Fri 13 Apr 2018 8:57AM

Property in the commons?

M mike_hales Public Seen by 138

Key references please . . . Is there property in the commons? Or is property an intrinsically non-commons construct?

Is some underlying notion of property required, if legal instruments associated with commons are to be reconciled with established law (eg Roman law?) and defended in court? In which case, what kinds of property are there; and what kind is 'commons property'? Is there ownership in the commons; or some other kind of relationship of commoners and commoned resources, perhaps called 'holding'?

I'm thinking specifically of material entities - wild water, life, genomes, documents, data files - rather than immaterial resources. Although in any case I understand the so-called immaterial resources of 'knowledge' to be nothing other than the material capabilities of specific collectives of people: labour-power. But labour-power commons are another story? Back to the question . . .

Alternatively, is there a legitimate (legally defensible) status for resources held in common, without any person having property of any kind in them; but with rights and duties asserted over these resources, by customary or contemporary commoners, bearing upon commoners? Does this depend on the commoners having manifestly made the resources? Or can it be also asserted over 'natural' or customary resources, traditionally associated with the commoners' lives? Can non-commoners be excluded from access to a commons 'with legal force'? Or just with main force?

Is there a distinct category of resources - perhaps called assets? - that have been assigned a (temporary) right for exploitation by specific non-commoners (market actors) under (copyLeft/copyFair etc) licence? And does this then make them property?

Apologies for asking such basic questions, I hope they make sense? I haven't the first clue when it comes to law, and there's so much out there on reciprocity, copyLeft/copyFair etc.

It makes my brain hurt rather, but I do see how basic it is, that we should be able to accumulate resources in commons, constituting massive forces of production (and nurture) in the commons, which are excluded - in legally defensible ways - from exploitation in capitalist markets. And that we should become literate in these esoteric things, even if (especially because) most of the commonplace associated language (eg 'property' itself) is a Trojan horse for capital.


Liam Murphy Fri 13 Apr 2018 10:18AM

From: http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Peer_Production_License:

It is important to note that the PPL is primarily designed to liberate cultural or consumer goods or products, and to offer more choices to content creators or artists presently using Creative Commons non-commercial options. But Kleiner does not recommend the PPL for productive or capital assets. The latter should be licensed with copyleft (GPL, AGPL, etc.), allowing large corporations and capitalist consortia to exploit these commons to their benefit. What is this all about?

To understand the distinction, it is important to grasp the concept of “exvestment” (wordplay on “investment”). Kleiner explains it as follows:

[Exvestment occurs…] when a company spends money to improve Linux because that company makes money running a social networking site, that company benefits from such expenditure, however it is exvestment not investment, because the capitalist class as a whole does not benefit since this reduces the market for commercial software by improving free alternatives and makes such means of production available to non-capitalist producers as well. This is why I think we need to be careful when we apply the PPL (or similar) to software, because I think to maximize transvestment [the transfer of value from one mode of production to another] in the direction of commons-based production we need to keep Department I goods (Capital Goods or Producers’ Goods) free for capitalists so they can exvest in them, while keeping Department II (Consumer goods or commodities) goods non-free for them.


Jay Cumberland Fri 13 Apr 2018 3:52PM

I would look at David Bollier's Reinventing Law for the Commons for a general overview of how law can be used to support the commons and then at Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione's The City as a Commons for a theoretical study at how property rights undergird all conceptions of the commons within cities.


mike_hales Fri 13 Apr 2018 6:16PM

These papers look like a good read Jay, thank you.


Jay Cumberland Sat 14 Apr 2018 1:43AM

My pleasure. And, for an article examining how property (as it has developed in the West) is innately anti-commons, I would check out Ugo Mattei's "The State, the Market, and some Preliminary Question about the Commons."


mike_hales Sat 14 Apr 2018 9:04AM

Further thanks Jay. Very much the kind of perspective I was seeking.

