Collaborative Goods

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Mark Cooper:

"Similar to public goods which represent a collective decision to provide an input for communications infrastructure, collaborative production entails a production process in which private appropriation of shared resources is accomplished. However, collaborative production is a continuous direct relationship between producers outside the traditional market place. It is genuine joint production, not the collective supply or management of an input for private appropriation.

Collaborative production goods exhibit traits of anti-rivalry and inclusivity. The key characteristics of collaborative production goods occur where having numerous producers participate in the production of the goods increases its value and where the value of the good goes up as the number of people who use it increases. All three examples, discussed in greater detail later in this paper, wireless mesh networks, open source software and peer-to-peer networks exhibit these characteristics.

Anti-rivalry occurs when the use and/or sharing the production of the good by one person increases the value of the good to others.

Inclusiveness occurs when the value of a good increases as the number of people using and/or producing the good increases.

Eric von Hippel’s work on user driven innovation and free revealing reinforces the distinction between anti-rivalry and inclusiveness. He identifies a private/collective good as a good for which individuals volunteer to support the supply of the good to the community of producers. This provides a nuanced difference from a common pool resource in that an independent private action produces the resource for the community. Innovators freely reveal private effort because they can “inherently obtain greater private benefits than free riders.”

In the information economy, just as it is necessary to distinguish between anti-rivalry and inclusiveness, it is also necessary to distinguish between inclusiveness and network effects. Network effects, also known as demand side economies of scale, occur when the costs of producing or the benefits of consuming a good spill over onto those who are producing or consuming the good, beyond the transaction. The benefits of the network effect accrue to members of the network, directly or indirectly. The classic example of a direct network effect is a telephone. The value of the telephone grows as the number of people on the network increases due to the increasing number of reachable people. The classic example of an indirect network effect is software." (


Mark Cooper:

"Information goods are extremely good candidates to be collaborative goods because information is “an extreme nonrival good” and an “unusually” non-exclusive good. A person can only own information if that person keeps the information to himself; once that information has been released to the public the person who distributed cannot control who else gains the information.

Although information is hard to control, that alone does not guarantee collaboration. Collaborative production is not successful just because of weak property rights; there must also be benefits to those that participate. Collaborative production must increase value to the group. Collaborative production must motivate individuals to participate voluntarily as the individuals capture non-rivalrous benefits. It must allow free revealers to recognize that the potential gains of opportunistic behavior will evaporate if the cooperative behavior breaks down. Cooperation becomes the rule, rather than the exception.

The challenges to collaborative goods are also greatly different from those of public goods. In the world of private goods, the problem is the inclination to free ride, to withhold payment or support for the provision of public goods, or to overuse the common pool resource, even though that may be bad for the public. In the world of collaborative goods, the challenge is to understand the willingness of producers to support or freely reveal innovations that enhance shared benefits, even though they do not appear to capture as much private value as they could by withholding." (

More Information

  1. Common, Common Property
  2. Property