Bibliography on Peer Production

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James Boyle:

"Distributed Creativity

The most remarkable and important book on “distributed creativity” and the sharing economy is Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006). Benkler sets the idea of “peer production” alongside other mechanisms of market and political governance and offers a series of powerful normative arguments about why we should prefer that future. Comprehensive though this book may seem, it is incomplete unless it is read in conjunction with one of Benkler’s essays: Yochai Benkler, “Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm,” Yale Law Journal 112 (2002): 369–446. In that essay, Benkler puts forward the vital argument—described in this chapter—about what collaborative production does to Coase’s theory of the firm.

Benkler’s work is hardly the only resource however. Other fine works covering some of the same themes include: Cass R. Sunstein, Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), and Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, ed., CODE: Collaborative Ownership and the Digital Economy (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005), which includes an essay by me presenting an earlier version of the “second enclosure movement” argument. Clay Shirky’s recent book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), is an extremely readable and thoughtful addition to this body of work—it includes a more developed version of the speech I discuss. Eric Von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005), is a fascinating account of the way that innovation happens in more places than we have traditionally imagined—particularly in end-user communities. In one sense, this reinforces a theme of this chapter: that the “peer production” and “distributed creativity” described here is not something new, merely something that is given dramatically more salience and reach by the Web. Dan Hunter and F. Gregory Lastowka’s article, “Amateur-to-Amateur,” William & Mary Law Review 46 (2004): 951–1030, describes some of the difficulties in adapting copyright law to fit “peer production.” Finally, Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop It (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008)—also relevant to Chapter 10—argues that if the democratically attractive aspects of the Internet are to be saved, it can only be done through enlisting the collective energy and insight of the Internet’s users.

* Free and Open Source Software

Free and open source software has been a subject of considerable interest to commentators. Glyn Moody’s Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Pub., 2001), and Peter Wayner’s Free for All: How Linux and the Free Software Movement Undercut the High-Tech Titans (New York: HarperBusiness, 2000), both offer readable and accessible histories of the phenomenon. Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary, revised edition (Sebastopol, Calif.: O’Reilly, 2001), is a classic philosophy of the movement, written by a key participant—author of the phrase, famous among geeks, “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Steve Weber, in The Success of Open Source (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), offers a scholarly argument that the success of free and open source software is not an exception to economic principles but a vindication of them. I agree, though the emphasis that Benkler and I put forward is rather different. To get a sense of the argument that free software (open source software’s normatively charged cousin) is desirable for its political and moral implications, not just because of its efficiency or commercial success, one should read the essays of Richard Stallman, the true father of free software and a fine polemical, but rigorous, essayist. Richard Stallman, Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman, ed. Joshua Gay (Boston: GNU Press, 2002). Another strong collection of essays can be found in Joseph Feller, Brian Fitzgerald, Scott A. Hissam, and Karim R. Lakhani, eds., Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005). If you only have time to read a single essay on the subject it should be Eben Moglen’s “Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright,” First Monday 4 (1999), available at

* Creative Commons

Creative Commons has only just begun to attract its own chroniclers. Larry Lessig, its founder, provides a characteristically eloquent account in “The Creative Commons,” Montana Law Review 65 (2004): 1–14. Michael W. Carroll, a founding board member, has produced a thought-provoking essay discussing the more general implications of organizations such as Creative Commons. Michael W. Carroll, “Creative Commons and the New Intermediaries,” Michigan State Law Review, 2006, n.1 (Spring): 45–65. Minjeong Kim offers an empirical study of Creative Commons licenses in “The Creative Commons and Copyright Protection in the Digital Era: Uses of Creative Commons Licenses,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13 (2007): Article 10, available at However, simply because of the rapidity of adoption of Creative Commons licenses, the work is already dramatically out of date. My colleague Jerome Reichman and Paul Uhlir of the National Academy of Sciences have written a magisterial study of the way in which tools similar to Creative Commons licenses could be used to lower transaction costs in the flow of scientific and technical data. J. H. Reichman and Paul Uhlir, “A Contractually Reconstructed Research Commons for Scientific Data in a Highly Protectionist Intellectual Property Environment,” Law and Contemporary Problems 66 (2003): 315–462. Finally, the gifted author, David Bollier, is reportedly writing a book on Creative Commons entitled Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own (New York: New Press, forthcoming 2009).

Niva Elkin-Koren offers a more critical view of Creative Commons in “Exploring Creative Commons: A Skeptical View of a Worthy Pursuit,” in The Future of the Public Domain—Identifying the Commons in Information Law, ed. P. Bernt Hugenholtz and Lucie Guibault (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2006). Elkin-Koren’s argument is that Creative Commons has an unintended negative effect by leading individuals to think of themselves through the reified categories of legal subjects and property owners—forcing into a legalized realm something that should simply be experienced as culture. Elkin-Koren is a perceptive and influential scholar; some of her early work on bulletin boards for example, was extremely important in explaining the stakes of regulating the Internet to a group of judges and policy makers. I also acknowledge the truth of her theoretical point; in many ways Creative Commons is offered as a second best solution. But I am unconvinced by the conclusion. Partly, this is because I think Elkin-Koren’s account of the actual perceptions of license users is insufficiently grounded in actual evidence. Partly, it is because I think the legalization—undesirable though it may be in places—has already happened. Now we must deal with it. Partly, it is because I believe that many of the activities that the licenses enable—a global commons of free educational materials, for example—simply cannot be produced any other way in the political reality we face, and I have a preference for lighting candles rather than lamenting the darkness." (