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Valdis.Kletnieks at vt.edu Valdis.Kletnieks at vt.edu
Fri Oct 28 15:41:55 UTC 2011

On Thu, 27 Oct 2011 23:44:16 EDT, William Herrin said:

> For our purpose, describing the Internet as a commons fundamentally
> misunderstands its nature.

You *do* realize that for all your nice "Thei Internet Is Not A Commons"
ranting, the basic problem is that some people (we'll call them spammers) *do*
think that (a) it's a commons (or at least the exact ownership of a given
chunk is irrelevant), and (b) they're allowed to graze their sheep upon it.

> The Internet is not jointly owned. You do not own a one seven
> billionth share of the network in my basement and I do not a own one
> seven billionth of yours. Rather, the Internet is a cooperative effort
> of the sole owners of its distinct individual pieces.

That's correct, as far as it goes.  However, what *is* a commons is the *value*
of the cooperative effort - see Metcalf's Law.  You turn off or disconnect your
share of the Internet, my share of the *value* of the Internet drops slightly.

> Nor is the data transiting these networks a commons. The air over my
> land is a commons. I don't control it. If I pollute it or if I don't,
> it promptly travels over someone else's land.

If you choose to pollute the air heavily, the value of the air drops for everybody.
If you choose to pollute the Net heavily, the value of the Net drops for everybody.

> The point is, at every step with the Internet there is always a
> specific owner whose property is either being used with his permission
> or abused against his wishes. At no point is it a commons.

Try working the same example but using a stream flowing across your property
instead, that feeds into the reservior the municipal water supply draws from.
Yes, you own your section of the stream, and the guy next door owns his
section, and so on.  So the stream is not a commons - but the quality of the
water in it *is*. (Yes, weak analogy, the downstream people have no say in it.
Pretend for the sake of argument that everybody involved lives next to a stream
that feeds the reservior that everybody drinks from - that's actually a pretty
good match to the Internet topology).

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