The term "knowledge commons" refers to information, data, and content that is collectively owned and managed by a community of users, particularly over the Internet. What distinguishes a knowledge commons from a commons of shared physical resources is that digital resources are non-subtractible;[1] that is, multiple users can access the same digital resources with no effect on their quantity or quality.[2]

Conceptual background

The term 'commons' is derived from the medieval economic system the commons.[3] The knowledge commons is a model for a number of domains, including Open Educational Resources such as the MIT OpenCourseWare, free digital media such as Wikipedia,[4] Creative Commons–licensed art, open-source research,[5] and open scientific collections such as the Public Library of Science or the Science Commons, free software and Open Design.[6][7] According to research by Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom,[2] the conceptual background of the knowledge commons encompasses two intellectual histories: first, a European tradition of battling the enclosure of the "intangible commons of the mind",[8] threatened by expanding intellectual property rights and privatization of knowledge.[9] Second, a tradition rooted in the United States, which sees the knowledge commons as a shared space allowing for free speech and democratic practices,[10] and which is in the tradition of the town commons movement and commons-based production of scholarly work, open science, open libraries, and collective action.[2]

The production of works in the knowledge commons is often driven by collective intelligence, respectively the wisdom of crowds, and is related to knowledge communism[11] as defined by Robert K. Merton, according to whom scientists give up intellectual property rights in exchange for recognition and esteem.[12]

Ferenc Gyuris argues that it is important to distinguish "information" from "knowledge" in defining the term "knowledge commons".[13] He argues that "knowledge as a shared resource" requires that both information must become accessible and potential recipients must become able and willing to internalize it as 'knowledge'. "Therefore, knowledge cannot become a shared resource without a complex set of institutions and practices that give the opportunity to potential recipients to gain the necessary abilities and willingness".[14]


Copyleft licenses are institutions which support a knowledge commons of executable software.[15] Copyleft licenses grant licensees all necessary rights such as right to study, use, change and redistribute—under the condition that all future works building on the license are again kept in the commons.[16] Popular applications of the 'copyleft' principle are the GNU Software Licenses (GPL, LGPL and GFDL by Free Software Foundation) and the share-alike licenses under creative commons.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Mansell, Robin (2013-08-29). "Employing digital crowdsourced information resources: Managing the emerging information commons". International Journal of the Commons. 7 (2): 255. doi:10.18352/ijc.395. hdl:10535/9115. ISSN 1875-0281.
  2. ^ a b c Hess, Charlotte; Ostrom, Elinor (2007). Understanding Knowledge as a Commons - From Theory to Practice. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-0-262-08357-7.
  3. ^ Potts, Jason (2019-08-22), "Rules of the Innovation Commons", Innovation Commons, Oxford University Press, pp. 109–152, doi:10.1093/oso/9780190937492.003.0006, ISBN 978-0-19-093749-2
  4. ^ Sampsel, Laurie J. (2017-10-02). "Finding Open Educational Resources for Music: OER Commons, MERLOT II, Openstax CNX, and MIT OpenCourseWare". Music Reference Services Quarterly. 20 (3–4): 224–226. doi:10.1080/10588167.2017.1364608. ISSN 1058-8167. S2CID 165880193.
  5. ^ Joshua M. Pearce, "Open Source Research in Sustainability", Sustainability: the Journal of Record, 5(4), pp. 238-243, 2012. DOI free and open access
  6. ^ Schweik, Charles M. (2006), "Free/Open-Source Software as a Framework for Establishing Commons in Science", Understanding Knowledge as a Commons, The MIT Press, pp. 277–310, doi:10.7551/mitpress/6980.003.0014, ISBN 978-0-262-25634-6, retrieved 2021-05-24
  7. ^ Fernandez, Peter D.; Tilton, Kelly (2018). Applying library values to emerging technology : decision-making in the age of open access, maker spaces, and the ever-changing library. Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. ISBN 978-0-8389-8939-5. OCLC 1024320754.
  8. ^ Boyle, James (2003). "The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain". Law and Contemporary Problems. 66 (1–2): 33–74. Archived from the original on 2010-11-23.
  9. ^ "Knowledge Commons". Research Handbook on the Economics of Intellectual Property Law: 655. 2019. doi:10.4337/9781789903997.00077. ISBN 9781789903997. S2CID 261727871.
  10. ^ Lozano, Rosina (2018-04-24), "The United States Sees Language", An American Language, University of California Press, doi:10.1525/california/9780520297067.003.0006, ISBN 978-0-520-29706-7, retrieved 2021-05-24
  11. ^ Mouzouni, Charafeddine (2018-03-14). "The Wisdom Of Crowds: When Collective Intelligence Surpasses Individual Intelligence". Science Trends. doi:10.31988/scitrends.12858.
  12. ^ Kampf, Roger (2013). "From data to wisdom: the contribution of intellectual property rights to the knowledge pyramid". Access to Information and Knowledge: 235–257. doi:10.4337/9781783470488.00019. ISBN 9781783470488.
  13. ^ Győri, Róbert; Gyuris, Ferenc (2015), "Knowledge and Power in Sovietized Hungarian Geography", Geographies of Knowledge and Power, Knowledge and Space, vol. 7, Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 203–233, doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9960-7_10, ISBN 978-94-017-9959-1, retrieved 2021-05-24
  14. ^ Gyuris, Ferenc (2014). "Basic education in communist Hungary. A commons approach". International Journal of the Commons. 8 (2): 531–553. doi:10.18352/ijc.458. hdl:10535/9597.
  15. ^ Sen, Ravi; Subramaniam, Chandrasekar; Nelson, Matthew L. (December 2011). "Open source software licenses: Strong-copyleft, non-copyleft, or somewhere in between?". Decision Support Systems. 52 (1): 199–206. doi:10.1016/j.dss.2011.07.004. ISSN 0167-9236.
  16. ^ Stewart, Daxton (2021). "Rise of the Copyleft Trolls: When Photographers Sue After Creative Commons Licenses Go Awry". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3844180. hdl:1811/101769. ISSN 1556-5068. S2CID 235276455.
  17. ^ Carver, Brian W. (2018-08-15). "Share and Share Alike: Understanding and Enforcing Open Source and Free Software Licenses". Berkeley Technology Law Journal. 20:443. doi:10.31228/ Retrieved 2021-05-24.