDL, and only after the FSF changed the FDL’s conditions through a new version, could the Wikipedia be double licensed also under the CC BY SA license.

A Commons Based Reciprocity License (CBRL) could be an instrument for designers and developers to share their works while assuring commercial rights for the community. It can work on a small scale. But in order to avoid incompatibilities, I would argue, that it could work on a much bigger scale, once global communities have global economic structures, such as the open cooperatives like FairCoop is setting up. Then commercial benefits could be divided among the participating members according to the formulas used by an Open Value Network. Then I can foresee viral effects taking place as we have seen in the usual copyleft licenses underpinning large parts of the Free Software ecosystem.

Network effect and Antitrust legislation

«Many have observed», says David, «that digital networks are subject to the so-called “power law”, in which a handful of players dominate a given online-space» In other words, the network effect applies. With the increase of the number of users or nodes in the network, the value created rises exponentially. This feature explains why most people still use a particular kind of Office suite on their PCs, not because it’s the best or has an especially high value for money compared to other Free Software variants. This is also the reason why the EC brought a case against Microsoft for its dominant position and finally ordered it to offer its operating system without Windows Mediaplayer (so-called unbundling), making server protocol information available and imposing several fines totalling 1.637 million Euro. EC Commissioner Neelie Kroes stated: «The Commission must do its part…..It must not rely on one vendor, it must not accept closed standards, and it must refuse to become locked into a particular technology – jeopardizing maintenance of full control over the information in its possession».

What can be inferred from this example is that the network effects in digital networks can facilitate first movers to dominate a market against the interest of the public. Antitrust or competition laws can and should be helpful in restoring the market. We should observe that digital networks of an open nature, using Open Standards and Free Software don’t have this problem, as any party can participate in the market on equal conditions (notice the Internet Protocols, that can be implemented by anyone). David suggests that new types of antitrust legal doctrines should be developed to, for example, convert dominant platforms into a public utility. Facebook could be a candidate for that, possibly Twitter and many others. Possibly this is an idea we should keep in mind for the Internet of Things, where many proprietary standards are evolving that have the potential to stiffle competition and diversified innovation. We can then imagine that antitrust legislation might be used to force owners of dominant protocols to standardise them as Open Standards, leveling the playing field for any actor.

Unconditional Basic Income

While more and more people engage in contributing to the digital commons and access to knowledge in general is exponentially rising, this doesn’t necessarily generate an income for them. Sure, participants in the Free Software ecosystem have shown that they can make a living providing value added services in the market (such as training, consultancy, custom-made development etc). But Wikipedians don’t typically have that possibility. Additionally, when technological innovations make production more efficient, less labour is needed, and more unemployment results. Basic Income schemes are one of the ways to solve this and are experimented with in a growing number of places.

As an American, David is envious of Europe for its initiatives in this area. However, the first example is the Alaska Permanent Fund, a state-chartered trust that is authorized to collect, manage and distribute revenues from oil drilled on state land, on behalf of Alaska residents. Each household gets a dividend of between $1,000 to $2,000 per year from corporations that extract oil on Alaska state lands. It is still unclear what the best way forward will be, to organise this at the local level, nationally, globally, by the state or by communities and where exactly the funds for such dividend could come from. Therefore it is interesting to see various different models being experimented with these days. Rather different is the openUDC project (UDC stands for Universal Dividend Currency), which generates an equal monthly dividend for each member from a slow increase of the monetary mass.

We may conclude that our society is in transformation on virtually all fronts. New ways of producing value come with new organisational models and need a new social contract, new structures of norms and new laws. While David focuses more at the social side, a person like Jeremy Rifkin reaches similar conclusions from economic analysis. Rifkin argues in his latest book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society that people and things will be connected in one global Internet of Things, driving marginal costs down to zero, and spawning a hybrid economy partially capitalist, partially commons. Therefore commons laws will become more important, on the one hand based in community norms and governance systems and on the other, creative hacks of law synchronised with the existing legal system.

I’ll have to stop here for now, but recommend anyone to read David Bollier’s memo “Reinventing Law for the Commons.”

