I was once one of those believers in “Information should be free." That was back at the beginning of the public internet in the 1980s before the web took hold in the 90s. But the issue really wasn’t not paying people for their efforts, their art, their genius. It was about what can be free being free.
Information, should be free. Information that IS free, should be made free. Old information surely. Public information, absolutely, and so on. Government for one should be supplying citizens with all the information possible.
An informed citizenry is far more productive for a nation, for the world, than an ignorant citizenry.
"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." --Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820.
The current spate of dilettantes crying for “free information for all” have diluted the original meaning of the original intent of the phrase. To quote, as friend and fellow author Kurt Giambastiani put it in his blog recently, "Talent Just Wants to be Free: The Idiocy of Digital Dilettantes", there is a problem with thinking that all information should be free. Obviously, artists deserve to be rewarded for their talents and efforts.
Please feel free to go check out Kurt's blog that spawned my blog here as well as his comments there on this blog. Kurt always has something interesting on his blog. He offered this as an example of part of the problem with this information should be free issue: Income for US authors falls below federal poverty line – survey.
If information is made freely available to the general public, it will enhance the human experience overall. Certainly Public Domain works should be freely disseminated to the public, world wide. The downside is that some ignorant people will take in some of this information and yet remain ignorant as we have seen so much of lately.
At that point those people are stumbling into the realm of stupidity in choosing to accept bad information merely to support bad information they already have. However, if we offer as much good and accurate information as possible, eventually the truth tends to win out.
Supplying information leads into the same issues we see in the services industry.
Why for instance does a mixed drink cost more at a bar than at home? Because you’re paying for more than the ingredients. You're also paying for the venue, the mixologist’s skills and knowledge, the server serving you so you don’t have to serve yourself, others of the public congregating in the venue, perhaps music or talent that is supplied, and so on.
So it is with supplying information to the public.
Someone needs to package, store and disseminate it. The infrastructure leading to accessing that information needs to be monitored and maintenanced. Which is why I think the internet is no different than our roads and bridges and should be available to all to utilize them. If the government needs to pay (through us) to have and make information freely available online, then so be it.
Someone has to do it, and it needs to be done.
That is not to say that new information that has a cost. especially for individuals, musicians and artists, people who deserve to eat and live a good life while producing their works, should have their works devalued. Of course their works shouldn't be free and they should be appropriately compensated for the quality of their time and works.
The issue isn’t so much that these digital dilettantes are wrong, as they are misguided and perhaps being cheap bastards too.
YES, information should be free and freely available to all. IF it’s free to begin with. At some point then down the long road of time it should become free. Free as in public domain. A concept I think we should retain after the death of the artist and perhaps that of their immediate family. As for the succeeding members of their family retaining rights, there are currently laws in place about that as well as their ability to retain those rights and so on.
We do need to push information out to all humans everywhere who want it and it does therefore need to be free.
There are also other important considerations as has so kindly and eloquently (as always) pointed out by Kurt Giambastiani.
Still, people need information to live, to eat, to survive. Artists and content producers do need to live and eat and survive. We just need to consider the context and not gloss over the issues like ignorant and greedy dilettantes.