Commons

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If the Internet teaches us anything, it is that great value comes from leaving core resources in a commons, where they're free for people to build upon as they see fit. ~ Lawrence Lessig

A Commons is a set of cultural or natural resources accessible to all members of a society.

Quotes[edit]

To those who are awake, there is one world in common, but of those who are asleep, each is withdrawn to a private world of his own. ~ Heraclitus
  • To those who are awake, there is one world in common, but of those who are asleep, each is withdrawn to a private world of his own.
    • Heraclitus, fragment 95, as translated by G.W.T. Patrick
  • "Commons" is an Old English word. According to my Japanese friends, it is quite close to the meaning that iriai still has in Japanese. "Commons," like iriai, is a word which, in preindustrial times, was used to designate certain aspects of the environment. People called commons those parts of the environment for which customary law exacted specific forms of community respect. People called commons that part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households. The customary law which humanized the environment by establishing the commons was usually unwritten. It was unwritten law not only because people did not care to write it down, but because what it protected was a reality much too complex to fit into paragraphs. The law of the commons regulates the right of way, the right to fish and to hunt, to graze, and to collect wood or medicinal plants in the forest.
    An oak tree might be in the commons. Its shade, in summer, is reserved for the shepherd and his flock; its acorns are reserved for the pigs of the neighbouring peasants; its dry branches serve as fuel for the widows of the village; some of its fresh twigs in springtime are cut as ornaments for the church — and at sunset it might be the place for the village assembly. When people spoke about commons, iriai, they designated an aspect of the environment that was limited, that was necessary for the community's survival, that was necessary for different groups in different ways, but which, in a strictly economic sense, was not perceived as scarce.
    • Ivan Illich, in "Silence is a Commons" (1982), an address at the "Asahi Symposium Science and Man - The computer-managed Society," Tokyo, Japan (21 March 1982); published in The CoEvolution Quarterly (Winter 1983)
  • A transformation of the environment from a commons to a productive resource constitutes the most fundamental form of environmental degradation. This degradation has a long history, which coincides with the history of capitalism but can in no way just be reduced to it. Unfortunately the importance of this transformation has been overlooked or belittled by political ecology so far. It needs to be recognized if we are to organize defense movements of what remains of the commons.
    • Ivan Illich, in "Silence is a Commons" (1982), an address at the "Asahi Symposium Science and Man - The computer-managed Society," Tokyo, Japan (21 March 1982); published in The CoEvolution Quarterly (Winter 1983)
  • Our trend in copyright law has been to enclose as much as we can; the consequence of this enclosure is a stifling of creativity and innovation. If the Internet teaches us anything, it is that great value comes from leaving core resources in a commons, where they're free for people to build upon as they see fit.
    • Lawrence Lessig, in "May the Source Be With You", Wired magazine article (9 December 2001)
  • There has never been a time in history when more of our "culture" was as "owned" as it is now. And yet there has never been a time when the concentration of power to control the uses of culture has been as unquestioningly accepted as it is now.
  • The law locks up the hapless felon
who steals the goose from off the common,
but lets the greater felon loose
who steals the common from the goose.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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