James Boyle

Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”

Mike Linksvayer, October 12th, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded today to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson for their research on economic governance. Ostrom’s award is particularly exciting, for it cites her study of the commons. Commons? That sounds familiar!

Ostrom’s pioneering work mostly concerns the governance of common-pool resources — resources that are rivalrous (i.e., scarce, can be used up, unlike digital goods) yet need to be or should be governed as a commons — classically, things like water systems and the atmosphere. This work is cited by many scholars of non-rivalrous commons (e.g., knowledge commons) as laying the groundwork for their field. For example, a few excerpts from James Boyle’s recent book, The Public Domain, first from the acknowledgements (page ix):

Historical work by Carla Hesse, Martha Woodmansee, and Mark Rose has been central to my analysis, which also could not have existed but for work on the governance of the commons by Elinor Ostrom, Charlotte Hess, and Carol Rose.

Notes, page 264:

In the twentieth century, the negative effects of open access or common ownership received an environmental gloss thanks to the work of Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162 (1968): 1243–1248. However, work by scholars such as Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), and Carol Rose, “The Comedy of the Commons: Custom, Commerce, and Inherently Public Property,” University of Chicago Law Review 53 (1986): 711–781, have introduced considerable nuance to this idea. Some resources may be more efficiently used if they are held in common. In addition, nonlegal, customary, and norm-based forms of “regulation” often act to mitigate the theoretical dangers of overuse or under-investment.

Notes, page 266:

The possibility of producing “order without law” and thus sometimes governing the commons without tragedy has also fascinated scholars of contemporary land use. Robert C. Ellickson, Order without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991); Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

In 2003 Ostrom herself co-authored with Charlotte Hess a paper contextualizing knowledge commons and the study of other commons: Ideas, Artifacts, and Facilities: Information as a Common-Pool Resource. It includes a citation of Creative Commons, which was just about to launch its licenses at the time the paper was written:

An example of an effective grassroots initiative is that taken by the Public Library of Science (“PLS”), a nonprofit organization of scientists dedicated to making the world’s scientific and medical literature freely accessible “for the benefit of scientific progress, education and the public good.”126 PLS has so far encouraged over 30,888 scientists from 182 countries to sign its open letter to publishers to make their publications freely available on the web site PubMed Central.127 By September 2002, there were over eighty full-text journals available at this site.128 Another new collective action initiative is the Creative Commons129 founded by Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle, and others to promote “the innovative reuse of all sorts of intellectual works.”130 Their first project is to “offer the public a set of copyright licenses free of charge.”131

The entire paper is an excellent read.

Congratulations to Elinor Ostrom, and to the Nobel Prize committee for making an excellent choice, highly relevant in today’s world. Hopefully this will only be the first of many grand prizes for the study of the commons.

I might humbly suggest that one place to look for the next generation of such research is the Free Culture Research Workshop, held October 23 at Harvard. In July we posted the CFP.

If you want to support the commons in practice right now, I suggest a donation to our 2009 fundraising campaign!

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Harvard panel (12/12/08) video now online

Allison Domicone, April 30th, 2009

Photo by dsearls under CC BY-SA

Photo by dsearls under CC BY-SA

As many of you may remember, last December CC paired up with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society to host a panel discussion entitled, “The Commons: Celebrating accomplishments, discerning futures.” Panelists included James Boyle, The Public Domain; Lawrence Lessig, Remix; Joi Ito, Free Souls; and Molly S. Van Houweling, Creative Commons’ first Executive Director. Jonathan Zittrain, of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, moderated.

A video of the panel discussion is now available at Internet Archive for you to watch and download.

We hope you’ll enjoy the video, which offers an intimate glimpse into CC’s history through the eyes of the people who were there from the beginning. Larry, Molly, Jamie and Joi each recall some wonderful stories and anecdotes from the early days of CC, and offer up new perspectives on where the organization should be headed. It’s a great video that speaks to the importance and relevance of CC as an organization and a leader in the move toward a more participatory culture.

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Esther Wojcicki, new CC board chair

Mike Linksvayer, April 1st, 2009

We’re very pleased to announce that effective today, noted educator, education innovator and journalist Esther Wojcicki is the new chair of the Creative Commons board of directors. From the press release:

“I am thrilled to take on this new role,” said Wojcicki. “I strongly believe that the Creative Commons approach to sharing, reuse, and innovation has the power to totally reshape the worlds of education, science, technology, and culture at large. My main goal as chair is to make average Internet users worldwide aware of Creative Commons and to continue building the organization’s governance and financial resources. I am also very eager to help CC’s education push at high school and college journalism programs worldwide.”

Read the whole release for more.

Also see outgoing chair James Boyle’s CC BY(e bye) post — finely crafted writing down to the title, as we have come to expect. As you’ll read, Boyle, a founder of the modern movement for the intellectual commons (and CC itself), will remain deeply engaged in the movement. There remains no better in depth explanation of the intellectual commons than Boyle’s book, The Public Domain.

