Information Environmentalism
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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’.
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Chapter 5: Tragedy of (ignoring) the information semicommons

Robert Cunningham


The preceding chapter sought to clarify the parameters of the information commons and related terminology. The present chapter builds upon this discussion by introducing the information semicommons. The interrelationship between the information commons and the information semicommons is important to the extent that the former provides the foundation for the latter. Put simply, without an information commons there is no information semicommons of which to speak. The information semicommons can be thought of in terms of the dynamic interaction between private and commons usages of information. With reference to popular tragedy discourse, namely the tragedy of the commons and the tragedy of the anticommons, this chapter seeks to hazard against the tragedy of ignoring the information semicommons. In so doing, the chapter underscores the contentious nature of the commons as it relates to the physical environment and the information environment. On the one hand, environmentalism has grappled with the tragedy of the commons with respect to natural resources: oceans, rivers, forests and air. On the other hand, information environmentalism has wrestled with the tragedy of the anticommons, particularly in relation to innovation: computer software, agriculture and medicine. By contrasting these tragedies the relevance of the information semicommons is revealed. The central theme of the chapter is that ignoring the dynamic interaction between private and public concerns creates a great tragedy that, like all tragedies, is best avoided.

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