A Business 2.0 article did a very good job describing Creative Commons and the "sharing economy" which they believe is a multi-billion dollar industry. As I approach companies about trying to adopt creative commons, free software or investment in basic open research and innovation, I am struck by the lack of understanding of the value of sharing and contributing to the commons. It makes a lot of sense to me, but I wonder if it might be useful to try to collect material and generate some addition material that describes the benefits of sharing from a business and economics perspective.

Lawrence Lessig describes the argument very well in Free Culture, but I think that a rigorous business treatment would help the business guys a lot. The think the argument can be made that open protocols such as TCP/IP and http have enabled a great deal of business to happen and if either had been "owned" or patented, we would not have the Internet today. I'm sure IBM can make a strong case about the value of Linux which it has embraced so wholeheartedly. I recently met business researchers in St. Gallen who were displacing management consultants by allowing companies to participate in academics studies about their management that would be contributed to open research. I think there are many arguments about contributing to the commons and how the commons creates a foundation upon which we can build.

I'm going to try to collect papers and articles about this. If anyone has any good references or ideas, please add them to the wiki page I just set up.

Are there any good books about this? I think this is such an important topic that if I had time to write a book, this is what I would want to write it about...

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How about I co-write it with you, Joi?

Hm... actually, I find that that's a serious offer.

That's what the Cooperation Project is trying to do, Joi. We're proceeding! I suggest reading Steven Weber's new book, "The Success of Open Source"

Thanks for the offer Suw. It would be neat to make this a community effort.

Howard. Ah ha! That's right. For some reason I had marked your work with the keyword "collective action" and realize now that I've gone full circle and ended on your doorstep again. ;-) Just ordered "The Success of Open Source". Thanks.

Mathematics has given economics rigor, but alas, also mortis.

My two cents: The main selfish economic incentive for business to embrace free culture (partly embrace it, anway), is it allows a faster exchange of "Cultural DNA", which is the long-term lifeblood of any organisation.

Bloggers understand the economics of Free Culture. But a lot of people don't, despite the best efforts of folk like you, Larry etc.

Using myself as an example, publishing my cartoons online for free has indirectly made me SO MUCH more money than had I just tried to publish them, via old media etc.

But to do that I first had to redefine and widen my own definiton of the word "cartoonist".

For Free Culture to catch on, there has to be the internal paradigm shift before there's an external one. You've made the journey, so have Larry and a lot of your readers. But is the average corporate schmoe able to do likewise? They've barely gotten over the demise of the three-martini lunch....

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June 7, 2005 2:46 AM

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