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Gnomunism is the ideal of keeping all easily-duplicated, non-personal knowledge in common as a public resource. It emerges from the relatively new ease with which vast amounts of data (including video and audio) can now be stored and organized for retrieval because of the digital revolution which began in the late 20th century.

The word Gnomunism comes from gnose (Greek for "knowledge") and the ideal of communism, i.e. sharing property in common. (To some extent it also evokes GNOME, a major component of the GNU Project which originated the first open-source text license used by the first major knowledge commons project, Wikipedia.)

Also called: digital commons, electronic commons, information commons, virtual commons, communication commons, intellectual commons, Internet commons, technological commons – all are referencing the new shared territory of global distributed information, from different angles.

Serge Soudoplatoff

Types of Knowledge

The types of knowledge to which this applies are, in general:

  • all intelligible ideas and data
  • all types of understanding gained through experience or study, whether indigenous, scientific, scholarly or nonacademic.
  • creative works, such as music and the visual and theatrical arts whatever form in which it is expressed or obtained that can be duplicated on a computer at a cost that is so low it is difficult to calculate.


The French version of this page ( ) is much more developed and can be translated into this page (feel free to participate).

Some text on this page comes from "Understanding Knowledge as a Commons", Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom, Nobel 2009. (this link shuld have a page of its own, and probably some of the stuff below can go there. --Woozle 16:18, 1 November 2009 (UTC))

Would it be fair to say that gnomunism is the movement towards a more universal knowledge commons?

For more information about these ideas, here are key words to search for on the internet:

Why this is necessarily a success

Take an example GoldenDict, software to translate by simple-click, better than Babylon because free (under licence GNU GPL) ! How a private company can compete a legal free software, mainly built reusing other legal free components (e.g. including translation software StarDict under licence GNU GPL).

This pyramid of free components can be enriched with no limit quite quickly, as a chain of consequences. This produces more and more sophisticated software, providing myriads of functionalities as synonyms, phrase translation, encyclopedias in all languages, etc., all through simple-click.

This single example should convince that sharing and reuse freely provides necessarily a virtuous result, for the benefit of everybody, rich or not (assuming the access is available).

Examples of success

Here are examples of success (even in not in public domain, at least most of them are in open commons licences):

  • Wikipedia and many encyclopedias, as Issuepedia
  • GNU-GPL, open source software, as LINUX, FireFox, Mozilla, etc.
  • some blog and forum contents
  • Free art

Come and build the car of the future -

To develop a new type of electric car. C,mm,nity is open to anyone with a creative, intelligent and enterprising perspective on mobility issues, and who wants to help create a better world. C,mm,n follows the open source model: as with open source software, we focus our services around the product. Anyone can use it to offer mobility services, just as long as any derived work produced is released back to the community under an open source licence. Please read about our latest developments here.
The deployement of open-source licences as GNU-GPL/FDL, Free Art license, Creative Commons ShareAlike, is a useful step before the public domain. Indeed any modification is authorized, provided that the new work is also under same license.

How to finance

How to finance research and creative works if all is put in public domain and accessible for free on internet ?

Solutions are to be explored and developped, including :

  • volunteering, donation
  • cooperation, coopetition
  • patronage, sponsoring
  • crowdsourcing and all tools/technics produced by internet

The enterprises are stimulated to research in common, through international and open networks. That is currently the case in some extent.

The research cost beeing shared, the selling price of the products would drop down, for the benefit of the business (B2B) end the final customer (B2C).

Some artists are stimulated to creat in common, through open internet tools and platfoms. The creation is multiplied, the versions of one piece of art are multiplied.

How to go

Changing in one night is not possible. Thirty years would be necessary to meet the goal.

The patents on foods (GMO...) and drugs would evolve faster (social dimention), followed by art (cultural dimention), ending with general patents (economical dimention) ?

Who wins

All actors win ; it's a win-win relationship.

A quasi-monopoly get benefit from creativity and inventions of all start-ups aroud the world ; and start-ups get benefits froms knowledge of quasi-monopoly.

Poor countries can produce drug and medicine at local production cost, also food with modern technics, helping to reduce social and political troubles with other countries.

How competition can survive

Thanks to Gnomunism all companies could know all strategies and research on all competitors. So how competition can survive ? Competition would be on actual products an services provided to the customer :

  • quality
  • robustness
  • duration
  • efficiency
  • closeness to the need
  • service rapidness
  • relationship, friendliness
  • etc...

Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom, Nobel 2009

These extracts of Understanding Knowledge as a Commons are not directly related to Gnomunism, but are copied here as illustration :

Whether labeled the "digital," "electronic," "information," "virtual," "communication," "intellectual," "Internet," or "technological" commons, all these concepts address the new shared territory of global distributed information.

With "subtractive" resources such as fisheries, for instance, one person's use reduces the benefits available to another. High subtractability is usually a key characteristic of common-pool resources. Most types of knowledge have, on the other hand, traditionally been relatively nonsubtractive. In fact, the more people who share useful knowledge, the greater the common good.




The tragedy of the anticommons in the knowledge arena lies in the potential underuse of scarce scientific resources caused by excessive intellectual property rights and overpatenting in biomedical research.

(In some situations) participants are "trapped" in perverse incentives and cannot themselves find ways of increasing trust, developing norms of reciprocity, or crafting new rules.

The narrative of enclosure is one of privatization, the haves versus the have-

This trend of enclosure is based on the ability of new technologies to "capture" resources that were previously unowned, unmanaged, and thus, unprotected. This is the case with outer space, with the electromagnetic spectrum, and with knowledge and information. The case of distributed digital technologies is particularly complex and problematic, as many stakeholders seek to renegotiate their interests in the new digital environment. Currently there are a vast array of enclosure threats to information and knowledge – including computer code as law (Lessig 1999) and new intellectual property legislation (DMCA, TRIPS, the Copyright Term Extension Act, the Patriot Act, and so on) – that undermine free access to public, scientific, and government information.

The U.S.-type commons underscores the importance of shared spaces and shared knowledge in fostering viable democratic societies. Libraries, as Kranich (2004) has pointed out, have been the quintessential strongholds of democracy. Traditionally, libraries have been the "protected areas" of the knowledge commons and librarians are the stewards. This narrative calls forth the urgency for all information users and providers to become stewards of the global digital commons.

...there are ever-greater restrictions on access through intellectual property legislation, overpatenting, licensing, overpricing, withdrawal...

...serious thinkers are equally concerned with the imposition of private control over knowledge that many argue should be in the public domain.

<-good aspects of this commons and the common-pool resource aspects.

...greater access to cultural and scientific materials by individuals and groups outside the academy might have a remarkable impact on scholarship, culture, and possibly even science. He urges that the knowledge commons not be restricted to the scholarly community.


...a knowledge commons can be used effectively to stimulate students and citizens more generally to engage in research of public value, using as well as contributing to the knowledge commons.

A libertarian commons is one that anyone can access if they choose.

...associational commons will be an important part of the democratic use of knowledge commons in the future. .../... By producing knowledge for the commons, students learn about public issues in a way they would not do otherwise. Levine then urges other scholars to develop associational commons of this type as a way of producing important contemporary knowledge, and as a way of training students about their own communities as well as how to produce and evaluate knowledge about communities.

...the collaborative principles around Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FOSS) development projects could potentially be applied to develop new knowledge commons in science.

External links

Elinor Ostrom, Nobel economic 2009

She works on knowledge commons :