10 Open Source Policies for a Commons-Based Society

Michel Bauwens is the founder of the P2P Foundation and former advisor to the goverment of Ecuador for a project to “remake the roots of Ecuador’s economy, setting off a transition into a society of free and open knowledge.” With a team of researchers and through a partipatory process involving local civic actors and global commoners, the FLOK project produced a generic transition plan to a commons society with more than 15 specific policy and legislative plans.

Mira Luna from Shareable asked Bauwens for his top recommendations of government policies to encourage open source development and the commons. While government policy usually sides with proprietary knowledge in the public sector, there is a huge opportunity to use goverments as a ally, supporter and guardian of the commons. To learn more and get involved, check out the P2P FoundationOpenSource.com, Open Mind and the Open Source Initiative.

1. Education - Government should invest in the education and awareness for public of the legal and licensing choices for open knowledge to create and protect open commons, including for law students.

2. Research - Publicly funded research should be Free/Libre/Open Source (FLOS). Citizens have the right to learn from the technologies their governments invest in on their behalf (e.g. public university research). This includes open designs that enable the production of free and open hardware.

3. Purchasing - Government purchasers, educational institutions and other recipients of government funding should preferentially invest in open machinery, software and hardware, for example use open scientific hardware in laboratories to save the public and students' money by using nonproprietary and free products. (e.g. Linux for university and student use).

4. Patents -  Adopt policies which preserve open source status of new technologies in relationship to patents, especially in early stages of development (e.g. 3D printers).

5. Data - Data produced or commissioned by public entities for public use (e.g. surveys of vacant properties, government budgets) should be open and shareable by the public.

6. Collaboration - Governments and education institutions should invest in physical infrastructures that enable human collaboration around open knowledge, such as hackerspaces, fablabs, and co-working spaces.

7. Commons - Government should preferentially invest in the type of material commons that allows the creative actors to live and thrive in urban and rural centers, protected from the private speculation that renders commons-oriented creative work more difficult if not impossible. Examples include: creation of non-speculative, off market housing through urban community land trusts and publicly owned community centers.

8. Health - Governments should especially invest in open medical research, so that medicines will be available at reasonable price levels. Patents on drugs permit the deaths millions of Africans each year who fall to AIDS alone. Many natural cures go untested because they can't be patented.

9. Economy - Government should invest in public-commons partnerships and incubators that create livelihoods and a thriving economy around open knowledge, software and design.

10. Systemic Change -  Government should embark on open source and commons-oriented transition policies that systematize the transition towards a society and economy towards open knowledge, following the example of the Commons Transition Plan in Ecuador.

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