It Isn’t Easy Being Free: The Promise and Peril of Knowledge for All - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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It Isn’t Easy Being Free: The Promise and Peril of Knowledge for All

In a 2014 article for Science Magazine, Michael Madison and colleagues outlined the complex issue of intellectual property in the internet age. The thrust of their thinking is simple: knowledge and ideas are like resources that, if made free and open to the public, are often exploited. And this has negative consequences for the ways in which knowledge is produced and disseminated.

One potential solution to this problem are “knowledge commons,” which the authors define as “institutionalized community governance of the sharing and, in many cases, creation and curation of intellectual and cultural resources.” Examples of this concept range from “scientific research commons, including data, literature, and research materials… to intellectual property pools, entrepreneurial/user innovation commons, rare-disease clinical research consortia, open-source software projects, and Wikipedia” (1240). Inherent to the idea of knowledge commons is the potential to share widely important information for the public and professionals in a variety of fields. There is also the potential to educate and empower communities without adequate access to educational resources. With the internet readily accessible for millions of people and many iterations of knowledge commons already in place, it would seem that effective solutions are here.

But the answer isn’t that simple, and complications still remain for our “information society.” We have access to more information, more culture, and more science than ever before in human history, much of it free. But free information hasn’t set us free. Why not, and what can we do about that?

On September 15, from 7-8:30p, join the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities in welcoming University of Pittsburgh professor Michael Madison for this exciting lecture on the complications of freedoms in the information age. This event will be in person at Tyrrell Hall’s auditorium and streamed simultaneously. You can join our Zoom link here.

Michael Madison is a professor in the school of law at the University of Pittsburgh. His interests span a wide range of applications: copyright and other intellectual property law; high technology; research science and data: Enlightenment arts and culture; higher education and universities; innovation policy; 21st century urbanism; and global football (soccer).  He is a co-founder of the emerging research discipline known as “knowledge commons.” Professor Madison is the author of more than 50 journal articles and book chapters, the co-author of The Law of Intellectual Property (Wolters Kluwer, 5th edition 2017) and the co-editor of Governing Knowledge Commons (Oxford University Press 2014) and Governing Medical Knowledge Commons (Cambridge University Press 2017). He is also the co-founder of the global research network titled the Workshop on Governing Knowledge Commons and co-leader of a virtual think tank on the futures of the professions, globalization, and higher education, titled Future Law Works.