Re: Paper: Digital goods and the concept of the commons, By Sabine Nuss

From: Imre Simon <imres_at_UOL.COM.BR>
Date: Sun, 13 Nov 2005 17:47:57 -0200

    [ The following text is in the "windows-1252" character set. ]
    [ Your display is set for the "iso-8859-1" character set. ]
    [ Some characters may be displayed incorrectly. ]

> I find this noxious reading. But I may have completely missed her
> point. Maybe someone cares to explain ...

Bernard, I am willing to try to explain.

I agree only partially with your analysis. You are right that this paper
is not clearly written enough but I beg to differ on this being a simple
political question.

I believe that looking at the Scientific Literature as an Intellectual
Commons is a fundamental step in understanding why we need open access
to it. Indeed, historically it always was a commons and our heritage is
to use it as a commons. Anybody can enter and could always enter in a
public library, read the scientific journals archived there, build upon
the knowledge he/she learned and publish his/her findings in scientific
journals. That is how it always worked and that is how it should be

Our present difficulty stems from the fact that technologically speaking
the Internet allows us to easily realize a world wide public library of
scientific journals with open access by everyone without even asking for
access. But, legally speaking we have difficulties realizing this
somewhat utopian vision of a library because every piece of information,
once it is fixed on a tangible medium, is subject to copyright and
private rights are immediately established on top of it.

Hence, we need to address the copyright issues of scientific papers
before we can establish the utopian libraries I refered to. And then
(and only then) will we be ready to tackle the open access problem. This
can be achieved by using Creative Commons licenses for instance, or
other types of licences which grant everyone irrevocable rights for at
least copying and distributing the papers (perhaps under certain
conditions, like prohibiting the commercial use of them). This is part
of treating the scientific Literature as a Commons, which is the thesis
of the paper we are analysing.

Two more observations: I am fully aware that not everybody on this list
agrees with these views and I do apologize in advance for expressing
them. My intention is not to create any kind of controversy on the list
  much less to confuse or to dilute the goals of the Open Access
movement. But, I do believe in these ideas and I think that one should
express them on the list. Even if they are considered incorrect or
perhaps irrelevant by some or even by many.

My second observation is that there is a wonderful recent paper
expressing these ideas in its own way, not necessarily in the terms I
have put them, but which unquestionably characterizes Scholarly
Communication as a commons and goes very deep in the arguments
justifying its thesis and also considers the governance problems which
have to be addressed to make this model work. Elinor Ostrom, one of the
authors of the paper, is considered as perhaps the most authoritative
scholar on the governance problem of material commons. Now she is
applying her considerable knowledge to the emerging field of
Intellectual Commons. The paper, properly self-archived, is this one:

Studying Scholarly Communication: Can Commons Research and the IAD
Framework Help Illuminate Complex Dilemmas?
by Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom

I do recommend its careful reading to everyone interested in
understanding better the Open Access problem.

I hope that this will be helpful.


