About knowledge-commons.de

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper [candle] at mine, receives light without darkening me.

Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson , 13 Aug. 1813

This site is about the knowledge commons and open knowledge peer production for  human development. Following Jeffersons paradigma, I ask, how free knowledge can (and could) trigger the freedom to learn and the freedom to innovate on a global scale. Below, you find more info on me and on the definition of „knowledge commons“.

Please note: This site is a curated collection of news, analysis, training material and scientific articles. The site represents my own thoughts, which might coincide with others’ including my company GIZ or not:-)  – also see the imprint.

Some of the (tagged) themes covered on knowledge-commons.de are as follows:

About me (professional me)

Balthas Seibold with open source penguin. Copyright: Balthas Seibold
Balthas Seibold with open source penguin. Copyright: Balthas Seibold

I am Balthas Seibold.  I co-lead a global project of German Development Cooperation called “FAIR Forward – Artificial Intelligence for All” at GIZ, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH. As a part of my job, I also advise the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on Artificial Intelligence and on “Digital Development”.

‘How to foster the freedom to learn and the freedom to innovate in developing countries?’  has been a key theme of my professional journey. I am particularly interested in the knowledge commons, global knowledge cooperation & social networks, that build human capacities, link up people and foster learning.

Current research and advocacy themes include:

  1. commons-based peer production for human development, including in the area of artificial intelligence.
  2. open innovation and open source appropriate technology
  3. peer-to-peer learning  & community empowerment

Previously, I worked at the ‘Academy for International Cooperation’ of GIZ, the ‘department of Sustainable Business Development’ of GIZ and InWEnt – Capacity Building International, where I led capacity building programmes that promote the IT-sector in Africa and Asia. Such programs included ict@innovation, commons@ip, it@foss, FOSS-Bridge EU-Vietnam, it@coops. A lot of the content on this site related to Open Source and OpenIT stems from this work.
Before, I worked for UNESCO’s bureau of strategic planning, the GTZ and the UNDP.

About the knowledge commons:

Of course, Wikipedia explains best, what the „knowledge commons“ is all about. Therefore, I proudly reproduce below the up-to-date version of the Wikipedia entry on the „knowledge commons“ (proudly also, because I happened to have the privilege to start this entry together with a colleague, Phillip Winter).

Wikipedia on the knowledge commons

Open, shared information

The term "knowledge commons" refers to information, data, and content that is collectively owned and managed by a community of users, particularly over the Internet. What distinguishes a knowledge commons from a commons of shared physical resources is that digital resources are non-subtractible;[1] that is, multiple users can access the same digital resources with no effect on their quantity or quality.[2]

Conceptual background

The term 'commons' is derived from the medieval economic system the commons.[3] The knowledge commons is a model for a number of domains, including Open Educational Resources such as the MIT OpenCourseWare, free digital media such as Wikipedia,[4] Creative Commons–licensed art, open-source research,[5] and open scientific collections such as the Public Library of Science or the Science Commons, free software and Open Design.[6][7] According to research by Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom,[2] the conceptual background of the knowledge commons encompasses two intellectual histories: first, a European tradition of battling the enclosure of the "intangible commons of the mind",[8] threatened by expanding intellectual property rights and privatization of knowledge.[9] Second, a tradition rooted in the United States, which sees the knowledge commons as a shared space allowing for free speech and democratic practices,[10] and which is in the tradition of the town commons movement and commons-based production of scholarly work, open science, open libraries, and collective action.[2]

The production of works in the knowledge commons is often driven by collective intelligence respectively the wisdom of crowds and is related to knowledge communism [11] as it was defined by Robert K. Merton, according to whom scientists give up intellectual property rights in exchange for recognition and esteem.[12]

Ferenc Gyuris argues, that it is important to distinguish "information" from "knowledge" in defining the term "knowledge commons".[13] He argues that "knowledge as a shared resource" requires that both information must become accessible and potential recipients must become able and willing to internalize it as 'knowledge'. "Therefore, knowledge cannot become a shared resource without a complex set of institutions and practices that give the opportunity to potential recipients to gain the necessary abilities and willingness".[14]


Copyleft licenses are institutions which support a knowledge commons of executable software.[15] Copyleft licenses grant licensees all necessary rights such as right to study, use, change and redistribute—under the condition that all future works building on the license are again kept in the commons.[16] Popular applications of the 'copyleft' principle are the GNU Software Licenses (GPL, LGPL and GFDL by Free Software Foundation) and the share-alike licenses under creative commons.[17]


