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"Wonderful is your gift of knowledge
the more we share, the more it grows
the more we hoard it, the more it diminishes"

- From a hymn to Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge

The P2P Foundation supports Devolutionism, i.e. the gradual reduction of IP legislation that restricts open innovation flows.

  • History of the Movement for the Digital Commons; see: Dulong de Rosnay, M. & Stalder, F. (2020). Digital commons. Internet Policy Review, 9(4). [1]: "This article presents the history of the movement of the digital commons, from free software, free culture, and public domain works, to open data and open access to science. It then analyses its foundational dimensions (licensing, authorship, peer production, governance) and finally studies newer forms of the digital commons, urban democratic participation and data commons."

For starters, we recommend you read:

The historical evidence on the negative role of IP:

  1. Historical record shows how intellectual property systematically slowed down innovation. Rick Falkvinge: Innovation Without IP - History
  2. How Copyright Caused the 19th Cy. UK To Lose Its Industrial Innovation Edge To Germany

Introductory Resources

  • The spectre that is haunting Intellectual Proprietors world-wide is no longer just the much-lamented "death of the author", but the becoming-producer and becoming-distributor of the capitalist consumer. [2]

, by David Levine and Michele Boldrin [3]

The P2P Foundation supports the aims of the Free Culture Forum and its Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge [5]

We support reform of Copyright legislation:

  1. Ten Necessary and Urgent Measures to Protect the Knowledge Society: Exgae and friends
  2. Six Principles for a Open and Free Internet
  3. Lawrence Lessig: Five Proposals for Copyright Reform
  4. More radical: Seven Solutions In Favour of a Free Culture of Citizens Who Share
  5. Michael Carroll: The necessity of an actively ‘tagged’ digital public domain

Free culture advocates care about the incomes of creatives and investment in innovation, see:

  1. On alternatives to copyrights for supporting creative and artistic work see Baker, D. 2003. "Artistic Freedom Vouchers: Internet Age Alternative to Copyrights," Washington, D.C.: Center for Economic and Policy Research.
  2. For alternatives to patents for financing the research and development of prescription drugs see Baker, D. 2004. "Financing Drug Research: What Are the Issues." Washington, D.C.: Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Introductory Statement

This page started originally as the resource page for what is generally called "Intellectual Property", which encompasses the very different regimes of Copyright, Patents, and Trademarks. (Cory Doctorow explains Why We shouldn't use the concept of Intellectual Property).

It is also where we keep track of what we call Peer Property, the new forms of 'Common' (rather than private, or collective-public) property, that either allow for sharing of creative expression, such as the Creative Commons type of licenses, or that protect common projects from private appropriation, such as the General Public License type of licences.

However, we will extend the coverage of this section to ownership of physical objects as well, though the framework for rival physical goods is of course very different from that of non-rival or anti-rival immaterial goods. We cover peer to peer based forms of physical production more particularly at

For immaterial goods, we expect that non-reciprocal Peer Production will expand without too much difficult, and this calls for a regime for the free distribution of cultural and intellectual production.

For physical goods, which are 'rival' and carry more substantial costs, regimes of reciprocity and exchange are more appropriate, since it involves the allocation of scarce goods. Here, there is room for peer-informed modes of production and ownership , rather than pure peer production.

Following the advice of Richard Stallman, we will attempt not to use the concept of Intellectual Property. Stallman is opposed to using an abstract concept for what are three distinct areas of copyright, patent, and trademark law.

Most of what is called "intellectual property" is not only objectionable on the pragmatic grounds that it hinders innovation, but on the more principled ground that it is designed to prohibit freely cooperating communities. Further expansion of peer production and governance is impossible without the prior availability of free and open cultural raw material.


  1. A2K discussion]: promoting access to knowledge
  2. The Copy/South e-mail list aims to create a collaborative network for scholars and activists who are critical of copyright law particularly as it applies to the global South.


