Is that free as in beer or free as in speech? Or both?
Stewart Brand argued that on one hand freedom wants to be expensive because it’s valuable. On the other hand it wants to be free because it’s getting easier and cheaper to distribute. In the book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson maps out all the ways that free information on the internet has changed markets.
BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow believes that it is time to kill this saying. Not because of what it represents for those who believe in it, but for what it represents for those who don’t. He claims that Hollywood uses this idea to screw the consumer over because they fear that we’re all just a bunch of pirates and that “information wants to be free” is another way of saying “I don’t want to pay for stuff, and will therefore steal your stuff.”
I don’t think the saying is dead yet. There are still those who don’t know what to make of it. If those in power read Free: The Future of a Radical Price, they would know that there are ways to make money by giving stuff away. Google’s been successful at it. Even Yahoo!’s been marginally successful at it. Information can be free without anyone losing money over it.