Is there anything you'd recommend, regarding the might that sits behind any right? Surely at root it's all a matter of fiat - 'legal force' stands on main force? I guess, this is simply the (historical? intrinsic?) relationship between the law and the State? Can you suggest a good article on this, maybe speculations on the nature of the force - in pursuit of justice? - that must be understood to be part of any actual commons?

Justice - as distinct from law - is something else? At root, a common(s) action of some particular community/tribe/collective who believe their interests (livelihood, cultural balance, dignity, etc) are being systematically harmed, rather than a preserve of the State? This can be unwise, of course: tribes are not to be trusted any more than elites.


Sophie Jerram Sun 15 Apr 2018 8:34AM

Mike these are not basic questions at all -thanks for starting the thread. I am researching art practice and spatial commoning through my PhD. I utimately have to encounter property law even though it is less conceptually attractive to artists and activists. Jay has given you some great links. You might be interested in a recent New Zealand case. I am working on a paper comparing commons notions of property with this Te Urewera Act of 2014. The Act has allowed for an area of land -including a prominent ancient forest - to have the legal status of personhood - in conjunction with a governance board comprised of Tuhoe iwi (local Maori tribe) and pākeha (white settlers). It's at one level an ideal outcome for a commons but there are many practical issues to sort out. http://www.ngaituhoe.iwi.nz/te-kawa-o-te-urewera


mike_hales Sun 15 Apr 2018 8:56AM

Thanks Sophie. An area of land as 'a person'! Wow! Things in New Zealand do seem interesting, with strong Maori cultural movements - the guys at Loomio/Enspiral clearly link into this as a basic orientation. I wonder, though, whether this implies that there will be many local variants on law for commons, in different cultural settings?

I guess so - we're into a 'pluriverse' with commons, and there's no way back to the imposed simplicity (ethno-class domination) of liberal-Enlightenment 'universal' reason? This is hard going! But Mattei and other comparative law scholars seem to be hard at work on it thank goodness.

Please do update us when your commons/Te Urewera paper is done?


Sophie Jerram Sun 15 Apr 2018 9:16AM

Sure I will post it here Mike. Unsure how Mattei wd read this legal action in NZ. I think Donna Harraway and Gibson-Graham and more-than-human scholars are closer to understanding the relationships this new form will take, informed by local forces as you suggest. Yes Enspiral continues to inform NZ's innovative thinking (I'm a long term associate and a founding director of Loomio) but it is the Tuhoe tribe who have been long term activists for mana motuhake- self determination - often in isolation fm the liberal city dwellers like us.


mike_hales Sun 15 Apr 2018 9:24AM

Haraway and more-than-human cyborg orientations I can take quite happily. This is just an advanced materialist-humanist stance? But they’re quite some distance from actual working legal practice?

It’s the 'post-human’ guys who scare the shit out of me. That’s another topic, though.


Liam Murphy Sun 15 Apr 2018 10:10AM

At a very real and practical level, I am finding it challenging to ask artists, designers and craftspeople - who’s work and IP is materially theirs and ( they perceive) has to be to earn money from - to view as ‘everybodys’. For Cultural Commons transitions, the transition is as important as the end goal. This discussion would be valuable in threads on Cultural Commons Coalitions and CuktureBanks... thanks, LM


Liam Murphy Mon 16 Apr 2018 9:54AM

Maybe phrasing this as a question will tease out some guidance: Is artwork as stock in trade ever going to be 'common stock' - and if it can be - how? A salient question re: 'property' as 'artworks' are not listed under the international classification of goods act - other than, potentially, textile weavings (as rugs - which poses another question about classifying craft based production as 'art'). There is no categorisation of, for example, an 'Oil Painting' or 'Sculpture'. I'm very keen to understand the suitability of artwork for creating a material commons (in law) - so any thoughts or links most welcome. 'CultureBanking' (https://www.loomio.org/invitations/475e91ab6cdd40734c7f) proposes a 'floating form of ownership' which acknowledges both private property and a debt to the (cultural) commons....) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-classify-trade-marks/trade-mark-classification-list-of-goods-and-services
http://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/classifications/nice/en/pdf/8_list_class_order.pdf So, to re-cap: "Can artworks form part of a material commons at the same time as realising private incomes for their creators - and if so - how"? THANKS


