I want the Oompa-Loompa” screamed Veronica Salt, the greedy girl who landed in the walnut shell chute in the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Man, evitable or inevitably so, is greedy and therefore, came the concept of privatization where fair and equitable distribution became unfeasible.

What is the tragedy of the commons and its anti-thesis, the tragedy of anti-commons?? To begin with, think of everyone having unlimited access to fuel and what could possibly happen? Obvious enough, it would lead to stocking-piling and over-utilization due to a huge appetite of some and lack of foresight of many for envisioning the sustainability of the commonly held resource. This is the tragedy of the commons as coined by Gareet Hardin[1], where while exposed to limited resources, each individual chiefly thinks of his own desires leading to overconsumption, as also held by Aristotle.[2] On the contrary, there is the issue of rigid privatization of rights over the limited resource where it could lead to possible under-utilization and prevent others from obtaining access. This is the tragedy of the anti-commons as coined by Michael Heller.[3] This metaphor, used for connoting economic principles has found application in law and as well.

The sequel of this problem can have catastrophic effects, especially, in the bio-technological or pharmaceutical field. To cite an example, a while ago, a scientist had invented a prospective treatment for Alzheimer’s but the same could not enter the market because of a dozens of underlying , each seeking to monopolize the invention. The drug eventually never saw daylight even though it could’ve saved a million lives and generated humongous revenue. This is the reason why the regime was incorporated in the international and domestic matrix to strike a perfect balance between monopolizing an inventor’s interest while at the same time securing the public good. This is why we need to think of a probable solution in the light of cosmopolitan technologies. Thomas Hazlett terms this as “tragedy of the telecoms” while referring to the like phenomena in relation  to the high-tech frontiers.[4] The similar concept is not just applicable for but also in the field of art, falling under the domain of Copyrights[5], where mix-ups, mash-ups and remixing different pieces of prior-owned resources are clubbed to create a collage work.

In the realm of , anti-commons usually exist due to stacking of and introducing fragmented technology. Generating fragments of a patented article and scattering ownership of each concurrent fragment could lead to acquiring a bundle of rights in order to enforce one single right. This would result in a very costly transaction which could have a profound impact on developing and making the product available at a rationale cost in the market. Therefore, an agreement to subsidize or rationalize royalties for potential or assignments over upstream technology to enable the introduction of a downstream technology at reasonable rates could propose to be a better idea. This could be facilitated by Reach Through Agreements (RTLAs) as an advantageous tool to both, the holder as well as the forthcoming researcher.

Therefore, to divert the loss arising out of the tragedy, improvement and modification of policy regulations or police advocacy, privatization and cooperative engagement are the broad solutions possible. As deduced above, privatization may not always result in desired outcomes, therefore to address policy concerns through strengthening anti-trust laws and cooperative management of resources appears to be a good option. However, in the light of prevailing circumstances, the state is apparently withdrawing from its civic role; policy regulation may or may not be the solution, widely depending upon the long-stretched implementation period. Therefore, the most viable solution is to enhance cooperative efforts and subdue heterogeneous interests for decreasing the transaction costs. This is where pools may come handy. E.g.: to make compliant to DVD ROM and DVD- Video, Sony, Philips, Pioneer, Toshiba Corporation, Hitachi Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Time Warner Inc., and Victor Company of Japan, Ltd. all joined hands.[6] The kind of strategy deployed would largely depend upon the economic principles followed by a State and the adaptability to a newfound norm.


[2] Aristotle, The Politics and the Constitution of Athens (S. Everson (ed), B. Jowett (trans) Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996) 33

[3] Heller, Michael A (January 1998). “The tragedy of the ant commons: property in the transition from Marx to markets” (PDF). Harvard Law Review. 111 (3): 621–688. doi:10.2307/1342203. ISSN 0017-811X. JSTOR 1342203.

[4] T.W. Hazlett, ‘Spectrum Tragedies’(2005) 22 Yale Journal of Regulation 242; R. H. Ziedonis,‘Don’t Fence Me In: Fragmented Markets for Technology and the Strategies of Firms’ (2004) 50 Management 804

[5]F. Parisi and B. Depoorter, ‘Fair Use and Copyright Protection: A Price Theory Explanation’ (2003) 21 International Review of Law and Economics 453.

[6]  Clark, Jeanne, POOLS: A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM OF ACCESS IN ?, December 5, 2000