The Information Commons/Problems and Legal Issues

The concept of an information commons has become more pertinent in an era where more information is delivered and created digitally. New methods of information creation, distribution and retrieval have raised questions about who should have access to information, in what manner, at what cost. Four issues have arisen from the implementation of information commons – access, legislation, licensing and cost.[1]

As far back as the 1920’s, librarians opposed federal attempts to prohibit the importation of materials deemed subversive or obscene. Ever since, the American Library Association (ALA) has provided librarians opportunities to voice their collective concerns about the future of library and information policy in the United States. Sometimes, the ALA speaks out to protest actions by the federal government to stifle free expression, such as the Patriot Act's effects on library users and communities. [2]

In 1976 and 1988, there were changes in the copyright law that now automatically stipulate that creative works are copyrighted. Because of this, fewer works could be considered a part of the Information Commons because they are not considered a part of the Public Domain i.e., free to be used by the public. This caused a dilemma. How do you guarantee a work a copyright to increase its commercial value and provide incentive for its creation while providing the community with the free exchange of information in the Information Commons? One solution has been provided by Creative Commons. They “believe that many people would not choose this "copyright by default" if they had an easy mechanism for turning their work over to the public...It is Creative Commons' goal to help create such a mechanism.” Creative Commons provides several licensing options that do not make a copyright owner give up their rights, but allows others to use the work under certain specified conditions. [3]

References edit

  1. Fiona Bradley. (2004). Challenging ieas: Enabling the information commons.
  2. Nancy Kranich. Countering Enclosure. Reclaiming the Knowledge Commons. In: Understanding Knowledge as a Commons. From Theory to Practice. Eds. Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom, MIT Press, December 2006, pbk edition 2011, pp. 85-122.