Paul B. Hartzog Mon 16 Apr 2018 3:38PM

There's no need for brain hurting. My Stanford Lecture covers the details:

I'll sum up here. Basically, there are 4 types of property:

  1. no one owns and manages it (open access)
  2. the state owns and manages it (public)
  3. someone owns and manages it (private)
  4. the community owns and manages it (commons)

The primary problem of contemporary civilization is that ever since Garrett Hardin confused 1 and 4 people have believed in the inevitability of the Tragedy of the Commons and so we are always told to use public or private. Mancur Olson explained the obstacles to collective action, but what Howard Rheingold dubbed "Technologies of Cooperation" makes cooperation much easier (see Smart Mobs) so we can now follow Elinor Ostrom's rules and collectively manage our resources. :-)

Would love to know what you think!


mike_hales Thu 19 Apr 2018 7:59AM

Another version of my starting query . . . Is a commons a form of ownership? Or a form of stewardship? And is there a tradition of stewardship law, as distinct from property law, which would be more helpful to start from?


Sophie Jerram Tue 24 Apr 2018 9:26AM

The Galicians refer to 'holding' their property.


Simon Grant Thu 19 Apr 2018 8:28AM

In my experience, the very word "ownership" is problematic, as different people interpret it in different ways -- some from a legal point of view, others from a moral or ethical starting point. To me, it is more helpful simply to list the rights, responsibilities, benefits and obligations that come along with a person's relationship to a resource. I do believe this unpacking / unpicking is an important starting point in reconstructing a common understanding of common "ownership", or our relationship to the commons, and other commoners.

Come to think of it, maybe the most challenging part is exactly our relationship to other commoners (or non-commoners)? This is an issue that was illustrated for me just last night in a meeting in our cohousing community.

I should add the point (probably obvious) that Intellectual Property is one of the most curious areas of property, and clearly differs in some ways from physical property.


mike_hales Thu 19 Apr 2018 9:05AM

I agree that being clear among those we collaborate with is primary. With you, I feel that rights, responsibilities, obligations & benefits is core language. And see this as a language of stewardship and, as you said, practical working relationship.

I’m reluctantly beginning to think also in terms of law because, ultimately, we have a fight on our hands over commons, and law may be a key battlefield in holding our territory. So if we have to argue with a corporate lawyer . . what's the language that’s admissible in courts of law? I’d be glad to know how clear-cut and how muddy this is. Maybe ownership trumps stewardship in law? Is it down to picket lines and barricades in the end?


Simon Carter Thu 19 Apr 2018 9:50AM

is the problem commons as property, or is the problem who encloses commons as property, & what they do with it? My thoughts are we do not fight the system as is, but play it at it's own game, in other words band together & buy stuff back. We have it within our power to stop helping to make rich people richer. The more commons we own collectively as communities & as stakeholders, the less we need to rely on private property held for personal gain. To quote David Korten, 'walk away from the King'.


Liam Murphy Thu 19 Apr 2018 11:41AM

At a rudimentary level: you make something. You own it - legally - and all rights emanating from it. Peer production asks you to ‘give this up’, which can seem counterintuitive. It is your livelihood. Stock in trade as shared resources. How to tackle that is my specific and pending problem... any thoughts welcome..? ( I do have solutions but interested in others ideas) LM


mike_hales Thu 19 Apr 2018 1:06PM

The stuff that we directly make - as artisans or hackers, say - is a relatively straightforward case of property (patents may complicate things)? Yes, 'giving it away' may be confusing or unwelcome for some, if they regard this stuff as livelihood. To what extent are artisans in different spheres even interested in commons stewardship of individually-hatched cultural products, as distinct from personal intellectual property? Attitudes and working relationships are perhaps not the same as in the hacker community, with OpenSource?

