The Free & The Unfree

Infoporn on the global battle between liberty and control

| June 10, 2004

The American film industry spends the GDP of a small, impoverished nation producing and marketing a blockbuster hit like Titanic, then charges each of us, whether rich or poor, upwards of $10 (plus popcorn) to see it in the theater. Hours after its first showing, a bootleg version can be yours for $1 in the streets of Beijing, Budapest, Damascus, Guatemala City, or many other metropolises in developing countries. In turn, Hollywood declares war on copyright pirates all over the world. The music, pharmaceutical, agro, and software industries follow suit, fueling what is literally becoming an underground world war between liberty and control.

Wired Magazine tackles this complicated struggle, which too often comes across as simply a battle between the rich and the poor, and breaks down the numbers, maps, and ideologies with a 10-page special Infoporn section called 'The Free & The Unfree' that focuses on four thriving, global industries: media, medicine, agriculture, and software. 'The notion that ideas can be protected, like land or gold, from bandits predates Gutenberg's printing press. But only in the digital age has the concept of intellectual property set off an international free-for-all,' writes Wired.

Aside from all the mudslinging, Wired highlights a few pioneers that are 'marking a third way that respects patent protections and copyright controls while trying to foster more opportunities for broader access.' These trailblazers include: Linux, The Grey Album, generic drugs, and the Creative Commons.
-- Jacob Wheeler

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