Collaborative Ownership and the Digital Economy

ISBN 9780262256247
358 pp.
February 2007

Content Publisher
The MIT Press


Collaborative Ownership and the Digital Economy

Open source software is considered by many to be a novelty and the open source movement a revolution. Yet the collaborative creation of knowledge has gone on for as long as humans have been able to communicate. CODE looks at the collaborative model of creativity—with examples ranging from collective ownership in indigenous societies to free software, academic science, and the human genome project—and finds it an alternative to proprietary frameworks for creativity based on strong intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights, argues Rishab Ghosh in his introduction, were ostensibly developed to increase creativity; but today, policy decisions that treat knowledge and art as if they were physical forms of property actually threaten to decrease creativity, limit public access to creativity, and discourage collaborative creativity. “Newton should have had to pay a license fee before being allowed even to see how tall the ‘shoulders of giants’ were, let alone to stand upon them,” he writes. The contributors to CODE, from such diverse fields as economics, anthropology, law, and software development, examine collaborative creativity from a variety of perspectives, looking at new and old forms of creative collaboration and the mechanisms emerging to study them. Discussing the philosophically resonant issues of ownership, property, and the commons, they ask if the increasing application of the language of property rights to knowledge and creativity constitutes a second enclosure movement—or if the worldwide acclaim for free software signifies a renaissance of the commons. Two concluding chapters offer concrete possibilities for both alternatives, with one proposing the establishment of “positive intellectual rights” to information and another issuing a warning against the threats to networked knowledge posed by globalization.


  1. Series Foreword
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. Why Collaboration Is Important (Again)

    Rishab Aiyer Ghosh

  4. I. Creativity and Domains of Collaboration
  5. 2. Imagined Collectivities and Multiple Authorship

    Marilyn Strathern

  6. 3. Modes of Creativity and the Register of Ownership

    James Leach

  7. 4. Some Properties of Culture and Persons

    Fred Myers

  8. 5. Square Pegs in Round Holes? Cultural Production, Intellectual Property Frameworks, and Discourses of Power

    Boatema Boateng

  9. 6. Who Got Left Out of the Property Grab Again? Oral Traditions, Indigenous Rights, and Valuable Old Knowledge

    Anthony Seeger

  10. 7. From Keeping “Nature’s Secrets” to the Institutionalization of “Open Science”

    Paul A. David

  11. II. Mechanisms for Collaboration
  12. 8. Benefit Sharing: Experiments in Governance

    Cori Hayden

  13. 9. Trust among the Algorithms: Ownership, Identity, and the Collaborative Stewardship of Information

    Christopher Kelty

  14. 10. Cooking-Pot Markets and Balanced Value Flows

    Rishab Aiyer Ghosh

  15. 11. Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm

    Yochai Benkler

  16. 12. Paying for Public Goods

    James Love and Tim Hubbard

  17. III. Ownership, Property, and the Commons
  18. 13. Fencing Off Ideas: Enclosure and the Disappearance of the Public Domain

    James Boyle

  19. 14. A Renaissance of the Commons: How the New Sciences and Internet are Framing a New Global Identity and Order

    John Clippinger and David Bollier

  20. 15. Positive Intellectual Rights and Information Exchanges

    Philippe Aigrain

  21. 16. Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks

    Richard Stallman

  22. Contributors
  23. Index