Digital commons (economics)
The digital commons are a form of commons involving the distribution and communial ownership of informational resources and technology. Resources are typically designed to be used by the community by which they are created. Examples of the digital commons include wikis, open-source software, and open-source licensing. The distintion between digital commons and other digital resources is that the community of people building them can intervene in the governing of their interaction processes and of their shared resources.
The digital commons provides the community with free and easy to access information. Typical, information created in the digital commons is designed to stay in the digital commons, thought various forms of licensing, including the GNU General Public License and various Creative Commons licenses.
One of the first examples of digital commons is the Free Software movement, founded in the 1980s by Richard Stallman as an organized attempt to create a digital software commons. Inspired by the 70s programmer culture of improving software through mutual help, Stallman's movement was designed to encourage the use and distribution of free software.
To prevent the misuse of software created by the movement, Stallman founded the GNU General Public License. Free software released under this license, even if it's improved or modified, must also be released under the same license, ensuring the software stays in the digital commons, free to use.
Today the digital commons takes the form of the internet. With the internet comes radical new ways to share information and software, enabling the rapid growth of the digital commons to the level enjoyed today. People can share their software, photos, general information, and ideas extremely easily due to the digital commons.
Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization that provides many free copyright-licenses for contributors to the digital commons to license their work with. Creative Commons is focused on the expansion of flexible copyright. For example, Flickr, a popular image sharing website, provides access to hundreds of millions of Creative Commons licensed images, freely available within the digital commons.
Creators of content in the digital commons can choose a Creative Commons license under which to share their works, alerting others to the ways in which the creator wishes their work to be shared. Typically, Creative Commons licenses are used to restrict the work to non-commercial use.
Wikis (like Wikipedia) are a huge contribution to the digital commons, serving information while allowing members of the community to create and edit content. Through wikis, knowledge can be pooled and compiled, generating a wealth of information from which the community can draw.
Public Software Repositories
Following in the spirit of the Free Software movement, public software repositories are a system in which communities can work together on open-source software projects, typically through version control systems such as Git and Subversion. Public software repositories allow for individuals make contributions to the same project, allowing the project to grow bigger than the sum of its parts. A popular example of a public software repository is GitHub.
- Stadler, Felix. Digital Commons: A dictionary entry. http://felix.openflows.com/node/137. 22 April 2010.
- Fuster Morell, M. (2010, p. 5). Dissertation: Governance of online creation communities: Provision of infrastructure for the building of digital commons. http://www.onlinecreation.info/?page_id=338
- Bollier, David. Viral Spiral. How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own. New York, London, New Press http://www.learcenter.org/pdf/ViralSpiral.pdf, 2008
- Ghosh, Rishab Aiyer. CODE: Collaborative Ownership and the Digital Economy. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2006
- Walljasper, Jay. All That We Share: How to save the Economy, the Environment, the Internet, Democracy, Our Communities, and Everything Else That Belongs to All of Us. New York: New, 2010.