Open Source and the Commons

Open source refers to a philosophy that promotes universal access to and distribution of a product’s design or blueprint.  Although usually related to the source codes of computer programs, the term can be used more generally as an intellectual property philosophy; open source projects may include everything from cars to pharmaceuticals.

According to the Open Source Initiative, “the promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.” Open source projects promote collaboration, free exchange, and community over strict property rights and competition.

The commons covers all cultural and natural resources ostensibly accessible to every member of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, rather than owned privately. The collective management of the commons (and of nonrenewable common pool resources) is contrasted with “enclosure” movements that seek to privatize the commons and subject them to individualized profit-making. Instead of seeing private property and capitalist markets as the best and only way to manage resources, the solidarity economy seeks the cooperative and collective management of the commons as a better way to manage and conserve resources and as a way to cultivate community, social equity, and economies of abundance.


1 Open Source Initiative. “About the Open Source Initiative.” Accessed August 19, 2013. http://opensource.org/about