"74% of exports– or $1 trillion– are driven by American IP-intensive industries. (Global Intellectual Property Center: “IP Creates Jobs for America,” NDP Consulting, May 2012.)

Among the 27 tradable industries, only six industries reported trade surpluses—five of which were IP-intensive industries, generating an average $14.6 billion in trade surplus each year. (“The Impact of Innovation and the Role of Intellectual Property Rights on U.S. Productivity, Competitiveness, Jobs, Wages and Exports,” NDP Consulting, 2010)" [6]

Short Citations

  • Everybody is connected to everybody else, all data that can be shared will be shared: get used to it. - Eben Moglen
  • The basic argument of copyright abolitionists is that people should be free to share when sharing does not result in any diminution of supply. - Karl Fogel [7]
  • Computers are machines for copying data. A good computer is one that copies well, quickly and cheaply. The internet is a machine for moving copies of data around. When the internet works well, it copies data quickly and cheaply. - Cory Doctorow [8]
  • Fair Use Worth More to Economy Than Copyright: Fair use exceptions to U.S. copyright laws account for more than $4.5 trillion in annual revenue for the United States - CCIA [9]

Long Citations

James Boyle on the need for balance

"The first thing that our policymaker should do is realise that every time you protect somebody’s output, their intellectual work, you extend their trademark, you give them control over some gene sequence, some line of code, you have extensive software patents, you are raising the costs of the inputs to another innovator further upstream. The very first thing you do is look at that balance and say I want to get it right."

- James Boyle [10]

Stephen Downes: Copyright is Theft

"I argue in my article, copyright is essentially a means of allowing people to take what they've borrowed from elsewhere (like Paul Simon did in 'Graceland') and stamp the lable 'theirs' on it. Virtually nothing is completely original, but copyright acts as though the whole work was. It allows people to steal from the ideas, culture, language that we have all created in common and to lable it their own."

- Stephen Downes [11]

The basic truth about copyright and the public domain

“The purpose of copyright law has been to promote learning and the progress of knowledge. Two features of copyright law should provide the guide for how to respond to access concerns. First, copyright is an author’s right. This is definitional….

Second,…copyright is a time-limited right. Copyright expires so that the public may ultimately gain unlimited access and use rights. This also is definitional….

Therefore, by design, all copyrighted works are destined for the public domain….”

- Michael Carroll [12]

Three types of goods: Collaborative Goods show Anti-rivalry

In the rivalry dimension, we start at private goods that exhibit high rivalry, which means that use by one subtracts from the use by another. We move to public goods, which exhibit low rivalry, where use by one does not subtract from use by the other. For anti-rivalry goods, we hypothesize the opposite effect, use by one adds to the potential for use by another. In the excludability dimension, we start with private goods, where it is easy to keeping people out. We move to public goods, where excludability is difficulty. For inclusive goods, we hypothesize to the opposite effect – the benefit of pulling people in.

- Mark Cooper [13]

Free Must Always Also Mean Gratis!

I do not understand how you can have ‘libre’ freedom without ‘free as in beer’ freedom. While the latter does not necessarily imply the former, the former always implies the latter. If everyone can share X freely with others, than the cost will always be driven down to zero (hence X will have both freedoms); if people cannot so share, then X is, by definition, not “libre” free.

- Karel Fogel [14]

Copyright is an inefficient mechanism to protect creative work

While copyrights do provide an incentive for creative work, they are an extremely inefficient mechanism for this end. It is most efficient when items are sold at their marginal cost. Economists generally get infuriated about the economic distortions that are created when tariffs of 10 percent or 20 percent are placed on items like steel or clothes. In the case of copyrights, material that could otherwise be transferred at zero cost, instead commands prices of $15 for CDs, $30 for movies, and even higher prices for other items, entirely because of the government-granted monopoly. For this reason, the economic distortions created by copyright dwarf the economic damage caused by other forms of trade protection.