  1. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free.id-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Lock-green.svg")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited.id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration.id-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription.id-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg")right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}Mansell, Robin (2013-08-29). "Employing digital crowdsourced information resources: Managing the emerging information commons". International Journal of the Commons. 7 (2): 255. doi:10.18352/ijc.395. hdl:10535/9115. ISSN 1875-0281.
  2. ^ a b c Hess, Charlotte; Ostrom, Elinor (2007). Understanding Knowledge as a Commons - From Theory to Practice. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-0-262-08357-7.
  3. ^ Potts, Jason (2019-08-22), "Rules of the Innovation Commons", Innovation Commons, Oxford University Press, pp. 109–152, doi:10.1093/oso/9780190937492.003.0006, ISBN 978-0-19-093749-2
  4. ^ Sampsel, Laurie J. (2017-10-02). "Finding Open Educational Resources for Music: OER Commons, MERLOT II, Openstax CNX, and MIT OpenCourseWare". Music Reference Services Quarterly. 20 (3–4): 224–226. doi:10.1080/10588167.2017.1364608. ISSN 1058-8167. S2CID 165880193.
  5. ^ Joshua M. Pearce, "Open Source Research in Sustainability", Sustainability: the Journal of Record, 5(4), pp. 238-243, 2012. DOI free and open access
  6. ^ Schweik, Charles M. (2006), "Free/Open-Source Software as a Framework for Establishing Commons in Science", Understanding Knowledge as a Commons, The MIT Press, pp. 277–310, doi:10.7551/mitpress/6980.003.0014, ISBN 978-0-262-25634-6, retrieved 2021-05-24
  7. ^ Fernandez, Peter D.; Tilton, Kelly (2018). Applying library values to emerging technology : decision-making in the age of open access, maker spaces, and the ever-changing library. Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. ISBN 978-0-8389-8939-5. OCLC 1024320754.
  8. ^ Boyle, James (2003). "The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain". Law and Contemporary Problems. 66 (1–2): 33–74. Archived from the original on 2010-11-23.
  9. ^ "Knowledge Commons". Research Handbook on the Economics of Intellectual Property Law: 655. 2019. doi:10.4337/9781789903997.00077. ISBN 9781789903997. S2CID 261727871.
  10. ^ Lozano, Rosina (2018-04-24), "The United States Sees Language", An American Language, University of California Press, doi:10.1525/california/9780520297067.003.0006, ISBN 978-0-520-29706-7, retrieved 2021-05-24
  11. ^ Mouzouni, Charafeddine (2018-03-14). "The Wisdom Of Crowds: When Collective Intelligence Surpasses Individual Intelligence". Science Trends. doi:10.31988/scitrends.12858.
  12. ^ Kampf, Roger (2013). "From data to wisdom: the contribution of intellectual property rights to the knowledge pyramid". Access to Information and Knowledge: 235–257. doi:10.4337/9781783470488.00019. ISBN 9781783470488.
  13. ^ Győri, Róbert; Gyuris, Ferenc (2015), "Knowledge and Power in Sovietized Hungarian Geography", Geographies of Knowledge and Power, Knowledge and Space, vol. 7, Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 203–233, doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9960-7_10, ISBN 978-94-017-9959-1, retrieved 2021-05-24
  14. ^ Gyuris, Ferenc (2014). "Basic education in communist Hungary. A commons approach". International Journal of the Commons. 8 (2): 531–553. doi:10.18352/ijc.458. hdl:10535/9597.
  15. ^ Sen, Ravi; Subramaniam, Chandrasekar; Nelson, Matthew L. (December 2011). "Open source software licenses: Strong-copyleft, non-copyleft, or somewhere in between?". Decision Support Systems. 52 (1): 199–206. doi:10.1016/j.dss.2011.07.004. ISSN 0167-9236.
  16. ^ Stewart, Daxton (2021). "Rise of the Copyleft Trolls: When Photographers Sue After Creative Commons Licenses Go Awry". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3844180. hdl:1811/101769. ISSN 1556-5068. S2CID 235276455.
  17. ^ Carver, Brian W. (2018-08-15). "Share and Share Alike: Understanding and Enforcing Open Source and Free Software Licenses". Berkeley Technology Law Journal. 20:443. doi:10.31228/osf.io/p327s. Retrieved 2021-05-24.

External links

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_commons

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “knowledge commons“, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0

Jefferson on the knowledge commons

My candle lights your candle

The “candle” quote above has inspired this site. Therefore, I end this section with a more complete  quotation of the parts of the letter of Jefferson on knowledge and property. They read  perfectly up to date, considering that  Jefferson wrote these lines to Isaac McPherson on the 13 August of 1813. The entire letter is also online here, the content should be in the public domain by now :-).

[cc_full_width_col background_color=”f1f1f1″ shadow_color=”888888″ radius=”6″]

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson , 13 Aug. 1813


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