Copyrights enable from a rights perspective, while patents exclude. Copyrights are relatively international while patents are nationally defined. Very few people have the capacity to practice a complex technology, while many have the capacity to take and share a photo, edit Wikipedia, or write code (even though the vast majority of people do none of those things, the math works out because of the sheer number of people theoretically capable of doing them).
Marco Fioretti has an interesting interview with John Wilbank focusing on licensing and other difficulties for non-digital commons, where John announces an upcoming book on the issue.
Excerpt from the interview, which you should read in full here:
“For intermediate stuff like open source hardware, it’s interesting. This is where safety comes in. It’s one thing to make my own LEDs, but another thing to make my own car or pharmaceuticals.
The complexity and power of modern manufacturing systems is bringing the capacity for user-driven innovation to precisely these sorts of knowledge products, but we don’t have the sort of checks and balances in these products that we have in software.
Stop: What do you mean, exactly?
Wilbank: Software source code gets checked into repositories, and if it doesn’t run, it gets edited and re-compiled (if there are enough interested coders!). We haven’t yet developed the social systems around more complex, non digital products, although the Open Hardware folks are well on their way – check out Adafruit for an example of a robust hacker community, one that exists in full bloom, without a lot of stress over Intellectual Property.
Stop: Which obstacles do you see in these field?
Wilbank: We need to encourage these communities to develop, because they are the best way to encode good knowledge into products. But when we are talking about cars and pharmaceuticals, we have safety regulations for a reason, at least in theory. User-driven creation of those kinds of products is going to trigger some antibodies in the system, and we have to be ready for that with plausible explanations, and, most important, robust communities of users.”