- Dean Baker [15]

From Profit-Maximization and Market-Orientation to Mission-Focused

Profit maximizing limits access to knowledge, by limiting it to paying customers. If anyone thinks this is just a side-effect of today's market incentives, then we can put the situation differently: Profit maximizing doesn't always limit access to knowledge, but is always ready to do so if it pays better. This proposition has a darker corollary: Profit maximizing doesn't always favor untruth, but is always ready to do so if it would pay better. ... Instead of hypnotically granting the primacy of markets in all sectors, as if there were no exceptions, we should remember that many organizations compromise profits or relinquish revenues in order to foster their missions, and that we all benefit from their dedication. Which institutions and sectors ought to do so, and how should we protect and support them to pursue their missions? Instead of smothering these questions for offending the religion of markets, we should open them for wider discussion. Should scholarly publishing, with all of its mixed incentives and hard choices, migrate closer to market-oriented end of the spectrum or to the mission-oriented end of the spectrum?

- Peter Suber [16]

It's Not about Distributing Content, but about Abolishing the Consumer-Producer Divide

The copyright industry today likes to present the problem as if internet were just a way for so-called “consumers” to get so-called ”content”, and that we now just got to have ”a reasonable distribution” of money between ISP’s and content industry ... It is totally wrong to regard our role as to represent “consumer interests”. On the contrary, it’s all about leaving the artificial division of humanity into the two groups ”producers” and ”consumers” behind. ... We are now pounding the old mass medial aura and we are in a state of transgressing the hierarchical consumer-producer society.

- Rasmus Fleischer of Piratbyrån speaking at the 2005 Chaos Communication Congress [17]

The Double IP Conundrum for Open Source Hardware

"Alternative IP models for personal fabrication technologies are in their infancy, and much more development of alternative IP models is needed in order to find the right balance between openness and commercial profitability. Products and objects fabricated from electronic blueprints will raise an additional challenge to intellectual property issues since there are two components that could be considered intellectual property: the electronic blueprints and the resulting physical object. As software designs proliferate and anybody with a machine can make anything, IP concerns threaten to block the free flow of new design ideas. Our patent system will be challenged by the deluge of legal questions generated when regular people get a hold of powerful design and manufacturing tools."

- Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman [18]

More Citations

The Meaning of the 21st century intellectual property wars

"Technological progress - from the Printing Press to the BitTorrent protocol - is what essentially drives cultural development and social change, what makes it possible to share ideas, embrace expressions, improve inventions and correct the works of the past. Human history is the history of copying, and the entirely defensive and desperate attempt to stall its advancement by the means of Intellectual Property - the proposition to ressurect the dead as rights holders and turn the living into their licensees - only indicates how profoundly recent advancements in copying technology, the adaptability and scalability they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, are about to change the order of things. What lies at the core of the conflict is the emergence of new modes of subjectivation that escape the globally dominant mode of production. The spectre that is haunting Intellectual Proprietors world-wide is no longer just the much-lamented "death of the author", but the becoming-producer and becoming-distributor of the capitalist consumer." [19]

Why DRM is broken:

"DRM is broken:Bits will never get harder to copy: the limits of copyright online. The problem is that until DRM started building legal restrictions on the use of cultural products into the hardware used to access those products, the relationship between technological capabilities, laws, and social changes was flexible enough to allow copyright laws to evolve with the times. When radio came along and enabled the broadcast of music that had previously been accessed through live performance or sheet music, the legal remedy of compulsory licensing enabled rights owners to be compensated and for a new medium for musical performance to grow. DRM, together with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which criminalizes circumvention of DRM measures, puts an end to that flexibility by instantiating in technology a social agreement that used to be mediated by courts: "DRM stops the change process" that been evolving since the establishment of copyright laws. "Fair use," fundamental to education, scholarship, and the arts, is broken because the rights holder, not a legal process, determines the boundaries, and "DMCA makes breaking DRM to enable fair use illegal."

