Monday, August 03, 2009

Tragedy "and Comedy" of the commons

This is an interesting perspective on the classic formulation of the tragedy of the commons. I quoted the 2 paragraphs directly from ECommerce Times - link at the bottom.

"In its classic form, the tragedy of the commons is illustrated by a scenario in which a shared pasture is freely available to all citizens for grazing their livestock. When acting from their individual self-interests, each citizen logically concludes that they should increase their herd. The tragedy of this scenario is that it inevitably leads to too many animals grazing, depleting the resources of the shared pasture to the detriment of all. As Garrett Hardin wrote in Science magazine (December 1968), "Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest."

Notions from the traditional world of physical property, however, do not always run parallel in the Internet-enabled, digitally-based world of intellectual property. For example, often the value of a digital resource can dramatically increase as the result of more individuals using it -- a scenario dubbed by Carol Rose as the comedy of the commons in the University of Chicago Law Review (1987). In other variants, especially those popularized by Stanford University professor Lawrence Lessig, each individual participant adds to the intellectual commons, thereby enriching the resources available to all.

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