Nonprofit Organizations and the Intellectual Commons

Nonprofit Organizations and the Intellectual Commons

Jyh-An Lee

Over the past twenty years, a number of nonprofit organizations (NPOs), such as Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Free Software Foundation have laid essential building blocks for intellectual-commons as a social movement. Through a detailed description of these NPOs and a series of in-depth interviews with their officials, this book demonstrates that NPOs have provided the social structures that are necessary to support the production of intellectual commons.

Chapter 2: Commons, intellectual commons, and their tragedies

Jyh-An Lee

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law

Extract

Public goods are defined in terms of two properties: non-rivalrousness in consumption and non-excludability. Non-rivalry means that one’s consumption of a public good does not reduce the amount available to others. The marginal cost of an additional consumption of such a good is zero. Non-excludability, on the other hand, means that no particular group of people can be excluded from using the goods. Pure public goods possess the above two properties–non-rivalry in consumption and non-excludability–absolutely. National defense, the sunset, and common knowledge are all cases of pure public goods; there is no rivalry in their consumption and the cost of excluding another individual from consuming them is prohibitively high. However, most public goods are not pure public goods in this sense, because they have one or the other characteristic only to a certain extent. Commons and intellectual commons share some public-goods characteristics. In this chapter, we aim to draw the relationships between commons, intellectual commons, public goods, and the public domain.

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