The Tragedy of Commons based Peer Production

In my previous post, I mentioned how authors of small but useful open source projects often struggle for compensation. Using a FOSS/commercial license is one option but it could go either way. They wouldn't really have to resort to compulsory payment if donations were forthcoming from users/organizations who commercially benefit from it. Therein lies the tragedy of 'Commons based Peer Production'. Only a tiny minority donate. This is detrimental to the growth of all forms of free digitial distribution (indy music, books, software etc). It also makes for an unhealthy society. Big leap? Bear with me.

The bulk of financial transactions in G20 economies happen between:
  1. Corporations (B2B)
  2. Corporation and citizen (retail - citizens pays corporation, wages - corporation pays citizen)
  3. Corporation and state (taxes - corporation pays state, state funded projects - state pays corporation)
  4. Citizen and state (taxes - citizen pays state, pension/welfare - state pays citizen)
But what about transactions between citizens? When this goes towards zero, we get a unhealthy society. Centralized services, mostly helpless consumers (citizens). Donating money to the creators of 'digital stuff' that we enjoy is a great way of changing the status quo. The internet has provided a great platform for disintermediation but it will only work if we choose to participate in the process.

We could also try to build momentum within our organizations towards this. Companies that commercially benefit (however indirectly) from free software could set aside some money annually for donations. The beneficiaries could be decided by a poll within the company. After all, this is also part of CSR. Plus it will make for good PR copy.

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