Commons as Shared Infrastructures for Businesses

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Marco Berlinguer distinguishes 3 hybrid forms of commons-market cooperation and co-existence:

  1. the Semi-Commons
  2. Commons as Shared Infrastructures for Businesses
  3. Digital Commons as Core Ecosystem Strategy


Marco Berlinguer:

"The second idea commonly used to explain companies’ adoption of FOSS is that of shared infrastructure (Perens 2005; Eghbal 2016; Fogel 2017). This concept likewise proposes a two-tiered structure. The difference is that here the companies are primarily conceived as the users and buyers of software, rather than the producers and sellers of it. This is true of most companies: they are either not interested in software commercialization or most of the software that they do use does not constitute a specific “differentiating component” for their business model. For these companies, then, FOSS provides a way to share and economize costs and risks in the access and provision (development, maintenance, adaptation, and upgrading) of the necessary components of production. This is made easier by leveraging certain characteristics of digital commons, such as the fact that they are non-rival (Frischmann 2009) and that they can be shared at no additional cost (Rifkin 2014). This idea explains why companies that are mostly users of software have been critical in supporting FOSS since the beginning.

Linux is a powerful example from which to draw insights about these mechanisms. Its adoption in the market illustrates both sides of the double logics just described: FOSS as a semi-commons and FOSS as shared infrastructure. While a plethora of markets have been built upon its exploitation, as a common technological base and evolving infrastructure, Linux is also remarkable for its longevity, for its capacity to adapt and evolve, for its use as a base for many diverse applications, and for its unexpected innovative uses and developments."

((Berlinguer, M. (2020). Commons, Markets and Public Policy, Transform! ePaper, January 2020.)