The Information Commons

Queen Mary Intellectual Property Working Paper

47 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2003

See all articles by John Cahir

John Cahir

Queen Mary, University of London - Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute (QMIPRI)

Date Written: July 23, 2003


The phenomenon of volunteer produced and freely disseminated information is a significant feature of the digitally networked environment. We are witnessing a widespread and intentional abandonment by authors of the core economic interest, which copyright law is designed to protect. This spontaneous occurrence promises to be the most important transformation in cultural and scientific information production, since the invention of the printing press. In this article, I review the treatment of the commons concept in existing legal and political theory literature and argue that it be understood as an emanation of freedom, rather than simply as a negation of property. I provide a detailed analytical account of the information commons and attempt to build a comprehensive explanatory framework of the reasons for its pervasiveness in the digitally networked environment. In particular, I argue that the Internet's communicative architecture is a crucial factor behind the emergence of the phenomenon: it both facilitates the organisation of volunteer production and embeds the logic of open access.

Keywords: Intellectual Property, Copyright Law, Information Commons, Volunteer Production, Internet Architecture

Suggested Citation

Cahir, John, The Information Commons (July 23, 2003). Queen Mary Intellectual Property Working Paper, Available at SSRN: or

John Cahir (Contact Author)

Queen Mary, University of London - Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute (QMIPRI) ( email )

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