Where are the commons?

  • The tension between ownership to tangible and intangible property and the enjoyment of the commons by all is not a new phenomenon.
  • Fences could not have been there when land came into existence. Fences came later, encumbrances came later and so did title deeds and patta.
  • Even after man felt that there was need for fences and certificates of ownership, he still recognised that some lands must be kept in common for use by all or for the sake of all. In medieval England they were called commons, a resource to be enjoyed by all.
  • These lands and the non-arable lands were classified in Tamil as “poramboke”.
  • The protest song “Porambokku enakku illai porambokku unakku illai porambokku oorukku porambokku bhoomikku” is about this commons and how the commons are diminishing.
  • The words “mandai veli” and “maattuthaavani” are poignant echoes to a time when cattle had access to grazing grounds.
  • The poramboke song is really a protest against the encroachment by state in the Ennore creek which must be kept in the commons.

Article 39(f) of the Constitution

  • It directs the state to ensure that children “are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner”.
  • But those children, who are stuck in spirit-sapping residences, who want to spend their energy in a space that is common to all, were frustrated in their attempt.
  • Then we have reports of growing juvenile delinquency, blind to the reality that a childhood spent without the freedom of playing in open spaces could warp the young minds.

A creative commons

  • Creative Commons is a concept which enables and facilitates sharing of knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world within the framework of law.
  • The use of Creative Commons licence for copyright is based on a philosophy of openness and sharing and not on monetising strategies and restrictive ‘fences’.
  • As SpicyIP, a repository on Indian intellectual property law, commented in its blog, the entire exercise of this endeavour is “to place a book in the hands of every child”. In like manner, the soccer tournament in Marina and Besant Nagar was intended to place a ball of joy in the hands of the child.
  • The 2006 WHO Report on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health found that increasing IP enforcement does not necessarily increase innovation especially in developing countries where the technology expertise has still not reached the optimum level.
  • On the other hand, it is positively detrimental because it restricts access to its consumers, the majority of whom are poor. The price stranglehold, which is the equivalent of fencing and refusing permission to play soccer, causes rippling harm.
  • Section 327 of the Criminal Procedure Code says, “The place in which any Criminal Court is held for the purpose of inquiring into or trying any offence shall be deemed to be an open Court, to which the public generally may have access, so far as the same can conveniently contain them.”
  • The place of justice is meant to be common to all and easily accessible.
  • This too is becoming a luxury not freely accessible, and that is not compatible with the Idea of Democracy.


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