From the communism of capital to capital for the commons

Thus we have a paradox: the more “communist” the sharing license used in the peer production of digital commons (that is, few or no restrictions on sharing), the more capitalist the practice (that is, multinationals can use it for free). Take for example the GNU/Linux commons that has become a “corporate commons” as well, enriching for-profit corporations such as IBM. It is obvious that this works in a certain way and seems acceptable to many free software developers. But is this the optimal way?

Our argument focuses on the social logic that the licenses used for sharing the digital commons often enable. They allow anybody to contribute, and they allow anybody to use. In fact this relational dynamic is technically a form of “communism”: from each according to his/her abilities, to each according to his/her needs. This paradoxically allows, for example, multinational corporations to use the free software code for profit maximization. At the same time, the majority of the contributors participate on a voluntary basis, and those who have an income, make a living either through wage-labor or alliances with capital-driven entities.

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