Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 96%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (17) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $16.95   
  • Used (12) from $1.99   


Until a 1998 federal court decision, a Minnesota publisher claimed a monopoly on access to all federal court decisions. A Texas company recently filed a patent on a kind of rice grown in India for centuries. Other businesses now claim ownership of mathematical algorithms embedded in software, valuable public lands acquired for five dollars an acre, and icebergs that they plan to transport and sell as fresh water. In Silent Theft, David Bollier argues that a great untold story of our time is the staggering privatization and abuse of our common wealth. Corporations are engaged in a relentless plunder of dozens of resources that we collectively own -- publicly funded medical breakthroughs, software innovation, the airwaves, the public domain of creative works, and even the DNA of plants, animals, and humans. Too often, however, our government turns a blind eye -- or sometimes helps give away our assets. Amazingly, the silent theft of our shared wealth has gone largely unnoticed because we have lost our ability to see the commons. Spooling out one outrageous story after another, Bollier skillfully weaves together debates about the Internet, the environment, biotechnology, and the communications revolution. His fresh and compelling critique illuminates a rarely explored landscape in our political and cultural life. Crisp and revelatory, Silent Theft is a bold attempt to develop a new language of the commons and, in the face of a market order that knows no bounds, to outline an ambitious new project for reclaiming our common wealth.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Bill McKibben
A calm reasonable primer on a topic of enormous importance. Buy a copy, and when you've read it, donate it to that wonderful commons called your local library.
Ralph Nader
A tour de force narrative that draws the reader into high alert...
Lawrence Lessig
This beautifully written, carefully argued book shows how little we learned from the past. Free and open resources have always been central to creativity and growth; Bollier shows how in a range of important contexts, free and open resources are being enclosed, to the benefit of the corporate class, and burden of Americans generally.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415932646
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David Bollier has worked for twenty years as a journalist, activist, and public policy analyst. He is Senior Fellow at the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Director of the Information Commons Project at the New America Foundation. He is also co-founder of Public Knowledge, a public-interest advocacy organization dedicated to defending the commons of the Internet, science and culture.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
I. The Commons, Gift Economies, and Enclosure
1 Reclaiming the Narrative of the Commons 15
2 The Stubborn Vitality of the Gift Economy 27
3 When Markets Enclose the Commons 43
II. Varieties of Market Enclosure
4 Enclosing the Commons of Nature 59
5 The Colonization of Frontier Commons 69
6 The Abuse of the Public's Natural Resources 85
7 Can the Internet Commons Be Saved? 99
8 The Privatization of Public Knowledge 119
9 Enclosing the Academic Commons 135
10 The Commercialization of Culture and Public Spaces 147
11 The Giveaway of Federal Drug Research and Information Resources 163
III. Protecting the Commons
12 The Commons: Another Kind of Property 175
13 Strategies for Protecting the Commons 189
Notes 211
Bibliography 247
About the Author 251
Name Index 253
Subject Index 255
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)