My mind is more on the pre-existing or casually created stuff that we thought was common or public but is increasingly being enclosed - air, water, forest, ocean on one hand; city spaces, even gossip (via social media) on the other. Oh, and that little cultural thing called 'science'! I would be happy to feel that we can increasingly assert - in law when necessary - a very broad stewardship relationship with such diverse things, in place of the state ownership that can’t be relied on to safeguard public or common interests. In place, too, of the dubious stewardship of elites and corporations whose core concerns are not 'social', in Science. Science hasn't ever been a commons: its more of a 'gated community' inhabited by an elite whose members are nominally peers.

Thus I’m interest in the status of stewardship in law (as distinct from private or public ownership), and what kinds of things are presently regarded as being under this kind of governance. Is it just archaic things (like subsistence commons) or does law in some areas readily acknowledge modern stewardship too, and cultural commons as well as material commons?

This is different from your main concern Liam? Which seems to be intellectual property in a conventional sense, and collection of rents on cultural real estate?


Greg Cassel Thu 19 Apr 2018 2:28PM

The stuff that we directly make - as artisans or hackers, say - is a relatively straightforward case of property (patents may complicate things)?

Unfortunately I don't think it's always that straightforward. If I make a spear out of a stick I find in the woods, okay maybe it's "my spear" in that most people would peacefully agree that I hold exclusive rights to keep and use that spear. But what if I made the spear out of a stick I found in a private park, or someone's yard?

These are complex "what ifs" but my point is simply that humans never make physical resources in a literal sense. All we do is intentionally transform physical resources to (hopefully) make them more useful for specific purposes or functions.

In our actions to transform physical resources, we may use physical resources and information resources (such as recipes) which are either governed exclusively or available in a commons. In addition to those ingredients, of course, we also add our own effort: time, attention, manual actions; "work". However, the amount of work which a creative action requires from a "creator" varies immensely. For example, if I decided to build a modern house by myself-- using no prefabricated parts-- I doubt I'd ever finish! On the other hand, if a real estate developer decides to "build a house", all they may ever do is to sign a paper which sets other "gears" (including humans) in motion.

I'm intentionally complicating "creation", "property" and "ownership", but not because I want a complicated world! As a p2p designer, all I want to do is develop healthy communication and collaboration processes based on mutually beneficial, consent-based relationships. To develop such processes, I think we must develop many intentionally shared commons of physical and information resources, and we must develop clear and effective standards for an unlimited variety of economic relationships and transactions.

To develop intentionally shared and sustainable commons, we must develop our ability to steward. I think that's a good term here @mikeh8 . To develop effective standards for economic commitments and transactions, I think we must develop more accurate representations of (as @asimong wrote) "the rights, responsibilities, benefits and obligations that come along with a person's relationship to a resource". And we can do that! It just requires lots of focus, conversation and time.

I don't mean to imply that the terms property or ownership are doomed. I don't know. I think we're still early in the evolution of language.


mike_hales Fri 20 Apr 2018 11:30AM

“many intentionally shared commons of physical and information resources, and . . . clear and effective standards for an unlimited variety of economic relationships and transactions” Yes!

“lots of focus, conversation and time” Yes!!

Wake early, work late, stay cool and B R E A T H E !


Liam Murphy Sun 22 Apr 2018 7:42AM

Quick Reflection 1: "All we do is intentionally transform physical resources to (hopefully) make them more useful for specific purposes or functions": Sets of instructions, designs and 'art' (non-applied - if you believe in such a thing!) are relatively pure forms of intellectual (non material) property which don't have to involve material resource transformations - but can command high monetary values. I think we have to be interested in both kinds of property because the broad project is to make workable distinctions between personal, inter-personal (stock in trade) and non-personal 'property' (non-property) like water, air etc. For this reason there needs to be some work at a granular level on the existing categories of 'goods' and 'raw materials' and to re-frame them in the context of a commoning economy. (This is probably happening -- so maybe someone could send links?)

