Governing the Anticommons: Institutional Design for Standard-Setting Organizations
You may be able to download this chapter for free via the Document Object Identifier.
Shared technology platforms are often governed by standard setting organizations (SSOs), where interested parties use a consensus process to address problems of technical coordination and platform provision. Economists have modeled SSOs as certification agents, bargaining forums, collective licensing arrangements and R&D consortia. This paper integrates these diverse perspectives by adapting Elinor Ostrom’s framework for analyzing collective self-governance of shared natural resources to the problem of managing shared technology platforms. There is an inherent symmetry between the natural resource commons problem (over-consumption) and the technology platform anti-commons problem (over-exclusion), leading to clear parallels in institutional design. Ostrom’s eight principles for governing common pool resources illuminate several common SSO practices, and provide useful guidance for resolving ongoing debates over SSO intellectual property rules and procedures.
The author has provided expert witness testimony for Apple Computer and Microsoft on issues related to the subject of this paper. The views expressed here are entirely his own, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Apple, Microsoft, or the NBER. The author is solely responsible for all errors.