Remind me what wants to be free

500 Words | Written by Lee Schneider

‘Information wants to be free’ is an iconic phrase attributed to Stewart Brand, who founded the Whole Earth Catalogue. Apparently he first spoke the phrase to no less a luminary than Steve Wozinak, the other, nicer Steve behind Apple.

So the phrase has an awesome pedigree. Certainly, information’s desire to be free is a good thing. It encourages openness and transparency, and can even stop politicians from acting like fools because we find out about their foolishness pretty soon. So far, so good. When do things other than information become free? Do we draw a line in pixels somewhere?

Music downloads legal and otherwise have driven the market to the bottom (if you consider .99 the bottom), and digital books have transformed the book market – in a good way if you like the editorial freedom to self-publish and reach a large audience, and in a bad way if you are a publisher who wants to push traditional hardcover books. If you are a newspaper or magazine publisher who is not transforming …

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