QR2: "To what extent are artisans in different spheres even interested in commons stewardship of individually-hatched cultural products, as distinct from personal intellectual property?" Artists contribute massively to the common good in tangible and intangible ways. Some of this contribution has been demeaned to 'art-washing' in urban contexts because - specifically because - they cannot access the capital requirements to take owner- or stewardship of the many resources they need for work ( eg buildings). When, as is happening in my home City of Norwich, a 10 year old community of 'Creative Independents' (as they are self identifying) are given a years notice of possible eviction, their interest in what commons stewardship can do for them is accentuated to a huge degree. The fact that none of their influencing forces (art schools, arts orgs, arts councils, local authorities etc) have encouraged this interest previously presents a challenge to any potential commons movement and an indictment of the extractive nature of those influencing forces. The extent of their interest is directly proportionate to available information and perceived threat. right now - THEY ARE ALL EARS (all 300 or so...)

I am devising a 'Cultural Commons Audit' as a beginning point to encourage this community to join together in discovering what they share and what they could (but don't) share; what their deficits are and where their surpluses are and what's to gain from valuing each other and themselves collectively! Looking to these pages for ongoing support and information! Thanks all. LM


Simon Grant Sun 22 Apr 2018 8:15AM

Liam @liammurphy I'm also wondering about how history might illuminate this. In my understanding, there were long periods where artists (including musicians etc.) made a living essentially only through patronage. Or if you were someone like Carlo Gesualdo, you were yourself a noble of private means so you could indulge your artistic tastes without concern for patronage.

(And talking of private means, there was a time when science was only able to be pursued by those of private means...)

One question could be, could we look forward to some kind of commons "patronage"? Works of art would be free to reproduce, but the artist would be paid by supporters / admirers / by common consent.

If you are willing to consider this, then, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this system and the (present) one of creating and selling intellectual property? Are there signs of common patronage emerging (e.g. Patreon)? At a tangent, is Patreon a platform co-op? And if not, is there a co-op equivalent? It's certainly a different model from Stocksy.


Graham Sun 22 Apr 2018 8:34AM

I'm pretty sure that Patreon is not a cooperative. And this is not the first time I've come across this idea of a #platformcoop version of Patreon. You could probably get the basic thing up and running as an MVP using OpenCollective (the UK version).


mike_hales Sun 22 Apr 2018 9:25AM

Simon notes "wondering about how history might illuminate this . . . there were long periods where artists (including musicians etc.) made a living essentially only through patronage"

By far the clearest historical thing I know on this is Raymond Williams in his 1981 Fontana paperback 'Culture' (published in USA as 'The sociology of culture'). In chapter 2 on 'institutions' he discusses - in historical sequence: instituted artists (eg bards), artists and patrons, artists and markets and post-market forms. Since he was writing before we had massively powerful media-savvy computers in our pockets, some of his categories may need expanding and no doubt new ones - eg covering social media - need adding. But his classification of relationships between 'creators' and elites and customers and the modern State is a good, clear place to start in designing new relationships.


Simon Grant Mon 14 May 2018 7:22AM

Thanks for this, Mike @mikeh8 -- very interesting and takes it much deeper than my simple starting point. I find the "instituted artist" model of particular interest, as giving more stability, but at what cost, in terms of creativity?

If what is created is to be part of a commons, then it's difficult to see any model working where products are sold. But Patreon (and the like) works on the basis that you fund people to continue creating more of what they have done. It's nice and "democratic", but depends on an economy where people have surplus income to pass on. If contributing were compulsory, it might breed resentment.

All I'm reaffirming is that "property" is not the only way of supporting artists or creatives. I haven't read Proudhon ("property is theft!") but I guess that line of thinking may be worth checking up on.


Liam Murphy Tue 15 May 2018 6:48AM

Hi Simon: I re-read this:

"If what is created is to be part of a commons, then it's difficult to see any model working where products are sold. But Patreon (and the like) works on the basis that you fund people to continue creating more of what they have done. It's nice and "democratic", but depends on an economy where people have surplus income to pass on. If contributing were compulsory, it might breed resentment."

