Commons, the environment and the public domain

One of the problems with the previous age - the industrial age was (and still is) pollution. The environment which we all depend on to survive has not come into economics which is what business focuses on. So essentially a company dumping toxic or climate changing waste products into our environment was getting a free ride. This works until you add the environment into the economics. The problem with the environment is the problem of commonly owned things. They don't really fit into a private-ownership based economic system. They are a commons. It is complicated to value the damage to the environment in order to make companies pay for that damage. Still, people are working on the problem and good or bad, paying for CO2 is on the horizon just as paying to (or in some cases paying to not) pollute has been there for some time.

In the world of science, knowledge and art the environment is the public domain. Well, it's actually more than the pure public domain. It includes scraps of things which have been created recently. This is the environment or knowledge-base upon which all works or inventions are based. The life, the air from which science and art arise. One of the key unaddressed issues with copyright is what a monopoly right of a work of art or an invention takes out of the intellectual environment, the intellectual commons. i.e. what we lose as a result of those monopoly rights.

For instance, it has mostly always been a right of users and of learning institutions to copy parts of works to show points, to illustrate arguments etc. This is called "fair-use" in the US but it might have other names in other countries, it might be an educational exemption for instance. If companies publish works in which it is not possible to do this (because of DRM say) then they are taking, stealing if you like, from the intellectual commons.

It has almost everywhere been the right of users to lend a work to a friend, to sell it when they don't want it anymore. This in the US is called the "first sale" doctrine. Digital works with DRM do not have this right at all in most cases.

I'm not an economist but I think it's vital that we try and find ways to evaluate in an economic or monetary sense the value taken from the intellectual environment of creative works and including taking rights like fair-use and first sale. ie what do we lose in order to create copyright on a work. What do we lose, or pay if copyright is extended for another say 20 years.

How much does it cost us if DRM takes away fair use and first sale?

Here is a small part of an FSF article which talks about some of these concepts:
In the case of copyright, it’s the public’s freedom that the government is spending, to obtain in return for the public scientific and cultural goods. Right now, governments are squandering this freedom. They are spending far too much and getting far too little in return. Plenty of authors and artists are telling the government that works can and will be made without such expenditure. The international free software movement has been proving this for many years now, having successfully produced a fully functional operating system in GNU/Linux that can be freely used, shared and improved upon by anyone who wants to do so; and more recently there have been people doing similar things in encyclopedias, textbooks, and the world of the arts (including music).

Citizens are tired of watching their governments squander their freedom to enrich this handful of corporations,

Again, we need to find a way of quantifying our losses to make it clear what we are losing.

I don't think it is really possible for most people to make sense of the idea without some quantifiable grasp of what the value is. While I and many others clearly feel we are losing something important, without numbers it is meaningless to many.

I do have one idea but I'm not sure how useful it is. Perhaps the amount lost by a DVD with DRM could be some particular amount. I'm not sure what that amount should be but I think it would probably be the same no matter how popular or unpopular the DVD is. No matter how many were sold.

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