May 31, 2003  ·  Lessig

The Economist (that magazine that called for a 14 year copyright term) has a great piece about spectrum. The piece nicely carries this “Commons vs. Property” debate one step further. As Yochai Benkler is increasingly pushing the point, the problem with the “commons” metaphor is that it itself is a “property” metaphor — just a form of “property” where everyone has a right to access.

But that, Benkler argues, is misleading. The question we should be asking is not which form of property makes sense — private or commons — but instead a much more libertarian question: Do we need any “regulation of the spectrum” at all? Or put better: Given today’s technology, is there any reason to believe that the market operating on its own, without any substantial form of regulation, won’t figure out how best to develop devices that radiate? Can’t we depend upon the market to solve whatever coordination problems there are?

I’ve already tagged Benkler “perhaps the best communications theorist of our generation.” I shouldn’t have said “perhaps.”