Information Environmentalism: A Governance Framework for Intellectual Property Rights by Robert Cunningham Published by Edward Elgar, 2014, 320 pp., £85.00, hardback.

AuthorJacob R. Adams
Published date01 November 2017
Date01 November 2017
of people displaced as a result of climate change. After outlining the
numerous and varied implications of climate change for the people of
the Asia- Pacific region, the chapter goes on to consider potential in-
ternational responses and suggests the reasons as to why these have
not yet been utilized. This chapter is highly effective in emphasizing
the definitional issue that arises in relation to displaced persons as
well as the perpetual nature of the problem which causes them to be
displaced. As such, it elucidates the major challenges in this regard
which are acutely felt in, but not exclusive to, the Asia- Pacific region.
These chapters add considerable insight to this field, since this region
is often omitted by authors owing to a lack of binding institutions
for implementation and enforcement in the region. As Boer himself
notes, this is reflected in the differing pace of development in relation
to the application of human rights to environmental law in this region,
which is somewhat behind that of Europe, the Americas and Africa,
but it is this very fact that makes the research forming the basis of
these chapters so important.
The final chapter of the book is a revision of an article published in
2012 by Boyle. The chapter is an apt conclusion to a book that high-
lights a number of issues in specific geographical regions and contexts
with the application of human rights to environmental law. Adopting
a broader approach, Boyle considers the next steps in furthering this
convergence of legal fields, and in doing so raises the necessity to
address issues highlighted in more specific contexts in the foregoing
chapters. In relation to the field as a whole, he reiterates the challenges
of accounting for corporate and economic interests, the non- territorial
nature of and variance in climate change impacts, and procedural dif-
ficulties to be overcome. By doing so, he maps the future of the field
and what must be done to ensure it continues to develop in a fitting
end to the book.
In a field with a plethora of potential avenues for discussion,
Environmental Law Dimensions of Human Rights collates a series of
viewpoints on its future which reflect its complex range of both juris-
dictions and stakeholders. Boer was evidently aware of the potential
for this to be a collection of unrelated pieces on a broad theme and has
arranged a collection which avoids this pitfall whilst maintaining suffi-
cient depth of insight. The inclusion of the often- omitted Asia- Pacific
region and its connection to broader debates in the field is reason
alone for those interested in it to procure a copy, but its contribution
stretches far beyond this.
John Pearson
University of Manchester
DOI: 10.1111/reel.12222
Robert Cunningham
Published by Edward Elgar, 2014, 320 pp., £85.00, hardback.
In Information Environmentalism, Robert Cunningham sets out on the
task of constructing a governance framework for the protection of
the information commons. In doing so, Cunningham explores four dis-
tinct analytical frameworks drawn from the environmental protection
arena, and applies them to the constructed information environment.
These frameworks are welfare economics, the commons, ecological
governance and public choice theory. The book’s structure corres-
ponds to these four frameworks.
In Part I, Cunningham takes a critical view of intellectual property
rights, primarily through the articulation and examination of the costs
of propertization of information – specifically arguing that the intel-
lectual property regime understates a variety of costs and hides them
behind the veil of property, ultimately leading to a situation where the
maximum social good has not been achieved.
Cunningham then proceeds in Part II to articulate the contours
of the information commons, which ‘is a unifying theme of the four
envir onmental analytical frameworks’ (at 63). The commons, in
Information Environmentalism, is used as a concept that combines
the intellectual commons and public domain, while holding the ‘key
attribute … that no single person or organisation has exclusive control
over use of disposition of a particular resource’ (at 72). It is in em-
ploying this concept of the commons, and evaluating the intellectual
property framework in contrast to it, that Cunningham ‘promote[s]
the idea that [intellectual property rights] dialogue move beyond a
private property/commons dichotomy towards a more nuanced di-
alogue which recognised the efficiencies arising from the dynamic
interaction between private and commons usages of informational
resources’ (at 92).
Part III examines an information environment through the frame-
work of ecology drawing on the concepts in ecological governance,
namely interrelationalism, resilience, diversity and modularity. It
is within this part that the author introduces and explores the con-
cepts of ‘information commons rights’, ‘information ecological impact
statements’ and ‘informational national parks’. In support of this ap-
proach, Cunningham posits that rational truths, reasonable arguments
and rhetorical imagination must be employed, which are explored in
Chapter 8 of Part III.
In Part IV, Cunningham explores public choice theory, centring the
criticism greatly on the idea that ‘[d]ecision[s] in a democracy are made
badly when they are primarily made by and for the benefit of a few
stakeholders, be they landowners or content providers’ (at 147), and
suggests the value of ‘social production’ to counteract these incum-
bent issues.
Part V consists of Cunningham’s conclusions, and outlines the
main points and principles articulated throughout the work. Indeed, I
suggest that the reader begin with Part V so as to receive a roadmap to
the book before embarking on a comprehensive read- through.

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