Information: For Free or Not For Free? That is the Question.

In 1984, futurist Stewart Brand wrote, “Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive.” He would go on to elaborate, stating that it wants to be free because it has become so inexpensive to distribute and gather. Information wants to be expensive because often times you can not even put a relative value on certain information for certain people.

A prime example of information trying to become free would be music piracy. Since Napster, audio files have been shared all over the internet for free like it is no big deal, despite the record label, artists, producers, studio owners, etc. who are all an integral part of the process. Music is becoming free and as a result of it, artists are giving their music away legally more and more often. I can’t tell you how many times Google has allowed me to download a song or album for free by using its search engine. I can download thousands and thousands of songs and the only people getting paid are websites who sold advertising.

However, information can also be infinitely valuable. For example, on 9/11 the up-to-minute coverage held a price tag higher than anything fathomable. Luckily, we pay for cable and it was the news station’s job to cover these events. Life could get really sticky if they showed us a clip, a “preview” if you will, of the 9/11 attacks and then offered to sell us the full coverage for X amount of dollars.

It is business’ job to find the middle ground. “What’s a Fair Share in the Age of Google?” by Peter Osnos goes on to mention free websites with paid portions, online subscriptions, etc. These concepts have worked, but are not as successful as big business would like them to be. We find ourselves in an economical limbo in 2012. The information age is making it so you get your news, TV shows, music, and communication all for free under the $50 or so you pay for internet. The money pot has been severely reduced. It is time to adapt and outlast, but how?

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