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Revision as of 14:08, 2 May 2006

Table of Contents | Chapter 9: Summary

Chapter 9 Justice and Development: Industrial Organization of HDI-Related Information Industries


Chapter 9

Liberal Theories of Justice and the Networked Information Economy

Chapter 9, section 1

Commons-Based Strategies for Human Welfare and Development

Chapter 9, section 2

Information-Embedded Goods and Tools, Information, and Knowledge

Chapter 9, section 3

Industrial Organization of HDI-Related Information Industries

The production of information and knowledge is very different from the production of steel or automobiles. Chapter 2 explains in some detail that information production has always included substantial reliance on nonmarket actors and on nonmarket, nonproprietary settings as core modalities of production. In software, for example, we saw that Mickey and romantic maximizer-type producers, who rely on exclusive rights directly, have accounted for a stable 36-37 percent of market-based revenues for software developers, while the remainder was focused on both supply-side and demand-side improvements in the capacity to offer software services. This number actually overstates the importance of software publishing, because it does not at all count free software development except when it is monetized by an IBM or a Red Hat, leaving tremendous value unaccounted for. A very large portion of the investments and research in any of the information production fields important to human development occur within the category that I have broadly described as "Joe Einstein." These include both those places formally designated for the pursuit of information and knowledge in themselves, like universities, and those that operate in the social sphere, but produce information and knowledge as a more or less central part of their existence-like churches or political parties. Moreover, individuals acting as social beings have played a central role in our information production and exchange system. In order to provide a more sector-specific analysis of how commons-based, as opposed to proprietary, strategies can contribute to development, I offer here a more detailed breakdown specifically of software, scientific publication, agriculture, and biomedical innovation than is provided in chapter 2. Table 9.1 presents a higher-resolution statement of the major actors in these fields, within both the market and the nonmarket sectors, from which we can then begin to analyze the path toward, and the sustainability of, more significant commons-based production of the necessities of human development.

Table 9.1: Map of Players and Roles in Major Relevant Sectors

Actor Sector


Universities, Libraries, etc.

IP-Based Industry

Non-IP-Based Industry




Research funding, defense, procurement

Basic research and design; components "incubate" much else

Software publishing (1/3 annual revenue)

Software services, customization (~2/3 annual revenue)

FSF; Apache; W3C; IETF

Free/open-source software

Scientific publication

Research funding

University presses; salaries; promotion and tenure

Elsevier Science; professional associations

Biomed Central

PLoS; ArXiv

Working papers; Web-based self-publishing

Agricultural Biotech

Grants and government labs; NARS

Basic research; tech transfer (24% of patenting activity)

Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta (~74% of patents)

No obvious equivalent




Grants and government labs

Basic research; tech transfer (~50%?)

Big Pharma; Biotech (~50%?)


OneWorld Health


Table 9.1 identifies the relative role of each of the types of main actors in information and knowledge production across the major sectors relevant to contemporary policy debates. It is most important to extract from this table the diversity of business models and roles not only in each industry, but also among industries. This diversity means that different types of actors can have different relative roles: nonprofits as opposed to individuals, universities as opposed to government, or nonproprietary market actors-that is, market actors whose business model is service based or otherwise does not depend on exclusive appropriation of information-as compared to nonmarket actors. The following segments look at each of these sectors more specifically, and describe the ways in which commons-based strategies are already, or could be, used to improve the access to information, knowledge, and the information-embedded goods and tools for human development. However, even a cursory look at the table shows that the current production landscape of software is particularly well suited to having a greater role for commons-based production. For example, exclusive proprietary producers account for only one-third of software-related revenues, even within the market. The remainder is covered by various services and relationships that are compatible with nonproprietary treatment of the software itself. Individuals and nonprofit associations also have played a very large role, and continue to do so, not only in free software development, but in the development of standards as well. As we look at each sector, we see that they differ in their incumbent industrial landscape, and these differences mean that each sector may be more or less amenable to commons-based strategies, and, even if in principle amenable, may present harder or easier transition problems.

Toward Adopting Commons-Based Strategies for Development

Chapter 9, section 5

Commons-Based Research for Food and Medicines

Chapter 9, section 6

Commons-Based Strategies for Development: Conclusion

Chapter 9, section 7

Chapter 9: Notes

Chapter 9: Notes