Imre Simon

Bernard Lang wrote:
> I fail to see what is the useful contribution of that paper.
> To me it simply tries to assert, with the support of an absurd thought
> experiment (doughnuts), that all things are equal and ideology is the
> only basis for political choices.
> In addition, it is written in a way that is hard to follow, not
> knowing till the end what argument is being made. I first took it for
> an ultra-conservative paper ... since their arguments are essentially
> similar (changing existential quantifiers into universal ones,
> negating actual differences) ... and often economic nonsense.
> If the argument of the paper were stated in 2 lines at the
> beginning, it would probably destroy the paper:
> "If one wishes to withdraw goods from commodification then its
> better not to justify that with any material consistence but
> rather with a clear political statement against the social form
> private goods."
> How can a political statement be a justification for anything
> whatsoever ? What justifies the political statement ?
> I will always prefer rational thinking over ideology. When you leave
> rationality, all bets are off, and you start counting the dead.
> I find this noxious reading. But I may have completely missed her
> point. Maybe someone cares to explain ...
> cordialement,
> Bernard Lang
> PS
> I am not trying to say that everything can be reduced to rational
> choices, but only that preferred use of rational arguments is our
> only chance to be effective and consistent (and convincing).
> Strangely enough, all agree on some basic principles (freedom,
> happiness, fairness, ...) and we should first try to build on that,
> before introducing new (independent ?) axioms in the system, axioms
> which run a high risk of being pure unfounded ideology, with unknown
> consequences.
> I would like to add that whatever success we have had in stopping
> privatisation, and there has been some, were not to my knowledge due
> to political statements, but to clear analysis and argumentation
> ... precisely because of existing preconceptions. How else could we
> have stopped software patenting in a European Parliament dominated by
> conservatives.
> * Zapopan Martin Muela-Meza <zapopanmuela_at_YAHOO.COM>, le 29-10-05, a écrit:
>> Nuss, Sabine (2005) Digital goods and the concept of the commons. In
>> Proceedings Left Forum, New York (US).
>> Full text available as:
>> PDF - Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or other PDF viewer.
>> Abstract
>> A lot of scholars and activists don^Òt question the social form of the
>> private good - in contrast they praise the market and the form of the
>> private good as efficient and well installed ^Ö for certain goods.
>> Accordingly, most of the advocates of the commons concept defend it only
>> for certain goods and they justify that with a diffuse mixture of material
>> consistence and normative claims. They ignore that under capitalist
>> circumstances public goods are functional for the capital itself and that
>> they are a pure social construction, so that they will be transformed in a
>> private good as soon as its profitable for capital and as long it is not
>> in the interest of the nation state to keep control over these goods - as
>> it is the case in the national defense. If one wishes to withdraw goods
>> from commodification then its better not to justify that with any material
>> consistence but rather with a clear political statement against the social
>> form of private goods. That requires rethinking and questioning this form,
>> which is obviously the prevailing and seldom challenged form in which
>> everything tends to transform, dependent on technological, legal and
>> ideological means and dependent on the state of the art of capitalism.
>> Keywords: Commons. Common knowledge. Digital commons. Digital goods.
>> Public goods. Libraries. Common-pool resources. Commodification of
>> information and knowledge. Information commons
>> Subjects: E. Publishing and legal issues. > ED. Intellectual property:
>> author's rights, ownership, copyright, copyleft.
>> B. Information use and sociology of information. > BC. Information in
>> society.
>> B. Information use and sociology of information. > BE. Information
>> economics.
>> ID Code: 4855
>> Deposited By: Muela-Meza, Zapopan Martín
>> Deposited On: 29 October 2005
>> Alternative Locations:
>> All fields: Show all fields
>> Lehmann, Michael (1997). "Digitalisierung und Urheberrecht." In: Lehmann,
>> Michael (ed.) (1997). Internet- und Multimediarecht (Cyberlaw), Stuttgart,
>> p. 27.
>> Marx, K. (1857/58, 1953). A Contribution to the Critique of Political
>> Economy. p. 432.
>> Ostrom, Elinor and Hess, Charlotte (2001). "Artifacts, Facilities and
>> Content:
>> Information as a Common-pool Resource." Paper presented at the ^ÓConference
>> on the Public Domain,^Ô Duke Law School, Durham, North Carolina, USA,
>> November 9-11, 2001.
>> Smith, A. (1776/1976). An Inquiry into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth
>> of Nations. Buch V, p. 244.
>> Zapopan Muela
>> ----------------------------- v -------------------------------
>> "Tiranos y autócratas han entendido siempre que el alfabetismo,
>> el conocimiento, los libros y los periódicos son un peligro
>> en potencia. Pueden inculcar ideas independientes e incluso
>> de rebeldía en las cabezas de sus súbditos.
>> ----------------------------- v -------------------------------
>> "Tyrants and autocrats have always understood that literacy,
>> learning, books and newspapers are potentially dangerous.
>> They can put independent and even rebelious ideas to the heads
>> of their subjects."
>> ----------------------------- v -------------------------------
>> -- Sagan, Carl (1997). The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle
>> in the Dark : El mundo y sus demonios: La ciencia como una luz en la
>> oscuridad. México: Planeta, p. 390; New York: Ballantine Books, p. 362.
>> __________________________________
>> Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005
Received on Sun Nov 13 2005 - 20:37:30 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:48:06 GMT