1Reed E. Hundt, Jeffrey Schub and Joseph R. Schottenfeld, “Green Coins: Using Digital Currency to Build the New Power Platform,” in Clippinger and Bollier, From Bitcoin to Burning Man and

Beyond , available at https://idcubed.org/chapter-10-green-coins-using-digital-currency-build-new-power-platform.


Posted in Activism, Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Guest Post, Open Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Movements, P2P Subjectivity, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

The Commons Strategies Group in Berlin: 800 Years of Commoning

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
12th October 2015


A summary from the Commons Strategies Group recent event in Berlin. Originally published in the Böll Foundation website.

Two noted activists, David Bollier and Michel Bauwens of the Commons Strategies Group/P2P Foundation, discussed the role of the commons and peer to peer production in meeting people’s needs and the many enclosures of the commons that are abridging their fundamental rights on September 8th 2015 in Berlin.

The two talks also describe a wide variety of legal innovations that commoners are inventing to fulfill the principles of Magna Carta and build a new socio-economic order by constituting new rules and norms for their common production, governance and property modalities. We have documented their lectures and the discussion:

POC21: Eco-hacking a Fossil-Free, Collaborative Future

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
8th October 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 4.39.45 PM-570x322

At the upcoming COP Summit in Paris (the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), no one expects the world’s governments to make serious headway against global climate change. Neoliberal-obsessed governments are more concerned with propping up collapsing capitalist structures than in reducing carbon emissions (which have doubled over the past generation).  Corporations are more intent on preserving their market share and investors in preserving their net worth than in entertaining an environmentally benign economic paradigm shift.  We can be sure, following COP21, however, that world leaders will declare the event a success and let loose their own copious emissions of PR blather.

Let’s face it – we’re more or less on our own.  The impetus for change has to come from the bottom and the local.  Which brings me to the inspirational work of POC21 – Proof of Concept 21 – which stands for “a proof of concept that the future we need can be built with our own hands.” For five weeks – August 15 to September 20 – more than 100 makers, designers, engineers, scientists and geeks converged on Château de Millemont, an ancient castle near Paris.  Their mission:  to work together in developing prototype machines that could radically reduce our dependence on carbon fuels.

The idea of POC21 is to invent inexpensive, modular household devices, farm tools, energy systems and other appropriate technologies that can be replicated cheaply, repaired easily and copied and shared by anyone. “Imagine a new breed of open source products available in your neighborhood,” POC organizers have announced. “This is our vision.”

Among the tools they have in mind:  portable solar power systems, low-waste self-filtering showers, DIY resource-sufficient homes, urban food production systems, affordable electric bicycles and human-powered agricultural machines.  From nearly 200 proposed projects, the POC21 organizers selected twelve prototypes to be developed during the innovation camp.

Consider the Bicitractor project:

Regular tractors do not go well with organic farms. They are expensive and they pollute. They force farmers to take loans from banks and depend on big oil. Bicitractor on the other hand is a small pedal-powered tractor built so small and midsized farms can grow our food without polluting. Each tractor can use multiple modules with different tools for pronging, drilling, weeding. In addition to that, its open source, efficient, and really affordable to build.

Or consider Faircap, a portable antibacterial water filter that can screw on to the top of any plastic bottle, allowing people to safely drink from a stream or pond. Or Sunzilla, a diesel generator without the diesel, that uses solar photovoltaic and can be easily to installed by anyone. Another POC21 project is a $30 wind turbine that uses “upcycled” parts to generate electrical current at 1 kW in a 60 km/h wind.  Anyone can assemble it with a few common hand tools.

The point of all these prototypes is to meet real needs in ways that get beyond the producer/consumer dualism and the unsustainable waste of current business models. The goal is to get beyond planned obsolescence and strict patents and copyrights that prevent people from improving and freely disseminating the tech. By producing things that are durable, versatile, inexpensive, locally sourceable and environmentally benign, the POC21 systems seeks to build basic tools for a new sort of economy.

Convened by Ouishare and Open State, POC21 fashioned itself as an “innovation camp” to make “open-source, sustainable products the new normal.” Here is a video trailer for POC21, “The World We Need.” And here is a story about the project in The Guardian, by Tristan Copley-Smith.