Bit baffled here... How can you tell the jewelry maker who sells what she makes on a craft market each week that she doesn't fit into a commons model? Does she belong 'outside' the commons? Also, if people cannot sell what they make, where does any surplus income ever get generated? Surely products are sold in the commons? When you say 'you' fund - who is 'you'? Surely also, the artist herself is part of an artists' commons and funds herself along with other artists? What is in the commons is the market place she uses, possibly her raw materials, her skills etc... It's this which prevents Patreon from being a 'common' (and the lack of shared ownership):

You mustn't: "Create content or rewards using others' intellectual property, unless you have written permission to use it, or your use is protected by fair use."...

Our Jewelry maker, in a commons marketplace, can sell her work, but also, she can sell the work of other commoners, - she must pay them and they must pay her and the common receives something too. That would be peer production. Surely the selling is not the issue, but the ownership of the market place? Patreon's is not shared, but if it were, and licenses were (unless agreed for commons fund purposes) open, it could be - or am I missing a point? If I am I need to know as what I'm describing is the culturebanking® model...! all best, L


Liam Murphy Tue 15 May 2018 6:57AM

Open Collective wouldn't cut it - it's not got the features, eg escrow, payment gateways you'd need - but is good for partner contributions etc - am working on an ap and web based platform now - seeking start-up finance!


Simon Grant Tue 15 May 2018 7:28AM

I'd like to think this through in terms of, say "commons-based economic systems". As far as I can see, there are many different ways of organising things that have at least some element of "commons" in them. On the one end, "commons-lite" you could call it ;) most things work just the same as at present, but, say, the market itself is run as a commons. Or the means of production is in common ownership.

At the other extreme, I can also imagine a society (I'm sure there have been many) where most things are owned in common, not by individuals.

So what about your jewellery makers? The fact that they have a commons-based marketplace is, to me, a good thing to be encouraged, but does that make it "commons-based peer production" as in Wikipedia or as in the P2PF wiki? Well, I'm not sure about that -- you can read the articles and decide.

Many good things are not on/off, black/white. There isn't a single criterion on which you either qualify, or don't, as part of "The Commons". To me, any move towards the commons is a good one. The "Commons Transition" is not a sudden quantum leap, but a process, a journey, and we can encourage each other along the road.

Read my bit that you quoted again -- "If what is created is to be part of a commons, then it's difficult to see any model working where products are sold." The jewellery created is not going to be part of the commons in any world that I can envisage. It's going to be private property! But still, I could envisage a jewellers business where the equipment was held in common; and perhaps more interestingly where the designs and techniques were also held in common between the jewellers. The intellectual commons would be the commons of design and technique.

Having a commons marketplace is good. Where you can go after that depends on what you are doing.


mike_hales Fri 18 May 2018 10:02PM

@asimong Your reference to 'commons lite' is helpful, prompting thoughts about what really heavy duty, Big Medicine commons might be . . and the spectrum in between. As you say, a market that is operated as a commons is a whole other kind of market than most we find ourselves in. Even the weekly Farmer's Market is likely to be run by an entrepreneur or a local government authority rather than governed by the traders and customers - as it might have been 250 years ago, through the so-called 'moral economy of the C18 crowd', before the corn merchants and capitalist farmers sidelined them?

Kinds of commons? Customary/indigenous/subsistence commons. Casual (formally-) unregulated commons (eg gossip, or the notorious kind that Garrett Hardin wrote about). Philanthropic commons (where a proprietor makes stuff available as 'common goods' but decides what's on offer). Faux commons (like the gossip that Facebook promotes in the public part, while raking-off commercial assets with its ever-vigilant proprietary algorithms in the back office). And really heavy-duty revolutionary commons like Kleiner's Venture Commune.Many degrees of commons . . in the comment below I was mistaken to imply that there was just one 'real' kind.

There must be discussions of these distinctions somewhere? @michelbauwens1 must have posted something, maybe in P2PF wiki? Patterns of Commoning displays many kinds of commons but I don't think it types them (except tacitly, in the section headings - is this seen as a durable or authoritative classification)? Customary vs contemporary commons is one distinction that's made, but that's only a small part of the language. Does Elinor Ostrom offer a typology and is it in P2PF wiki?

