Our board member Hal Abelson points us to Modeling a Paradigm Shift: From Producer Innovation to User and Open Collaborative Innovation , an important new paper by Carliss Y. Baldwin and Eric von Hippel. If you’re interested in the theoretical case for the ascendancy of innovation and creativity in the commons — and for policy that does not cripple the commons — read, or at least skim these highly readable 29 pages. Their first policy recommendation should come as no surprise:
The roots of this apparent bias in favor of closed, producer-centered innovation are certainly understandable – the ascendent models of innovation we have discussed in this paper were less prevalent before the radical decline in design and communication costs brought about by computers and the Internet. But once the welfare-enhancing benefits of open single user innovation and open collaborative innovation are understood, policymakers can – and we think should – take steps to offset any existing biases. Examples of useful steps are easy to find.
First, as was mentioned earlier, intellectual property rights grants can be used as the basis for licenses that help keep innovation open as well as keep it closed (O’Mahony 2003). Policymakers can add support of “open licensing” infrastructures such as the Creative Commons license for writings, and the General Public License for open source software code, to the tasks of existing intellectual property offices. More generally, they should seek out and eliminate points of conflict between present intellectual property policies designed to support closed innovation, but that at the same time inadvertently interfere with open innovation.
You can be a policymaker — share, discover, and support the commons. Regarding the last, read and heed Hal Abelson’s personal appeal — in this you’ll join Eric von Hippel, co-author of the above paper (see contributor list on Hal’s page).