James Boyle on Distributed Creativity and the Logic of Control

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Video available through http://creativecommons.org.tw/gallery/Conf07/cctw-conf07-part-01.ogm


"How can we best organise innovative activity? Conventional property theory teaches us that strong property rights, coupled with hierarchically controlled vertically integrated firms or research organizations, provide a winning combination. Strong property rights prevent the "tragedy of the commons" — resources will not be overused, or allowed to languish because there is no incentive to invest in their improvement. The property owner can police both external threats such as theft and internal threats such as shirking by employees. Vertically integrated firms or research organizations will work out what innovation can best be pursued in-house, and which left to the external market. The "make or buy" decision marks the boundary of the firm. But the intangible public goods that are central to innovation fit poorly into the world of conventional property theory. Fields may be overgrazed, ideas cannot be. There may be benefits! to having multiple, distributed centers of innovation working on the same piece of "intellectual property." As Yochai Benkler points out, creative endeavours such as the free and open source software movement hardly fit into the model of a vertically integrated firm jealously excluding others from its property. In this talk, Professor Boyle argues that we have cognitive biases that make it systematically more likely that we will ignore some of the benefits of open, non-proprietary and distributed forms of creativity and innovation, and that we will overemphasize the benefits of control and proprietary exclusion. In response to this danger, he will propose a series of corrective policies aimed at building flourishing open networks, vibrant cultural communities, and an efficient and streamlined world of scientific inquiry." (http://creativecommons.org.tw/static/conference2007/sessions/abstract/english)