I must go search . . but meanwhile if anyone knows these answers, it will save on search time.


mike_hales Fri 18 May 2018 10:31PM

I haven't read Proudhon either @asimong but have always assumed that his well-known soundbite meant that all large accumulations of wealth are derived historically from appropriation of part of the surplus produced by the labour of others - but 'behind their backs', as Marx says of the 'fair' wage-labour contract. This appropriation is the basis of class societies, back in the day when settled agricultural communities first began reliably producing surpluses, and in due course cities and layers of elites appeared. Before that, when there really was no surplus, accumulations of wealth were achieved (?) by overt extortion (threats of physical harm) rather than sneakily by 'theft' - which is known as 'progress' ;-)


Liam Murphy Sun 22 Apr 2018 9:10AM

Thanks - https://opencollective.com/culturebanks1# - Looking at 'ap and website' dev't and working with tech developers as we speak - loose MVP plans on Loomio too - https://www.loomio.org/invitations/475e91ab6cdd40734c7f as u know... Also looking for 3 'proof of concept projects' (may have 2 already). it's a platform for co-operation (if not a platform coop) and certainly an advance on Patreon I'd hope... www.culturebanks.com for my 'calling card' website - not really looking to publicise that just yet... and @culturebanks on Twitter for 'curated content'.... :-) Please circulate appropriately! LM


Liam Murphy Sun 22 Apr 2018 10:50AM

( referred a local research director at Local Enterprise Partnership event to precisely the same source! - said culture was ‘anything not animal vegetable or mineral’ - and got very ‘short shrift’!!)


Greg Cassel Sun 22 Apr 2018 1:36PM

"All we do is intentionally transform physical resources to (hopefully) make them more useful for specific purposes or functions": Sets of instructions, designs and 'art' (non-applied - if you believe in such a thing!) are relatively pure forms of intellectual (non material) property which don't have to involve material resource transformations - but can command high monetary values. I think we have to be interested in both kinds of property

I meant for the sentence you quoted to be "contained" to the context of the previous sentence, with "...my point is simply that humans never make physical resources in a literal sense. " I.e. I was intentionally focusing there upon relationships between humans and physical resources. I agree that intellectual resources are fundamentally important, and they're actually the main focus of my work!

I write "intellectual resources", not "intellectual property", because in addition to my general focus on concepts such as resource, right and responsibility, I'm especially critical of the notion of intellectual property. Creative identities, provenance and accreditation are often very important, but I believe we're nearing the end of the history of IP law as we've known it. The idea that any person or group owns an idea (any idea) is IMO just an awkward, inefficient and practically outdated aspect of the development of modern exploitative economies.

Of course, regardless of whether anyone 'owns' ideas, laborious research and development (of resources of any type) needs to be sustainably supported. I advocate developing that through a variety of mutually inclusive techniques including crowdfunding, "pay what you want" distribution models and (indirectly) systems to provide basic income and/or basic services.


Liam Murphy Mon 14 May 2018 10:33AM

Art as commons, public or 'club' goods: This is a very flawed article, but has some useful (if over extended) thoughts about this subject. There is also a decent glossary stemming from Buchanan, 1965 : http://www.klamer.nl/research-project/art-as-a-common-good/ (It's worth mentioning that in IP Law -no-one can own an idea - only it's materialisation, which must be made available to the market for exploitation.... )


mike_hales Tue 15 May 2018 9:02AM

Thanks @liammurphy for your link to Arjo Klamer, will read carefully & keep. But at first glance I see one basic issue . . . Klamer is talking in everyday economics terms, which is not necessarily a good way to go. He uses 'common goods' in a conventional way. But common goods are not the same thing as 'a commons'. A commons equals some commoners plus some 'goods' plus a governance regime in which the commoner/stakeholders exercise stewardship. By that definition, there's very little in Klamer's world of individually-owned artworks that's in a commons. The collective stewardship is missing. Of course conventional economics-speak can't help us handle this, we need to look elsewhere, beyond Klamer's sourcebook.

