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COMMONS MAGAZINE

Hail to the Flickr Commons!

Hail to the Flickr Commons!

May 8, 2008 | By David Bollier

A fascinating partnership between the Library of Congress and Flickr has recently begun. In a pilot project started in January, the Library has placed 3,115 archival photos on Flickr, the photo-sharing website, and invited users to tag them and so make them more accessible. The Flickr Commons project as it is called, is also asking Flickr’s 23 million members to review the photos for any errors in labeling or identification.


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Native Americans Buying Lost Land

Native Americans Buying Lost Land

May 8, 2008

Casino profits fuel new push to reclaim stolen tribal commons.

White Americans’ lust for money cost Native Americans their land in the 19th Century, as pioneers hungry to make their fortunes out West continually pressured the federal government to open up Indian territory for settlement through illegal occupation and unfair treaties.

Vermont Steps in to Protect Water

Vermont Steps in to Protect Water

May 8, 2008

State To Regulate Bulk Withdrawals That May Hurt Local Ecosystems.

In recent years, manufacturers, mining companies and bottlers in Vermont have been draining so much water from beneath the surface of the state that the state legislature has finally decided to regulate bulk water withdrawals – defined as more than 57,6000 gallons per day. Republican Governor Jim Douglas plans to sign the bill.

Australia’s Redemption Song

Australia’s Redemption Song

May 5, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd’s words of apology to his country’s Aboriginal people will surely make the history books one day—they represent one of the few times a leader has apologized for his government’s mistreatment of indigenous groups and destruction of their commons traditions.

Lively Debate Over Best Way to Solve Climate Change

May 5, 2008

Thankfully, the argument over the “if” of global warming is over, and new debates are springing up over the “how” of fixing the problem.

The online environmental journal Grist is running a three-part series looking at two proposals that offer practical but ambitious ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S.

The "Other" Boston Commons

The "Other" Boston Commons

May 5, 2008

On a Sunday night in March, more than 200 people huddled together in a two-century-old stone church in Boston to hear Canadian activist Maude Barlow speak about the global water crisis.


“Water is a commons,” Barlow said. “We must reclaim this commons from those who would treat it as a commodity.”


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NCDD 2008 Conference, Austin, TX; Oct 3-5

NCDD 2008 Conference, Austin, TX; Oct 3-5

May 4, 2008

If we are to survive our environmental dangers, our border disputes, our resource shortages, et cetera, ad infitum, we will have to learn to talk to each other, and especially those people with whom we disagree.

The upcoming National Coalition for Deliberation and Dialogue Conference will be held Oct. 3-5, in Austin, Texas.

For more info about the conference, to register, or to apply to present a session, visit www.thataway.org/events

Big Buck Bunny

Big Buck Bunny

April 30, 2008 | By David Bollier

In Amsterdam three weeks ago, there was a gala film premiere for Big Buck Bunny, a computer-generated animated movie made completely with open source software. At ten minutes long, Big Buck Bunny is more of an animated short than a film. Still, it is very funny – and it proves the power of open-source software as a creative platform and the viability of an open-content business model based on foundation support, pre-sales and commercial sponsorship.

Water is a Human Right

Water is a Human Right

April 30, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

Maude Barlow—author of the new book Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water (New Press)—has long argued that the growing trend of privatizing municipal water systems is setting off a global economic and ecological disaster.

In their thirst for profits, water companies undermine the health and financial stability of low-income people. This is what happens when drinking water is treated as a commodity (like Coca-Cola) rather than as a commons (like the air).

"The Gift" Turns 25

"The Gift" Turns 25

April 28, 2008 | By David Bollier

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It is a cause for celebration that Lewis Hyde’s classic book, The Gift, is being re-released on the twenty-fifth anniversary of its original publication in 1983. When I first read The Gift, I was a few years out of college, making my way as a writer and activist. Rarely has a book spoken so deeply to me and brought so much into focus. As David Foster Wallace writes in his blurb for the new edition, it’s “the sort [of book] that you hector your friends about until they read it too.”

Is Your Favorite Shop a Commons?