Thank you and congratulations to both Wojcicki and Boyle!


CC board members Hal Abelson and Esther Wojcicki. Photo by CC CEO Joi Ito / CC BY. Note that our celebratory offer of Joi’s Free Souls book for a donation to CC is still on.

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Advice for Authors on Negotiating With a Publisher About CC Licenses

Cameron Parkins, March 30th, 2009

Cory Doctorow points us towards an excellent essay from the team behind Digital Foundations on ten key steps to negotiating a CC-licensed release with a large scale publisher:

4. Pitch it with facts

Use case studies to argue with facts. It also helps for them to see that other reputable publishers have licensed books Creative Commons. O’Reilly has some a study on an Asterisk book that we used very effectively.

http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/06/free_downloads.html

The Asterisk book sold 19k copies over two years (about what comparable books from O’Reilly were selling), but was downloaded 180,000 times from *one* of the 5 sites that mirrored it.

Also consider google as arbiter:

Results from google search breakdown of references to the two books in the oreilly case study (at the time of negotiation, early 2008):
asterisk: 139,000 references in 2 years (2005-2007), or 70,000 per year

understanding the linux kernel, 42,000 references in 7 years (2000-2007), 6,000 per year

So there was 10x the press/blog/reference/hits for the CC licensed book.

Treading the sometimes delicate waters of negotiating a CC license with those immediately apprehensive to the idea is difficult at the very least – this type of information, from those who have gone through the process, is invaluable. While the Digital Foundations piece focuses on print publishing, the information therein is applicable across media formats, especially when combined with our ever growing case study database.

We would be remiss not to mention James Boyle’s thoughts on the matter, particularly regarding his experience in licensing The Public Domain: Enclosing The Commons of the Mind under a CC BY-NC-SA license.

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UK Events: Jamie Boyle speaking on the Public Domain

Cameron Parkins, March 4th, 2009

Jamie Boyle, Chair of the CC Board, will be speaking at a couple great events next week in both London and Cambridge, giving British CC-ers a great opportunity to learn more about the public domain, both as a legal status and as Jamie’s new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. Details below (via BoingBoing):

LONDON: The Public Domain: enclosing the commons of the mind
Where: RSA Lecture Hall (Google Map)
When: March 10, 2009; 18:00

CAMBRIDGE: Cultural Agoraphobia and The Future of The Library (Google Map)
Where: Lee Hall, Wolfson College (Google Map)
When: March 12, 2009; 18:00

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CC Community Call recording now online

Allison Domicone, February 26th, 2009

On Monday, February 23, 2009, we hosted our first community conference call. Donors who have given a gift of at least $250 to CC were invited to join members of CC’s staff and board, including CEO Joi Ito and Board Chair Jamie Boyle, to discuss what 2009 will look like for Creative Commons, in terms of work to be accomplished and how our work is vital to facilitating a more open and participatory culture. We also took questions and comments from participants. The call was a great success and a valuable opportunity to reach out to and connect with our supporters; we will continue to host community conference calls quarterly and anyone giving $250 or more will be invited to take part.

An audio recording of the call is now available online. Thanks to everyone who participated, and as always, we would like to extend a big thanks to all members of our community for your continued support!

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Interviews with Creative Commons: Jamie, Eric & Fred

Fred Benenson, January 13th, 2009

A couple interviews with CC board and staff have surfaced in the last week or two. BBC Radio 4 interviewed Creative Commons Board Chair James Boyle about the public domain and how Creative Commons helps enrich the environment of the mind. Before Jamie’s interview, the Beeb chats with Chris Anderson talks about his new book FREE and the business models he’s been researching.

In December, our Creative Director, Eric Steuer talked with Dog and Pony of The BNET Business Network. The Knight Foundation’s Knight Pulse also interviewed Eric about how grantees can use our licenses in their projects.

I also answered some questions from Journalism.co.uk regarding how journalists can use CC licenses in their work. Finally, I chatted with Federal News Radio on Friday about Obama’s choice to use CC on Change.gov, the recording of which you can download there.

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Public Domain Day 2009

Mike Linksvayer, January 1st, 2009

Recent link offerings in celebration of Public Domain Day, which is January 1…

Creative Commons Switzerland informs us of a Public Domain Day jam session/brunch in Zurich:

Short English Summary: We will celebrate the public domain day on January 1 in Zurich. We will read, perform, transform works from authors whose work are in the public domain.

Tuesday CC board member Michael Carroll blogged about the meaning and potential of the Digital Public Domain and last month about things made possible by the public domain.

CC board chair James Boyle’s recently published must read book is titled The Public Domain.

LibriVox just reached 2000 recordings of books in the public domain. The recordings are also in the public domain. We noted their 1500 recording milestone in June, 2008. Number 2000 is The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol. VI. Listen to all six volumes in 2009!

