Commons are holistic social institutions to govern the (re)production of resources, articulated through interrelated legal, socio-cultural, economic and institutional dimensions. They represent a comprehensive and radical approach to organise collective action, placing it “beyond market and state” (Bollier & Helfrich, 2012). They form a third way of organising society and the economy that differs from both market-based approaches, with their orientation toward prices, and from bureaucratic forms of organisation, with their orientation toward hierarchies and commands. This governance model has been applied to tangible and intangible resources, to local initiatives (garden, educational material), and to resources governed by global politics (climate, internet infrastructure).
Digital commons are a subset of the commons, where the resources are data, information, culture and knowledge which are created and/or maintained online. The notion of the digital commons is an important concept for countering legal enclosure and fostering equitable access to these resources. This article presents the history of the movement of the digital commons, from free software, free culture, and public domain works, to open data and open access to science. It then analyses its foundational dimensions (licensing, authorship, peer production, governance) and finally studies newer forms of the digital commons, urban democratic participation and data commons.