Information Wants To Be Free

What’s not free are books. I thought keeping a wish list would help me curb my book buying habit. But I got my credit card bill today and I spent around $400 on books this past month. Most of that was on textbooks, or atleast that’s how I’m justifying it.

One of those textbooks is Massive Change by Bruce Mau and the Institute Without Boundaries. It’s one that Bhanu Kapil has been using in class. There are some incredible articles and interviews that have me thinking.

One such interview is with Lawrence Lessig. He talks about intellectual property and copyright law. He discusses the Oxford English Dictionary as one of the first open source ? publishing projects. It seems that the OED began with an announcement in English newspapers asking people to volunteer to submit words and definitions of how they are used. There was a huge response.

Information doesn’t want to be anything, but people want it to be free so that they can trust it. Hidden information always makes you wonder who’s hiding it and why. ?

Esther Dyson, chairman of EDventure Holdings

Lessig explains that it was the Disney Corporation which has helped to change copyright laws limiting access to cultural works. Walt Disney made use of material that had passed into public domain (Grimm fairy tales), but the Disney Corporation has lobbied to make that same access more difficult for creators today. In other words, the Disney Coroporation has helped take away the freedom that made Walt Disney a success.

Lessig is the chairman of Creative Commons which wants to do for content what the Free Software Foundation is doing for software. I added the Creative Commons tag to my Work page and I’m interested in more ways of distributing free content.

If someone were pointing a gun at me and demanded that I write non-free software or else, then I would do it. But when his back was turned, I’d escape. And I’d probably put in bugs. ?

Richard Stallman

I appreciate this ethic. I want to distribute my writing freely. But also: I gots to get paid. My intention right now is to sale ? my short stories to magazines that will pay me for first time ? rights. Then after publication (and a suitable waiting period) I’ll make the story available on the website for free. The first step is publication.

The article has also got me thinking about alternative distribution models. I’m mostly familiar with what has been done in the area of software. I wonder what’s going on in literature. If anyone knows of anything cool, let me know.

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