All Information Should be Free

I honestly do not believe that “Information should (or ‘wants to’) be free.” I believe that is meaningless fatuous geek sloganeering.

Copyrighting life is over the line though, it self-replicates and life shouldn’t be owned and can’t be controlled, if it could we’d be able to get rid of these fucking Kudzu vines and Zebra mussels.

Copyrights should also not outlive their creator. This Disney bullshit is fucking ridiculous, especially considering he ripped off everyone he could when he was alive.

Because only one person can eat a given piece of food. Billions could read a Harry Potter novel for free if it were just posted to a website. At least that’s one of the main arguments of the information-should-be-free people.

You can’t copyright a DNA sequence, but you can patent one.

I agree that copyrights of existing works should not be extended past their originally granted terms. Such extensions benefit the author at the expense of everyone else who wants to read or use the work. The Constitution says “for limited Times” for a good reason.

I spend three years writing a potential best-seller. As it’s going to press, I get hit by a bus. My kids get nothing. Yeah, that’s a desirable outcome.

A lot of the value of a copyright lies in the fact that its a transferable asset. I can do work for hire. I can sell my copyright to someone else. I can transfer it to my descendents.

If you want to argue that copyright periods are too long, I agree with you. But cutting them off instantly at the death of the creator is too severe. (Not to mention that it would create absolute chaos in work-for-hire situations.)

I don’t think you’d want to see what would happen to the software industry and what that would affect, well, all industry.

The only way I can figure that commercial, retail-level software would be viable would be shifting from a sales model to a support model. In other words, if we have to provide the software for free, we would make all support for it cost money. Want to download it from our site and have us guarantee it’s complete and virus-free? Pay. Easy self-installer? Say goodbye to that, instead you need to call for us to remote to your computer and do a command line install for you. Want technical support? Pay, pay, pay. And I don’t just mean phone support as it is now, I mean any kind of help with the product at all. No documentation would get written (because it’d have to be free, too); want to know what all those weird settings mean? You have to call and give us a credit card. You’ll see all kinds of innovation designed to get money from you in whatever way possible. Oh, you want to run the software on your own? Sorry, but while the program is free, it has to be run on a complicated piece of hardware that only we make. Want to tweak the settings? Oh, well, you need this dongle that we sell. You know, for security reasons. And so on. Oh, someone else is trying to sell support for our product? That’s just fine. We’ll release a new version that changes everything and makes their life – and yours – more difficult. Software would be bloated with a ton of useless shit to try to obfuscate the useful functions in every possible way, so that people couldn’t just rip out the useful stuff and make their own version. Source code would be labryinthine and horrifying as an industry practice.

It just can’t work. Even if you could make the requirement for commercial software, what about companies making contract software? They’d all go bankrupt since nobody would want to pay a company to make software for them only to have them provide it to their competitors for free. A very great deal of software is made this way. Can you imagine the ripples in industry if information had to be free? Who would pay a company to do practically anything on the Internet – design a website, create a database, whatever – if the same technology had to be provided free to everyone else? What about news? Commercial news would be decimated. Any content they create automatically gets picked up by a zillion aggregators so they can display their own ads and make money. Plus, what does “information” include – does it include customer databases? Financial records? Employee personal telephone numbers? Medical records? If you are forced to share your source code, why not these, too? Where is the line that makes some information privileged and others not? And consider that anytime a line gets drawn, companies will exploit it mercilessly, to either protect their products or make money.

If you honestly think all of this slack is going to get picked up by hobbyists and creative types who don’t need money, I just have to laugh. For every free thing that’s cool, it’s backed up by a ton of technology created commercially to create that content and publish it – not to mention that a ton of hobbyist developers have the time and freedom to create such content because of having other real industry jobs that would now be destroyed. Your artist that creates free art on the web because he or she has money from a graphic design job to support it? No more. The programmer who writes nifty tools because of interesting programming problems he’s had at work? Gone.

Nobody wants a world where information is free. It would be a goddamn mess. People just don’t want to pay for stuff that they can get for free with relative ease and that they don’t feel that they’re stealing, so they create a false moral code that it’s okay to steal “information” but not “stuff”. But even then, they just mean certain information that is convenient and useful for them. But, really, it just doesn’t make sense.

I’m no saint - I’ve infringed copyright in various ways - but “information needs to be free” is grade A horseshit.

This seems to suggest that not only information should be free, but the overhead associated with it – the servers, the electricity to run the servers, the network that delivers the information and the IT people who keep all that stuff running, should also be free.

Should we also give you a free computer and the fastest possible Internet connection as well, so you can continue to get all the information you want, free of charge?

Where do you draw the line between content and medium? The ONLY reason for digital media is to deliver information. Why does it make sense to pay for the infrastructure of an internet, but not for what the internet is designed for?

