Knowledge Commons

Elinor Ostrom, with Oliver Williamson, won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009 because she demonstrated that regular folks like you and I can create and self-govern a commons in a sustainable and equitable

Federated Wiki is a Knowledge Commons. The creators of Federated Wiki Dream Big.

Here's a formal Call for Submissions if you have a hankering to write for us. Carol Stimmel and I already have a contract in hand from Taylor & Francis Group of CRC Press, so this will be published as a real ink-on-paper-with-binding book.

We've seen in the world of free/libre open-source software that it is possible to create value and utility through cooperative enterprise and that sharing knowledge, rather than hoarding it and suing for its ownership, raises the level for everyone with a desire to create. We wonder if corporate culture, "intellectual property" laws, and the patent system are actually holding back progress.

This is not to deny that individuals and small entities should not have protection against predation from enterprises with nothing more than large wallets and battalions of lawyers, aka patent trolls, or indeed from any predatory outfit that wishes to build from theft of the work of inspired people. But when it is possible to legally suppress valuable knowledge, particularly when that knowledge still requires a lot of work to express into something useful, aren't we all losing?

For example, if a pharmaceutical company, in order to protect its own brand of a particular product, is able to suppress or purchase license for a better, competing formula and keep it from development and off the market, what is the moral justification? There is, of course, the money involved, right? That pharma company may have invested billions of dollars to get their product through its FDA trials and then the marketing gauntlet to make it available. But doesn't this conflict argue for a different way of handling knowledge?

After all, an idea or a design are useless until they are manifest in the physical plane. Everyone has a great idea for a novel, a movie, an invention, a song. But until I write that novel, produce that screenplay, build that invention, or compose and perform that song, it's essentially nothing. It is the expression of the impulse, not the impulse, that has value for others.

Naturally, there are many complex issues to deal with.

Are Standards Sufficient and supplant the need for a commons?