Rethinking Copyright for Social Production

In the early 21st Century, social production is starting to play a major role in how we live our lives and create wealth – just like the feudal system was superseded by capitalism, social production is increasing its footprint in our economies and societies.

Social production on a grand scale has become possible because of digitization and network technologies that allow us to collaborate across space and time. However, its success is not technologically determined. Social production needs production processes with interfaces to potential contributors that allow granular and modular contributions, checks and balances that ensure quality control. And process managers that are able to engage outside contributors without relying on the classical ‘modern’ modes of aligning interests, such as contracts, monetary incentives, or force. And a legal framework that fosters it.

Historically, social production has always existed as a mode of collective action, the 17th Century idea of the invisible college is only one example. However, only in the 21st Century have we developed the transaction cost reducing network technologies and the open source mindset that is making social production the default mode of creating value. No new business model is possible in 2010, if it does not at least include a social aspect.Therefore, any strategist today needs to ask, “how do structure the value web or transform my existing value chain so that I leverage the potential of openness?”

Copyright and Social Production

The value added of most products today takes place in the digital realm, therefore result of our processes normally are digital products, covered under existing copyright law. However, our intellectual property rights regimes and organizational cultures have not yet been adapted to facilitate social production and its results. The GPL and other open licensing models are “hacks” to our existing ‘one-person, one-product’ intellectual property rights framework, not a fundamental rethinking that is necessary when confronted with such a fundamental challenge as the incorporation of social production into our network economies and societies.

Therefore, we need to address the following questions:

  • How do base metaphors shape the grammar of our normative thinking on creativity and value creation?
  • What alternative base metaphors could be imagined as foundational for a value creation framework?
  • When talking social production, what is the original position, from which we analyze questions of value creation and distribution of benefits?
  • How do we translate these political theory questions into legal principles?
  • How do we operationalize legal principles into a functioning system?
  • How can we evaluate economic and societal effects of such a counter-factual system?

About Philipp

Philipp Müller works in the IT industry and is academic dean of the SMBS. Author of "". Proud father of three amazing children. The views expressed in this blog are his own.

18. January 2011 by Philipp
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