Creating Commons by Friendly Appropriation

(2007) 4:1 SCRIPT-ed

19 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2013

See all articles by Graham Greenleaf

Graham Greenleaf

University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2007


The relationships of the world-wide-web and its search engines to the ways in which ‘intellectual commons’ are created, has received little consideration. I argue that the operation of Internet-wide search engines constitutes the creation of an intellectual commons. The history and features of the Google search engine are the principal example.

They illustrate what is probably a very unusual method by which commons are created, which I call ‘friendly appropriation’. I identify eight conditions which are conducive to the creation of commons by friendly appropriation.

Some examples are given of other situations which may constitute friendly appropriation, and of some which do not. Instances of commons arising by this means may be rare, but a fully-developed theory of intellectual commons, and the copyright public domain, needs to recognise when they occur.

Keywords: copyright, public domain, commons, Google, Australia

Suggested Citation

Greenleaf, Graham, Creating Commons by Friendly Appropriation (March 1, 2007). (2007) 4:1 SCRIPT-ed. Available at SSRN:

Graham Greenleaf (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law ( email )

Sydney, New South Wales 2052
+61 2 9385 2233 (Phone)
+61 2 9385 1175 (Fax)


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