Commons-based knowledge production? Does this exclude businesses?


Largely this means knowledge production the results of which are released under freedom respecting terms; by definition any such knowledge is in the commons, available for anyone to use without permission or rent payment.

Another dimension is knowledge production which does not depend on freedom infringing regimes. These two dimensions are not identical: much knowledge production which does not depend on freedom infringing regimes is not explicitly released into the commons, while some that is released into the commons might yet depend on freedom infringing regimes (e.g., works available under both free and proprietary terms, as in the case of “proprietary relicensing”).

A third dimension: how strongly does production rely on freedom? In the case of a mass collaboration, a freedom respecting regime may be necessary. But a centralized producer can release works into the commons as well, without strongly depending on freedom.

Fourth: where does respecting freedom fit in the ordering of the producer’s goals? Some projects (e.g., Wikipedia and GNU) are explicitly organized around producing free knowledge; for others freedom may be a tactic for realizing some other objective, and thus potentially transient.

None of these dimensions are absolute, nor do they exclude anyone, including purely profit-maximizing businesses. At the same time each dimension is important, and other things being equal, it is good if more production is explicitly contributed to the commons, does not depend on freedom infringing regimes, does depend on freedom, and is organized in a way and has building commons as a top goal. The more commons-oriented production is, the stronger the interest group for promoting and protecting freedom respecting regimes. Although distributed and decentralized production is great, there is a high probability that huge organizations, many of them businesses, will continue to dominate many kinds of knowledge production. As such it it crucial that such organizations are included in commons-based production. Additional commons commitment mechanisms for such organizations will be an important area of research and experimentation.

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