Is Your Favorite Shop a Commons?

April 28, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

National Record Store Day was April 18. In case you missed it, there’s still time to celebrate these distinctive businesses whose mission is often to bring music lovers together as much as to sell CDs.

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Common Assets on the Road to Privatization

Common Assets on the Road to Privatization

April 25, 2008

As never before, state governments are plunging ahead with new experiments in privatizing public roadways. The deals offer investors huge profits from the large toll increases they will charge on highways they control. But for the tax-paying public and drivers, it’s a bad bargain. Over the long term, the public will not receive the full value of the higher tolls that drivers pay. Private operators will manage major highways in ways that maximize tolls and minimize their costs rather than to serve the public interest.

Fans Grateful to the Dead for Keeping Archives Accessible

Fans Grateful to the Dead for Keeping Archives Accessible

April 24, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

The Grateful Dead donated a collection of memorabilia worth millions to the University of California-Santa Cruz rather than selling it. This fits perfectly with the communal ethos of the pioneering rock band and its famously devoted fans.

Public Broadcasting:  Move to Free Audio Formats!

Public Broadcasting: Move to Free Audio Formats!

April 24, 2008 | By David Bollier

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The Free Software Foundation has launched a campaign to get the Boston public radio station, WBUR, to provide an audio stream of its transmissions using a free software application, Ogg Vorbis. The idea is that a commons resource such as public broadcasting should not be locked into proprietary technologies that can inhibit the public’s ability to access and use the audio streams.

The Economics of Online Commons

April 22, 2008 | By David Bollier

What happens when video, music and information can be distributed for free, or nearly so? Well, we’re about to find out—and many of our largest, most capitalized institutions are going to feel the repercussions. Many barriers that once kept information artificially scarce—things like copyright law, digital rights management, and limited bandwidth and computing power—are under siege, if not collapsing. Some people are predicting that copyrighted works will experience a “Bear Stearns moment” in the future, when prices of copyrighted works plummet. An IP bubble, as it were.

Peter Barnes in Time Magazine

Peter Barnes in Time Magazine

April 22, 2008

In the cover story of this week’s Time, author Bryan Walsh discusses the economic woes of any strong climate policy. The solution? Cap-and-dividend.

The Commons as a New Sector of Value-Creation

The Commons as a New Sector of Value-Creation

April 22, 2008 | By David Bollier

The following essay is adapted from remarks that David Bollier gave on April 12, 2008, at a conference, Economies of the Commons: Strategies for Sustainable Access and Creative Reuse of Images and Sounds Online sponsored by the De Balie Centre for Culture and Politics, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Let me start with a bit of wisdom I once picked up from Thomas Berry, an historian of cultures, who has said, “The universe is the communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”

Who owns Chicago’s famous lakeshore?

Who owns Chicago’s famous lakeshore?

April 22, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

A proposal to build a children’s museum in Grant Park creates storm of controversy about a place long deemed “a common.”

As early as 1836, farsighted Chicago citizens refused to sell the village’s lakefront to build a shipping canal, even under pressure from the state of Illinois. They deemed the land: “Public Ground—a Common to Remain Forever Open, Clear and Free of Any Buildings or Other Obstruction Whatever.”

Museums Exploiting Public-Domain Artworks

Museums Exploiting Public-Domain Artworks

April 22, 2008 | By David Bollier

The world’s museums are stewards of millions of images that constitute our cultural patrimony. But are museums willing to share the images that are legally in the public domain? Canadian legal scholar Michael Geist, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, notes that many museums are exploiting their control over public-domain images to limit public access to them and make money. The National Gallery of Canada, for example, charges a “permission fee,” over and above any administrative or reproduction fees, to requesters of copies of public-domain artworks.

Earth Day is an occasion to celebrate the revival of city parks

April 22, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

As Earth Day rolls around, people usually think of protecting wild treasures like rainforests, coral reefs, old growth woods, and wetlands. But look at how most people actually celebrate Earth Day—cleaning up a local park or forest preserve. The truth is that urban parks are way that people get in touch with nature.