alternative economies: the creative commons

[Image via GotCredit under Flickr Creative Commons]

Are the commons now commonplace? According to Massimo De Angelis and David Harvie they are. De Angelis and Harvie define the commons as, “social systems in which resources are shared by a community of users/producers, who also define the modes of use and production, distribution and circulation of these resources through democratic and horizontal forms of governance” (2014: 280). In other words, the commons are an alternative to capitalist society in which people come together to collectively share resources. This blog post will explore the strengths and weakness of the commons in relation to online media.

It seems how we use the Internet today has an underlying infrastructure of the commons. Consider Wikipedia – the free encyclopædia – allowing users to freely create, edit and share web content using Wiki software.Wikipedia is also licensed under Creative Commons, a nonprofit organisation that enables and encourages sharing of creativity and knowledge with the world. With aim to “keep the Internet creative, open and free,” Creative Commons provides licenses that work alongside copyright to allow authors, artists and educators to modify copyright terms to best suit their work. For example, Creative Commons licenses can allow you to change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” Copyright licenses were created before the Internet. Copying, pasting, editing sources, and posting to the web are all actions that can be legally binding, yet also ones we take for granted. Creative Commons aims to make the licensing process easier and in turn create an online collaborative and shared network of knowledge and information.

There are both strengths and weaknesses to commons-based media, or online medias influenced by the commons theory.


  • Encourages collaboration and sharing of information, knowledge and ideas.
  • An alternative to current neoliberal capitalist society that has been proven one that cannot continue.


  • Collaboration and sharing of information, knowledge and ideas among people with access to Internet.
  • As a product of current neoliberal capitalist society, people may not be interested in sharing information, knowledge and ideas for free. A result of free labour.
  • How “open” are open online sharing-based platforms owned by large media corporations?

Commons-based media is strong in that it encourages collaboration and sharing of ideas. It opens a door for people to thoughtfully consider the commons. Yet, this door is only open to people with access to the Internet, and this poses the question: is there one commons that will work for everyone? Positively, the commons and commons-based media offers itself as an alternative to our current economic system in which I argue in a previous post here that our system is uneconomic and unsustainable. Although much of our society is influenced by neoliberalism ideals and the commons theory is weak in that people may not be willing to share their ideas and knowledge for free, or for free labour. Lastly, how “open” are online sharing-based platforms? In an effort to encourage online sharing, many corporate media companies will undoubtedly own the content based on privacy policy and terms of service in which users must agree to in order to use (or in this case, share). Although the commons is strong in encouraging sharing and collaborative ideals, it is weak in it’s fight against neoliberalism ideals and the power of the large corporation.


  • De Angelis, M. and Harvie, D. (2014) ‘The Commons’, in M. Parker, et al (eds) The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization. Abingdon: Routledge.

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