You want to enjoy content owned by a mass-market company who doesn’t see any point in re-releasing it? You should be responsible for all the costs of the re-release, plus a minimum break-even level of revenue to make it worth their while.

We’d very soon stop hearing from selfish nerds who think they have a right to hear music that can’t pay for itself in current marketplace conditions.

That makes more sense to me than the idea that art should be free.

A lot of information is free; maybe most. Analysis is another story.

I think a “Free Information Society” could operate successfully, it would just look very different than what we’re used to. I’ll admit that the following is a but of a Utopian vision, but fuck off, a man is allowed to entertain the hypothetical.

The massive entertainment industry would collapse, however, individual entertainers would replace them. Theaters, circuses, arcades, and stand up comedians would flourish. Personally I feel this would be a massively in favor of the artists themselves.

Research and medicine would have to be government funded. This doesn’t mean that private industry would vanish. Rather, private firms would compete with each other in the interest of the public. With no barriers in the exchange of knowledge I think we’d experience a boom of innovation.

Software would be written as-needed and constantly tweaked by users. I disagree that it would be arcane and backwards. If source codes were public knowledge people would constantly be refining and improving them. Examples of this abound in the world of pirated software. Linux is another example of free software that has established itself as useful; what was once a niche market has bloomed into a software suite that is simple enough for a grandmother to use. This is all in a system that discourages free exchange.

Manufacturing would have lower barriers to entry and be limited by labor and access to resources. In my mind this has some very interesting consequences, but none of them are the doom and gloom “No one will make anything!” scenarios described above. My guess is that economies would make a huge shift towards local resources and businesses.

I understand that much of the above is counter to the lifestyle we are used to, however, I think it is unfair to declare the end of civilization as we know it.

Soooo, instead of being able to buy a book by one of my favorite authors (because he can’t make enough to live on, if he depends on donations or has no control over his work) I’m going to have to read a bunch of fanfic? Because fanfic writers will write because they love writing. Of course, the quality of fanfic is generally sucky to nauseating.

Right now, anyone who wants to release his/her work into the public domain can do so. And those who would prefer to get paid for their hard work can also try that model. Right now we have a choice, and I like having the choice to support my preferred artists.

You wouldn’t support an author if he came to your town and read his work live? You wouldn’t attend a story telling festival?

Quality media won’t evaporate, it will just be different. Live performances will take precedent. Personally I think that is a better system, but I understand your hesitation. Regardless, I find it interesting how the majority of objections are “But I want to be ENTERTAINED!”


What if the author/musician/artist/whoever doesn’t come to my town?

Besides, this whole idea of information=artistic creations is remarkably short-sighted. Who’s going to tell me there’s a tropical storm headed for New Orleans? Who’s going to take the time and effort to produce school textbooks? Who’s going to make sure the latest medical research gets disseminated to the widest audience possible? Who’s going to devote years to digging through old archives to develop a new book on Lincoln, Marx, or Henry VIII.

You really don’t grasp the difference between reading a book and going to a story telling festival?

And I don’t see people saying “I want to be ENTERTAINED!” What we’re saying is “I want artists be able to make a living selling their art.”

In what dreamworld are “artists” a meaningful economic entity? Most of them openly defy the laws of the market, and few to none conscientiously obey them.

Your kids didn’t write that book, their creative energy didn’t create the fortune and are therefore not entitled to it. That is the concept behind the Estate Tax. But get nothing? If they got nothing you didn’t put your legal affairs in order or get any upfront money from the publisher.

We are talking about intellectual property, why is it unreasonable for that contract to be terminated when the intellect that created it is gone? Would your wife still be married after you got hit by the bus?

What problem are you solving exactly?

People can make money through concerts and give away free samples of their work right now. There is nothing preventing those artists who aren’t interested in making a buck from freely distributing their intellectual property on the internet.

Patents are free information. Tell us your secret and we’ll allow you exclusive rights to it for a while.

Basing copyright terms on the life of the author is an inelegant kludge. In addition to the example of the author getting hit by a bus and leaving his kids destitute, what about artists who don’t die? If a corporation creates a work of art, does it remain copyrighted until the corporation is dissolved? Or if you want to take the tack that a corporation isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a valid author for this purpose, you’ve still got a whole bunch of individuals involved. You’ve seen the credits lists for modern movies-- There are tens of thousands of people involved in the creation of a single work of art. Do you have to track down each and every one of them and find out when they died to figure out if the movie is public domain? Or, what’s to stop an author from listing his two-year-old (who will presumably long outlive him) as a co-author, to extend the life of his copyright?

Weren’t copyright’s limited to seven years or so? What’s wrong with that?

No. I have things to do, and getting places can be a pain. I like the current system. I buy the book, I pay the author, I read the book when I feel like reading it. I don’t want to have to listen to the author or somebody else reading the book when they want to read it.

And what’s a story telling festival?