- Jennifer Urban and Cory Doctorow [20]

Why drug patents are costing lives:

"Knowledge is like a candle, when one candle lights another it does not diminish its light.' In medicine, patents cost lives. The US patent for turmeric didn't stimulate research, and restricted access by the Indian poor who actually discovered it hundreds of years ago. 'These rights were intended to reduce access to generic medicines and they succeeded.' Billions of people, who live on $2-3 a day, could no longer afford the drugs they needed. Drug companies spend more on advertising and marketing than on research. A few scientists beat the human genome project and patented breast cancer genes; so now the cost of testing women for breast cancer is 'enormous."

- Joseph Stiglitz [21]

How copyright would kill the fashion industry:

"People don't buy new clothes because they need them--they buy them to keep up with the latest style. The fashion industry responds to our desires by churning out new designs at a rapid clip. But fashion designers don't maroon themselves on a desert island to create their work. Designers pay close attention to the work of their peers, and they love to mine the past for ideas. When they see something that they like, they copy it--or, in the argot of the industry, they "reference" it.... The result is the fashion industry's most sacred concept: the trend. Copying makes trends, and trends are what sell fashion.... And the trend-driven copying of attractive designs ensures that those designs diffuse rapidly in the marketplace. This, in turn, makes the early adopters want a new style, because nothing is less attractive than seeing your carefully chosen clothes on the backs of the hoi polloi. In short, copying is the engine that drives the fashion cycle."

- David Levine [22]

Intellectual Property Laws as Sumptuary Laws:

"In the late middle ages, feudalism was being undermined by (among other things) the rise of trade. Merchants, previously beneath notice, began to get rich enough so that they could buy clothes, furniture and houses that were comparable to those of the nobility.

One response of the “establishment” was to institute sumptuary laws, strictly limiting the kinds of clothes, furniture, houses, etc. merchants could own. There was a period where rich merchants found ways to “hack” the laws with very expensive plain black cloth and so forth, and then the outraged nobility would try to extend the laws to prohibit the hack. Of course this attempt to hold back the tide failed.

I think that in the current bizarre and often self-damaging excesses of copyright and patent owners, we’re seeing something very like these sumptuary laws. Once again, the organization of economic activity is changing, and those who’ve benefited from the old regime aren’t happy about that at all. They are frantically throwing up any legal barriers they can to keep out the upstarts. But once again, attempts to hold back the tide will fail."

- Anomalous Presumption blog

Introductory Articles

The essential discussions:

General considerations on Openness

  • Fifty Shades of Open. by Jeffrey Pomerantz and Robin Peek. First Monday, Volume 21, Number 5 - 2 May 2016



The debate around filesharing:

  • Piracy as Marketing. By Matthew Ingram on why artists like Paolo Coelho, Neil Young and Neil Gaiman support, and profit from, the sharing of their works
  • Is P2P file-sharing responsible for the slump in recorded music sales or does it create demand? Summary at: History of P2P Filesharing Research‎. Excerpted from the Paper: File-Sharing as Social Practice. Do-It-Yourself Access to Knowledge and its Relation to the Formal and Informal Market. By Volker Ralf Grassmuck. Research Group on Public Policy for Access to Information (GPOPAI)2 at the University of São Paulo, for The 3rd Free Culture Research Conference. Free University Berlin, 8.-9. October 2010 [26]

See also:

  1. Report: Mr.Dr. Annelies Huygen, A. Huygen, P. Rutten, S. Huveneers, S. Limonard, J. Poort, J. Leenheer, K. S. Janssen, N. van Eijk, N. Helberger, Ups and downs – The Economic and Cultural Effects of File Sharing on Music, Film and Games. 3-3-2009 [27]: There is no direct causal relationship between file-sharing and the decline in revenues in the music industry. File sharing benefits the economy in long and short term.
  2. Report: Felix Oberholzer-Gee y Koleman Strumpf, File Sharing and Copyright, May 15, 2009 [28] :"According to the econimists of the Harvard School of Economics , filesharing hasn’t decreased creativity neither cultural production."
  3. Report: Mary Madden , The State of Music Online: Ten Years After Napster, 2009 [29] : On the past decade, the impact of file sharing networks produced a very fast musical content dispersion, what has led to a bigger music consumption of it’s different forms.