By the same criterion, the 'conversations' that Klamer says are 'common goods' are not automatically a commons. There are private conversations and public ones, elite-ruled traditions and (perhaps) commons-governed ones. Klamer seems much too willing to sit within the conventional notion of the individual artist speaking egotistically for 'all mankind' to an individual consumer/proprietor or elite audience. Commoning is something else? Raymond Williams' popularised the phrase 'a common culture' in just this sense - as a future hope.

Regarding Raymond Williams on culture, I note that in the 'very flawed article' I shared he's not writing about works of art or 'goods'. He's writing about the institutions in which artists historically have done their labour - who paid the piper (and called the tune) - clan chiefs, archbishops, aristocrats, foundation Boards, media entrepreneurs, government departments, etc. Sadly in the 70s (when article was written) artwork done under (and funded under) the collective stewardship of its beneficiaries and producers - perhaps what you called 'club goods' - wasn't that much in evidence. Still isn't? Maybe Cuba?? The point is - it's the labour of stewardship that matters (who calls the tune, who pays the piper). If there isn't explicit collective stewardship/governance of production and use, it's not a commons.


Liam Murphy Tue 15 May 2018 9:02AM

Thanks Simon -

All noted and agreed.

One point of extension: Property itself needn’t be either/or... The jewelry ( American spelling?) might have a role as a ‘club, common or public good’. The object made may be privately owned, but it’s legacy, it’s stories, litanies etc ( see Mauss on this) can be commonly owned: ‘Hey Jude’ - the download, ‘Hey Jude’ the stream, ‘Hey Jude’ - the record and ‘Hey Jude’ - the song in my head.... interesting considerations for would be business models and the ever elusive partner state!

Think we r on similar pages,



Michel Bauwens Sat 19 May 2018 10:14AM

dear Mike,

I've kept track of various kinds of typologies here at https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Commons

hope some of it can help,



mike_hales Sat 19 May 2018 1:46PM

A cornucopia! Thanks Michel.


mike_hales Wed 26 Jun 2019 1:30PM

@michelbauwens1 @staccotroncoso @asimong I don't want to create a thread, this one seems OK (sleeping!) . . .

Would you like to comment on this, posted in the Open Credit Network group
- Commons? Autonomist federation?

The issue arises out of @matthewslater Credit Commons Manifesto adopted as foundation of this significant credit commons project, currently being addressed with @dilgreen in the context of visioning a global software architecture for the credit commons. I find myself wondering whether 'individuals' in the liberal-individualist sense can even have recognised status in a commons world? Perhaps, on the contrary, it's only a commons that can call into existence the status of an actor as a recognised commoner? This invokes a whole other framework of (post-propertarian) law, to be constructed, in an antagonistic relationship with liberal Market/State property law? Is it for the commons to recognise and approve legitimate participation, rather than the liberal-individual to freely join, as if it were a mere market?

The post includes references to Ugo Mattei on the propertarian nature of liberal law, and required law for the commons. Plainly, this ties up with the issue of licensed access to a commons for non-commoners, accumulation in the commons and the defence of commons against extractive/enclosing forces.

If this seems an appropriate topic in this group, I can re-post the comment here for convenience? What d'you feel?


Liam Murphy Fri 28 Jun 2019 2:08PM

Presumably, if an individual makes something and attributes it to a common, then they are exercising some kind of 'right of contribution'. Their 'call to existence' as commoners can only be effective if it has a response - maybe? Whether the horse wants to push or pull the cart is surely up to the horse or it's rider? The individual might set terms on their output and the commons might reciprocate and this might be a relationship which can be fractional and variable... or not. Decisions have to be made... My interest lies in talking to local authorities about recognising licensing income as common wealth - and therefore making it tax deductible. It is the deductibility which seems to determine whether individuals output of value contributes to common wealth or not. (Bear in mind I'm only concerned with intellectual property exchanges)... I vote 'relevant' - greatly!