Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: Information Doesn't Want to Be Free

Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age
Cory Doctorow
Intellectual property

This is an if-you're-not-outraged-you're-not-paying-attention manifesto. Doctorow's thesis is that current copyright law is (a) ill-suited to digital content, (b) designed to protect middlemen, rather than creators, and (c) EVIL EVIL EVIL.

It's a good read--full of blood-pressure-raising anecdotes, forceful analogies, sharply-argued case studies, and general get-off-my-lawn crankiness. A representative and very apposite quote: "Obscurity is a bigger problem for authors than piracy". As the proprietor of this here extremely-obscure blog (see description above), I entirely agree. Content consumers--so Doctorow proposes--are happy to pay content creators directly, given the opportunity, which is why distributors and merchandisers are furiously running around passing ever-more-intrusive, ever-less-enforceable laws to restrict the possibility. Those of us who labor in wholly-unmerited anonymity have more to gain than to lose.

Well, maybe so. I'm no fan of the heavy-handed way that major corporations have gutted, subverted, and generally bought out what was originally a fairly equitable U.S. copyright system. I'm nonetheless skeptical that Doctorow's prospective infotopia will necessarily usher in a magical golden age of sparkly happy unicorns and file sharing. What does seem evident is that things will change ... and people--creators, investors, distributors, and consumers--will adapt.

Also, if anyone out there is itching to rescue me from obscurity in exchange for large sums of money, I'm ready to talk.


  1. Awe, JT, don't feel bad. Your obscurity is not wholly unmerited :)

    You just have to do a book tour, and give TED talks, and appear on Fox News.

  2. Yes, it turns out that being lazy does contribute.