Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own

Front Cover
New Press, 2008 - Computers - 344 pages

A world organized around centralized control, strict intellectual property rights, and hierarchies of credentialed experts is under siege. A radically different order of society based on open access, decentralized creativity, collaborative intelligence, and cheap and easy sharing is ascendant. ‚€”from Viral Spiral

From free and open-source software, Creative Commons licenses, Wikipedia, remix music and video mashups, peer production, open science, open education, and open business, the world of digital media has spawned a new "sharing economy" that increasingly competes with entrenched media giants.

Reporting from the heart of this "free culture" movement, journalist and activist David Bollier provides the first comprehensive history of the attempt by a global brigade of techies, lawyers, artists, musicians, scientists, businesspeople, innovators, and geeks of all stripes to create a digital republic committed to freedom and innovation. Viral Spiral‚€”the term Bollier coins to describe the almost-magical process by which Internet users can come together to build online commons and tools‚€”brilliantly interweaves the disparate strands of this eclectic movement. The story describes major technological developments and pivotal legal struggles, as well as fascinating profiles of hacker Richard Stallman, copyright scholar Lawrence Lessig, and other colorful figures.

A milestone in reporting on the Internet by one of our leading media critics, Viral Spiral is for anyone seeking to take the full measure of the new digital era.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

VIRAL SPIRAL: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own

User Review  - Kirkus

Comprehensive report and analysis on the ways that activists, academics and artists are reshaping the Internet and pushing back against copyright monopolies.There is a transformation taking place in ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

David Bollier’s Viral Spiral is the first major history of the “digital commons” / “free culture” movement, and despite my many person disagreements with him and this movement, it is an excellent treatment of the topic. Bollier surveys this growing intellectual movement from its early open source days to the rise of the Creative Commons and on into the present. The cast of characters in this drama will be well-known to anyone involved in modern tech policy debates: Richard Stallman, Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, Yochai Benkler, et al.
There is absolutely no doubt that this intellectual movement is winning the war of ideas in cyberlaw front today. Personally, as a cyber-libertarian, I find myself occasionally at odds with these guys and this movement on a variety of policy issues, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying David Bollier’s treatment of this movement and these issues. It's certainly one of the 10 most important Internet policy books of 2009:


Harbingers of the Sharing Economy
The Rise of Free Culture
A Viral Spiral of New Commons

3 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Bibliographic information