Information Environmentalism

Information Environmentalism

A Governance Framework for Intellectual Property Rights

Robert Cunningham

Information Environmentalism applies four environmental analytical frameworks – ecology, ‘the commons’, public choice theory, and welfare economics – to the information environment. The book neatly captures the metaphorical relationship between the physical environment and the information environment by alluding to the environmental philosophy of ‘social ecology’ and the emergent informational discourse of ‘cultural environmentalism’.

Chapter 7: Should the information commons have standing?

Robert Cunningham

Subjects: economics and finance, law and economics, law - academic, intellectual property law, law and economics


In the last chapter Leopold’s ‘land ethic’ provided a foundation for ecological principles. In particular, we have seen how the land ethic provided rhetorical support, accompanied by other key publications such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, for the rights movement as it relates to nature. This movement in turn contributed to the philosophical foundation of environmental law (as it came to be known). The present chapter seeks to elaborate on this theme as it concerns the information environment. In the process, we will see the central normative claim is that the information commons should be allocated rights and provisioned with standing. This claim is built upon parallel submissions made in the 1970s, which were founded on ecological thought. The underlying inquiry of this chapter is: If intellectual property is to be allocated rights why not also contemplate the allocation of rights to the information commons? An alternate framing of this inquiry, grounded in both the commons and ecology analytical frameworks, gives rise to the rhetorical question: Should the information commons have standing? The affirmative answer posited advocates the development of ICRs as a governance tool. ICRs serve to operationalise the allocation of rights and the provision of standing to the information commons (as per principle 8 of Table 1.1).

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