Watch for much more about the public domain around the world in 2009 and revisit Public Domain Day 2008.

Addendum: Also see PDD2009 posts by John Mark Ockerboom and Elizabeth Townsend on works now in the public domain.

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Must-read: The Public Domain

Mike Linksvayer, November 29th, 2008

Creative Commons Board Chair James Boyle’s new book is out — The Public Domain: Enclosing of the Commons of the Mind, published by Yale University Press. Read and comment online or download and share the the PDF under a CC BY-NC-SA license. Buy a hardcopy.


The Public Domain cover, evolved from excellent contest entries. We blogged about the contest in April.

The Public Domain covers the history, theory, and future of the public domain, taking a broad conception of the meaning and import of the public domain:

When the subject is intellectual property, this gap in our knowledge turns out to be important because our intellectual property system depends on a balance between what is property and what is not. For a set of reasons that I will explain later, “the opposite of property” is a concept that is much more important when we come to the world of ideas, information, expression, and invention. We want a lot of material to be in the public domain, material that can be spread without property rights. “The general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions—knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas—become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use.” Our art, our culture, our science depend on this public domain every bit as much as they depend on intellectual property. The third goal of this book is to explore property’s outside, property’s various antonyms, and to show how we are undervaluing the public domain and the information commons at the very moment in history when we need them most. Academic articles and clever legal briefs cannot solve this problem alone.

Instead, I argue that precisely because we are in the information age, we need a movement—akin to the environmental movement—to preserve the public domain. The explosion of industrial technologies that threatened the environment also taught us to recognize its value. The explosion of information technologies has precipitated an intellectual land grab; it must also teach us about both the existence and the value of the public domain. This enlightenment does not happen by itself. The environmentalists helped us to see the world differently, to see that there was such a thing as “the environment” rather than just my pond, your forest, his canal. We need to do the same thing in the information environment.

We have to “invent” the public domain before we can save it.

That’s from the preface. I encourage you to read on, to chapters about Creative Commons (of course), evidence-based policy and the public domain (my favorite), a movement for the public domain, and much history, theory, and wit leading up to those.

You can also read and subscribe to Boyle’s blog on The Public Domain, which includes an excellent post on authors, academic presses, online publishing and CC licensing. Brief excerpt, emphasis added to the truth that will be so obvious to readers of this blog that one might wonder why it would need to be said:

The one piece of advice I would offer is to make sure that you really talk it through with everyone at the press and get them to understand the way the web works. While university presses might want to experiment only with a few titles, when it comes to those titles they need fully to embrace the idea — creating an excellent website for the book (or allowing the author to do so), allowing multiple formats of the book to be made available (pdf, html etc), being excited rather than horrified if the book gets mentioned on a blog and downloads spike. The last thing you want is a publisher who has grudgingly agreed to a Creative Commons license but who then sabotages every attempt to harness the openness it allows.

Unfortunately how the web works and what that means for copyright and publishing still needs to be explained. Repeatedly. Every day. That’s one reason Creative Commons needs your support to meet our $500,000 annual public campaign goal. Every day we explain how the web works, how to work with the web, and how to keep the web open, for scientists, educators and learners, and everyone else. And we do our bit to improve the open web.

On those notes, see the CC Network badge on every page of The Public Domain website and James Boyle’s CC Network profile. Join Boyle in supporting Creative Commons and get your own CC Network badge and profile (and other goodies).



Then send this post to your friends. Or if you’re old school, send a hardcopy of The Public Domain with a printout of this post and a personal note enclosed. :-)

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CC + MIT + Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Melissa Reeder, November 24th, 2008

On Dec. 12th, 2008, CC will be pairing up with two of the most influential and innovative institutions in the “open” movement: MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

For those of you interested in the tech side of Creative Commons, MIT’s CSAIL is hosting CC’s second Tech Summit from 9-4:30. The first Tech Summit, held at Google this past summer, was a complete success; those archived presentations are here.

And for those of you interested in CC generally, CC and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society have joined forces to bring you the panel discussion: “The Commons: Celebrating accomplishments, discerning futures.” Panelists include James Boyle, The Public Domain; Lawrence Lessig, Remix; Joi Ito, Free Souls; and Molly S. Van Houweling, Creative Commons’ first Executive Director. Jonathan Zittrain, of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, will moderate. A reception will follow at 7:30 pm. Details are here.

We hope you will join us in celebrating Creative Commons’ sixth successful year and the culmination of our 2008 Annual Fundraising Campaign, “Build the Commons.” This event is open to the public, but because we’re closing in on the end of our campaign, we encourage you to bring your check books (or cash rather) and help sustain CC by donating at the door!

Space is limited. Please RSVP by December 1st to Melissa Reeder, Development Manager, at melissa@creativecommons.org.

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