Information as a Common-Pool Resource

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Essay: IDEAS, ARTIFACTS, AND FACILITIES: INFORMATION AS A COMMON-POOL RESOURCE. CHARLOTTE HESS AND ELINOR OSTROM. 66 Law & Contemp. Probs. 111, Winter-Spring 2003.

URL = http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.pl?66+Law+&+Contemp.+Probs.+111+%28WinterSpring+2003%29

In 2003 Ostrom co-authored with Charlotte Hess a paper contextualizing knowledge commons and the study of other commons

Summary

"The goal of this article is to summarize the lessons learned from a large body of international, interdisciplinary research on common-pool resources in the past twenty-five years and consider its usefulness in the analysis of scholarly information as a resource. We will suggest ways in which the study of the governance and management of CPRs can be applied to the analysis of information and the "intellectual public domain." The complexity of the issues is enormous for many reasons: the vast number of players, multiple conflicting interests, rapid changes of technology, the general lack of understanding of digital technologies, local versus global arenas, and a chronic lack of precision about the information resource at hand. We suggest, in the tradition of Hayek, that the combination of time and place analysis with general scientific knowledge is necessary for sufficient understanding of policy and action.9 In addition, the careful development of an unambiguous language and agreed-upon definitions is imperative.

We focus on the language, methodology, and outcomes of research on common-pool resources to better understand how various types of property regimes affect the provision, production, distribution, appropriation, and consumption of scholarly information. Our analysis will suggest that collective action and new institutional design play as large a part in the shaping of scholarly information as do legal restrictions and market forces.

In Part II we present a brief intellectual history of the commons and discuss the development of the understanding of the term. Part III discusses key concepts of the terms "commons," "common-pool resources," and "common property." Four frequent areas of confusion are identified and elucidated. Part IV presents a method of analyzing information as a commons. Part V illustrates the development and change of scholarly information as a shared resource. It focuses on collective action initiatives as a response to the dilemmas of new technological freedoms within an increasing amount of legal constraints." (http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.pl?66+Law+&+Contemp.+Probs.+111+%28WinterSpring+2003%29)