“State of the Commons”


State of the Commons” provides a summary of how the use of Creative Commons licenses has expanded over the last few years. Just as activists in the Free Open Source Movement had developed legal license to ensure that their work was not subject to enclosure in the field of writing software, so this initiative was taken into broader cultural domains with the establishment of Creative Commons in 2001.

However, this development did not go without challenge. Writing in 2005 Dave Berry has questioned whether simply creating a legal technique to (re-)introduce a commons on the cultural level is to misunderstand the political relations of capitalist society. In his article A commons without commonalty Berry argued that the creative Commons network creates a simulacrum of the commons “we actually have a privatised, individuated and dispersed collection of objects and resources that subsist in a technical-legal space of confusing and differential legal restrictions, ownership rights and permissions.” Berry was concerned that by focus activity on the terrain of bourgeois legality, by moving the commons from Res Communes, which features in Roman Law outside of property relations into the realm of private ownership, Res Privatae, Creative Commons was creating a commons without commonality.

However since Berry raised his criticism, the number of items licensed under teh Creative Commons has expanded rapidly. In 2006 there were 50 million licensed items on the internet. By 2010 this had gone up to 400 million and currently stands at 882 million. So was Berry wrong?

I would say yes and no. His concerns about the failure of the Creative Commons in the face of business interests wishing to strangle the free content movement have proved unfounded. The movement has gained sufficient momentum to win the day: now even the world Bank publishes its material on open licenses. But on the other hand he may yet be right. The multinational entertainment industry still retains massive amounts of power, and while it might be obliged to roll back from its agenda for a while, this does not mean it is definitively defeated. When we look at the broader challenges we face – in particular the problem of facing us as the military-industrial machine continues to expand its pollution of the environment – we still need to directly confront capitalist social relations if we are to move towards a globally sustainable world society.

So as a thing-in-itself, Creative Commons cannot resolve the problems we face, but I believe it can be a means which helps us to organise the more sustained political activism that the climate crisis requires if humanity is to flourish.

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One Response to ““State of the Commons””

  1. victoriaevbuomwan Says:


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