In 1968, Garrett Hardin published a seminal treatise on resources and scarcity, The Tragedy of the Commons. In that treatise, whose title is often quoted, Hardin explains that communal areas such as public grazing lands are depleted by self-interested individuals, overgrazing the limited resource and destroying the public good.
Hardin uses a Hegelian notion of positive liberty. As Friedrich Engels said, “Freedom is the recognition of necessity“: there is a moral necessity that government regulates public goods, restricting individual liberty for the sake of individual freedom.
However, as far as culture is concerned, the “tragedy” does not, in fact, exist. Culture is not a finite resource. Greater participation in shared culture enriches that culture; it does not deplete it. Freedom in this digital age includes the ability to have unrestricted access to public goods, which in turn produces more public goods.
Laurence Lessig (among other things, founder of the Creative Commons) has explained this phenomenon at a TED conference on the strangling of creativity by protective intellectual property laws. Lessig frames the problem as a war between the read-only culture induced by copyright laws and an emerging read-write culture wherein creativity is democratized by access to and re-use of prior artistic works (see the video above).