It’s heroic that eco-geeks are stepping up to pioneer new open-source hardware that, if replicated widely, could have enormous impact. But it’s also sad that prevailing institutions of government and business are so indifferent or hostile to exploring paradigm-shifting technologies. Planet-saving innovation devolves to hackers, dismissed as marginal until they’re not. So COP21 delegates will broker the terms of continued planetary decline; POC21 will push forward some intriguing here-and-now solutions.


Posted in Activism, Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Movement, Networks, Open Content, Open Hardware and Design, Open Innovation, Open Standards, Original Content, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Ecology, P2P Energy, P2P Lifestyles, P2P Manufacturing, P2P Research, P2P Technology, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

If Thomas Edison was Alive Today, The US would Ban Electricity to Protect Lantern Makers

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
6th October 2015


John Robb, writing for HomeFree America, examines the dangers of state-enfoced monopolies.

There’s a growing majority of business owners in the US who would rather cheat that compete (despite what you might be thinking, it wasn’t always this way in the US).

Business owners willing to bribe a politician in order to protect their company from competition.

Most recently, we’ve seen Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, New Mexico, and Iowa block Tesla Motors, the electric car company, from selling directly to customers in the state.

In New Jersey’s case, the Republican governor, Chris Christie, claimed he was taking this action in order to protect consumers from the perils of direct sales.  The result was legislation that dictated that all cars must be sold through dealer networks.

“This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation…” New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie’s spokesman.

It was obvious why New Jersey did this.

Tesla is building a revolutionary product.

It’s not revolutionary because it is a well designed and reliable car (it’s has topped the ratings on Consumer Reports in the past).

Its revolutionary because it greatly improves the economics of driving. First off, it’s a fully electric car, not a hybrid car that uses gasoline and electricity.

This means it costs less to drive, a lot less. Based on current gasoline and electricity prices, it costs 90 percent less to run an electric car than it does a gasoline car. That’s an important savings for every American household.

It turns refueling from $70 weekly (or biweekly) visit to the local gas station into a $7 event. It’s a savings that could easily provide tens of thousands of dollars in savings to the owner over the life of the car (a friend of mine who owns a Tesla, saved $6,000 in fuel costs in the first year of ownership).

However, that savings is not the improvement that got it into trouble in New Jersey. Tesla is also trying to improve the economics of maintaining cars by changing how we buy them.

Here’s how the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, explains it:

“I have made it a principle within Tesla that we should never attempt to make servicing a profit center. It does not seem right to me that companies try to make a profit off customers when their product breaks.” Elon Musk, the Chairman and CEO of Tesla, in a letter to New Jersey.

From this statement alone, it’s easy to see the influence of the American Way on the decision making going on at Tesla.

Musk is driving his company forward based on the force of moral conviction and a belief in a vision of a better future for all Americans.

To make this future a reality, Tesla sells its cars directly to the customer to cut out the costs of the dealer network. The company can do this because since it doesn’t need a dealer repair network to keep its cars running. Electric cars don’t have spark plugs, belts, oil filters, and air filters that need constant replacement.

Tesla can diagnose many problems remotely and can often fix them by using updates, patches, and improvements sent over the air automatically to the car.

This is what set off alarm bells in New Jersey. Tesla’s approach to selling cars is clearly the future of the automobile industry and the car dealers know it.

So what happened?  Rather than innovating on ways to build a better future for themselves and their customers, these dealers opted to use clever legal reasoning to rig the game in their favor.

In this case, they campaigned for legal protection from the government based on an outdated state law. The type of protection that makes it possible for them to a profit at the expense of almost every other American.

This corruption isn’t isolated.

Just a few years ago, the financial industry became so corrupt, it led to a global financial disaster. This wasn’t any ordinary market crash. It was a financial disaster so big that it impoverished millions of American families.

Despite the severity, the bankers involved were not punished.  Worse, these banks have received trillions in subsidies from the Federal reserve since the crisis.

Unfortunately, this is yet another sign that bureaucracy and corruption in the US has become so severe, it’s very clear why the middle class that built the modern world is dying.


Posted in Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Open Hardware and Design, Open Models, Open Standards, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »