The larger lesson of this chapter is that all three branches of the commons — nature,
community, and culture — are under similar assault from corporations,
and all need to be fortified. The means of fortification will vary with the
particular commons. When commons are scarce or threatened, we ought to limit
aggregate use, assign property rights to trusts, and charge market prices
to users. When commons are limitless (like culture, the Internet, and potentially
the airwaves), our challenge is the opposite: to provide the greatest benefit
to the greatest number at the lowest cost. To create scarcity where it doesn’t
need to exist diminishes rather than enlarges our well-being.
In both limited and unlimited commons, corporate and commons algorithms
clash. In limited commons, the corporate algorithm says: use as much as you
can as quickly as you can, because if you don’t, someone else will.
The commons algorithm, by contrast, says: preserve the asset for future generations,
enhance it whenever possible, and live off income rather than principal.
In unlimited commons, the corporate algorithm says: restrict use and charge
what the market will bear. The commons algorithm, by contrast, says: the
more users the merrier, and the cheaper the better. In both situations, the
commons algorithm conflicts head-on with the corporate one, and that’s
just fine. Indeed, it’s precisely the point.
Commons algorithms need to be unleashed in real-time markets, where they
can duke it out with their corporate counterparts. Managers in each sector
will know what to do, and the public will know what to expect. If corporations
keep winning, then add more property to the commons. Eventually, we’ll
get the best of both worlds, and when there’s conflict, more balanced
outcomes than we get today. We’ll also gain clarity about the real
costs of current practices.
After we fortify, we should enhance; just as we take from the commons, so
should we give back. Art and music can be reproduced by corporations, but
they don’t come from corporations; they come from the commons. Folk
music, country music, jazz, blues, garage bands — these are the roots
of our musical heritage. We must nourish the soil in which these roots grow.
This, not copyright extension, is the way to enrich culture. ... read
the whole chapter