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Stop Saying Information Wants to be Free

Copyright street art

In Utne Visionary Cory Doctorow's latest Guardian column, he calls for the death of the "information wants to be free" argument. This is not a new argument for Doctorow, but it is damn well formed this time around:

it's become the easiest, laziest straw man for Hollywood's authoritarian bullies to throw up as a justification for the monotonic increase of surveillance, control, and censorship in our networks and tools. I can imagine them saying: "These people only want network freedom because they believe that 'information wants to be free'. They pretend to be concerned about freedom, but the only 'free' they care about is 'free of charge.'"

But this is just wrong. "Information wants to be free" has the same relationship to the digital rights movement that "kill whitey" has to the racial equality movement: a thoughtless caricature that replaces a nuanced, principled stand with a cartoon character. Calling IWTBF the ideological basis of the movement is like characterising bra burning as the primary preoccupation of feminists (in reality, the number of bras burned by feminists in the history of the struggle for gender equality appears to be zero, or as close to it as makes no difference).

Source: Guardian

Image by Horia Varian, licensed under Creative Commons.

andrew devers
6/1/2010 10:17:32 PM

I agree that copy write infringement is and should be illegal. Artists and the companies that produce and distribute works of art or similar types of material should be rewarded for their efforts.


jeffrey turnbull
5/19/2010 6:42:20 PM

How far can one go with such an utterly illogical line, anyway? Information wants to be free? More accurately, "*I* want information to be free." It's not likely the information itself has much concern in this regard. (I could be wrong, though---for all I know, all true and liberating information actually is born with the innate desire to be spread as far and wide as possible, in which case, I firmly support the fulfillment of that info's innate purpose and desire.) What person likes the idea of being partially or wholly enslaved? Truth-awareness in practice equates with liberation, in my cosmology. As long as it's universal truth, in contrast to commercial crap, lies & propaganda. Still, it is antithetical to liberty to place external controls on the availability of information. "The penalty for censoring what the members of your human family may view, learn, and know is...family members who are no smarter, freer or happier than you!"


san_1
5/19/2010 11:57:30 AM

In the meantime, the Hollywood crowd is cleaning up by exposure on and use of the Internet by what is now gazillions of people who 'freely' pass around, rate and create blogs on Hollywood's glitz. Is Hollywood trying to justify a bait and switch tactic? Get people hooked in and then sock it to them? Similar to cell phones and plans - lure people in with fancy phones then forget to tell them about all the extra charges they must incur to use all those fancy bells and whistles. BS.