UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Building open cultures : the Commons in a digitally networked environment Riede, Lutz


At last, the cultural wars of the early digital age have broken out. The Internet and digital processing technologies have made it easier for individuals and communities to access and exchange information and thereby easier to create. However, powerful interests currently work to reshape the architecture of the information environment to retain control over cultural production and the flow of information. My thesis analyzes two major conflicts within the efforts to map the boundaries of this digital ecosystem. Firstly, the thesis shifts its focus to wireless communications. While the radio spectrum has been traditionally managed by allocating frequencies through governmental licensing, recent proposals suggest a trend towards a market-based property regime. The purpose of this part is to discuss a spectrum Commons as a third way to manage this resource. Such an alternative would free up spectrum for sharing by many users without governmental authority. Secondly, I trace the development of contemporary copyright law. Copyright law has seen a steady expansion in scope and is now being used to complement digital copy protection technologies in the struggle to capture and control commercial content in digital form. I focus on the enclosure of the public domain as the resource pool of raw material every future creator needs to build upon. Currently, we observe an increasing privatization through the application of traditional tangible property concepts to resources like ideas, culture, information and airwaves. In response, the emerging Free Culture movement argues for a balanced copyright regime and communications policy. The theory of the Commons could serve as the conceptual framework for such a paradigm shift. This thesis promotes the Commons as a sustainable way of resource management for the digitally networked environment.

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