Posted by: glundeen | January 3, 2008

Damn It, Information Does Not Want To Be Free!


The record companies are at it again, trying to justify the position that ripping your own CDs to your computer is against the law.

“The RIAA’s legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only ‘created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies,’ [New York lawyer Ray] Beckerman says. ‘Every problem they’re trying to solve is worse now than when they started’.”

It’s one thing to try to stop piracy, but to say that a record company can dictate what you do with their product for your personal use after you buy it suggests you don’t own it. This seems a perfect time to trot out the old axiom “information wants to be free”(with apologies to Stewart Brand and Meredith Farkas).  You can’t stop people from sharing their music with others, and if the antiquated record companies weren’t putting out such mediocre, often insidiously awful music perhaps more people would pay for it. It’s even harder to dictate what people do with it once they purchase it. Apple faced this problem recently with the iPhone and quickly decided it wasn’t worth fighting users who wanted to hack their units. The music industry is fighting the most futile of battles, a veritable War on Drugs against information, and they’re going to lose, kicking and screaming all the way down, with the likes of Radiohead, Saul Williams and Trent Reznor reaping the rewards of creative freedom and independence.

We’re seeing the old structures starting to crumble. Hollywood and its relationship to writers. This business with the RIAA. The realization that oil production is simply not sustainable long-term. Rather than adapt, we’re seeing them cling to the rubble, steadfastly refusing to change.

Come to think of it, the public library is a very “old structure.” Steven Dunber brought up the question on his Freakonomics blog: If public libraries didn’t exist, could you start one today? Clearly, there are some “old structures” that must be upheld. The future must build on the past, not build over it.


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