On Peer Property

Kevin Kelly: In a dematerialized economy, sharing is better than owning


  1. We recommend checking out our entry on Peer Property, which is a form of the Common and creates a Commons
  2. It is very important to distinguish the four different degrees of freedom], culminating in Triple-Free Software and peer production. An insight from Tere Vaden.
  3. The Property Taskforce is a good resource to learn about Property regimes
  4. The Libre Labyrinth] of Greg London, guides you through the maze of free and non-free licenses
  5. Milena Popova: Why Content is a Public Good]

On defining Freedom and Openness


  1. Free Content Definition
  2. Open Definition
  3. Definition of Free Cultural Works
  4. Open Source Definition

On Commons-oriented Software Licenses

  1. Richard Stallman argues forcefully, that we should not use the muddled concept of IP, and explains Why Software Should Not Have Owners.
  2. Patrick Anderson explains the difference (and deep similarity) between Ownership of Software vs. Ownership of Goods, and says open property models could be extended once we accept that the user (and not the worker) is the owner of the physical means of production. See also his proposal for User Ownership
  3. Karl Fogel explains how the General Public License uses Copyright to obtain the opposite effect of guaranteeing sharing: Stallman's Jiujitsu
  4. The Libre Labyrinth. Navigating the Maze of Free and NonFree Licenses. By Greg London, 2008: describes an objective way to understand how various FLOS licenses work, and how different FLOS licenses compare to one another
  5. A Comparative Ethical Assessment of Free Software Licensing Schemes. By S.Chopra and S. Dexter: how to choose between Free Software, Open Source Software, or proprietary software, from an ethical point of view

On Copyright

The IP threat to Open and Distributed Manufacturing

Policy Proposals

  1. 10 Proposals To Achieve a Open and Free World: A synthesis of the Barcelona Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge, proposed by the Free Knowledge Institute
  2. Ten Necessary and Urgent Measures to Protect the Knowledge Society: Exgae and friends
  3. Michael Geist in Canada: Seven Proposals for Copyright Reform
  4. Gerd Leonhard: Towards a Digital Music License, in the UK and the world (Open Letter to Peter Mandelson)
  5. Lawrence Lessig: Five Proposals for Copyright Reform (also: Five Internet Priorities for the U.S. Congress in 2007)
  6. Some Proposals for Patent Reform
  7. The Proposed WIPO Framework on Traditional Knowledge: Does it meet Indigenous People’s demands
  8. Alan Toner: Direct Payment Mechanisms as an Alternative to intellectual Property Rights
  9. Artists Want to Be Paid: The Blur Banff Proposal
  10. Jonathan Gray of the Open Knowledge Foundation: Three Proposals for a Public Domain Policy


Mike Masnick:

"Litman's paper goes through the problems with today's copyright law, and begins to explore what real copyright reform should entail

Short argumentations:

  1. Stan Rhodes: Three Key Arguments against the continuation of copyright restrictions
  2. Stephan Kinsella: Against the artificial scarcity induced by IP law From: Against Intellectual Property
  3. Interview: James Boyle on the Endangered Public Domain

The classics on Information Economics

  1. JP Barlow, “The Economy of Ideas: A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age”, Wired 2.03 (March 1994), at
  2. E Dyson , “Intellectual Value”, Wired 3.07 (July 1995), at
  3. K Kelly, “The Economics of Ideas”, Wired 4.06 (June 1996), at

Other articles:

  1. Let's 1) Question Copyright; 2) Defend the Right to Create; and 3) avoid Monopoly through Intellectual Property
  2. The Promise of a Post-Copyright World, examines the history of copyright and finds it is meant to protect distributors, not creatrive authors. See also the video presentation by author Karl Fogel. Please note that Copyright is Not a Right! This is an essay from a radical anti-copyright point of view, which rejects the Creative Commons compromise: Copyright, Copyleft and the Creative Anti-Commons
  3. Martin Springer has a set of Critical Questions regarding IP and participation
  4. If you are from the South, Robert Verzola's Cyberlords as a rentier class is recommended reading.
  5. Against Perpetual Copyright. Lawrence Lessig.
  6. Here is a useful general Guide to Intellectual Property Rights
  7. Filesharing Sites are the Libraries of the Digital Age. By Łukasz Grzegorz Maciak.

On Patents

  1. The Negative Effects of the Patent System
  2. Ten Myths about Patents: really good summary on the anti-innovation effects on patents
  3. The history of patent law: a medieval system

On Traditional Knowledge and Biodiversity

  1. Vandana Shiva on the Contemporary Enclosure of the Commons through IPR: the threat to biodiversity.

Key Resources

  1. Mapping the Copyfight: a country by country overview of copyright and internet legislation worldwide
  2. Consumers International IP Watch List 2009: what countries offend P2P Consumer Rights (access to knowledge) the most
  3. Directory of IP activist movements and individuals


  1. 30+ Places To Find Creative Commons Media

Key Articles, Reports, etc...

  1. Some_Myths_About_Intellectual_Property: the basic arguments outlined
  2. The Open Society Institute on User Rights, Copyright and DRM in the EU
  3. More in our archive of articles on Peer Property and IP developments.
  4. Endogenous Technological Change: classic essay by economist Paul Romer showing that knowledge and technological innovation are Nonrival goods


  1. Non-repudiation services help you protect individual copyrights, i.e. Registered Commons, My Free Copyright, Numly


  1. The Essential Guide To Getting Into Private Trackers
  2. Report: Winning the Web. Becky Hogge. Open Society Institute, 2009: an analysis of 6 successful anti-IP campaigns

Recommended Books

  • Berry, David M. Copy, Rip and Burn: The Politics of Copyleft and Open Source. London, UK: Pluto, 2008

  1. Copyright in Historical Perspective, recommended by Lawrence Lessig as a key history of author's rights.
  2. Code. Essays on collaborative ownership and innovation. Ed. by Rishab Ayer Gosh.
  3. Understand Knowledge as a Commons. Great anthology of essays ed. by Charlotte Hess and Eleanora Ostrom, pioneering researchers on the commons.
  4. James Boyle. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. [37]
  5. Access to Knowledge: A Guide for Everyone. By Jeremy Malcolm et al. Consumers International, 2010. [38]
  6. Common as Air. Revolution, Art, and Ownership. Lewis Hyde. 2010 = directly addresses the Cultural Commons and the history of the privatization of knowledge
  7. In Praise of Copying. Marcus Boon Harvard University Press, 2010 [39]: "makes the case that “copying is an essential part of being human, that the ability to copy is worthy of celebration, and that, without recognizing how integral copying is to being human, we cannot understand ourselves or the world we live in
  8. Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property by Gaelle Krikorian and Amy Kapczynski (eds.). Zone Books, 2010 [40]
  9. Common Cause. Information Between Commons and Property. Philippe Aigrain. [41] Unpubished, select version of: Cause Commune.

3 A Copyright Masquerade. Monica Horten."veteran journalist Dr. Monica Horten goes deep into those details to detail how the entertainment industries gain political sway, and how policymakers respond to the industry's advances." [42]

Recommended Delicious Tags

Intellectual Property [43]; Open Content[44]; FLOSS [45] P2P-Filesharing [46]; Creative Commons [47]; Copyleft [48]; GPL [49]

and other appropriate tags are at

Recommended Podcasts and Videos

  1. James Boyle on the Disaster of Scientific Enclosure through Copyright

Pages in category "IP"

The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 1,028 total.

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Media in category "IP"

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