A Commons Approach to European Knowledge Policy

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This paper describes how the commons perspective, as a new framework for understanding knowledge, can contribute to some important, long-overdue EU policy discussions. The commons embraces knowledge as a shared resource and its management a joint responsibility. It points towards policies that facilitate equitable access to and the sustainable management of knowledge. Rather than a narrow focus on intellectual property or economic value alone, the commons approach requires us to attempt a more comprehensive understanding of value and policies that serve the common good. Commons thinking takes a community and ecosystem perspective, placing issues of stewardship, social equity and long-term stability at the forefront of policy.

With the commons paradigm, we can go beyond a purely individual rights- and market-oriented worldview: the very perspective that many consider to be at the root of current economic and environmental crises. Instead of conceiving of society as a mere collection of atomized individuals principally living as consumers, commons thinking points to the reality of people’s lives as deeply embedded in social relationships, communities, histories and traditions. Challenging the dominant ideas of ownership and governance, the commons approach enables policy to assess the collective interests of citizens as a whole.

Product details
Date of Publication
July 2015
Commons Network and Heinrich Böll Foundation
Number of Pages
All rights reserved
Table of contents
  • Introduction 4
  • Social Inequities and Lost Opportunities of Current Knowledge Policies 7
    • Health  8
    • Environment 9
    • Science & Culture 10
    • Internet  11
  • The Commons Approach  13
    • The Basic Idea  13
    • Treating Knowledge as a Commons 16
    • Access Rights and Governance 17
  • The EU Challenge: New Policies to Protect Knowledge Commons  19
    • Knowledge Commons for Health  21
    • Climate Change and Green Technologies 22
    • Science and Culture Commons 24
    • Infrastructure and Democracy: Internet as a Commons 26
    • Trade and the Knowledge Commons 27
  • Conclusion: Here Come the Commons 29
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