Benkler, Y. (2001, February). The battle over the institutional ecosystem in the digital environment. Communications of the ACM, Vol. 44, No.2, pp84-90. Accessed 7.23.2007 from ACM Digital Library.
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.acm.org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/10.1145/359205.359235
This appears to be a foundation article for the book, Wealth of Nations. I offer it as incentive to read Benkler’s book in it’s entirety.
Recent conditions have been right for explosion of peer to peer creation: access for creative individuals to raw information material combined with low cost tools and methodology. These volunteer based project groups have created more efficient, non-proprietary products, thus challenging the necessity or value of traditional, time honored industrial evolved methods of information production. In retaliation, traditional players are attempting to retain market control through expansion of existing property laws to set boundaries around new digital based dilemmas, i.e. lengthening copyright protection duration.
The author describes an apparent legal trend assuming consumers are better off in a market where active content producers have a financial incentive to create and is therefore shaping the law in support of property protection. He goes on to suggest, given that many of the challenging products and producers have been created outside of the market proper, they share many of the qualities of public goods. Therefore, the old economics of physical goods are inappropriate, as the economics of public goods are fundamentally different.
A compelling argument is made that should large-scale traditional producers restrict both the tools and the access, they can continue dominance in this proprietary, property based market. For society to enjoy the benefits of this new, peer to peer alternative mode of production, a new direction for legal intervention is needed.