The Information Economy Is Not About Selling Information

from the bingo dept

What took me a whole series of posts to explain, Cory Doctorow has summed up succinctly in a column for Information Week: the "information economy" is not about selling information -- it's about using information to make everything else more valuable. The problem is that many in the US believe that the information economy is about selling information, and that mistake explains many of the strategic mistakes made over the past few decades that we've been describing here. Unfortunately, as we've been noting, the US has bet so strongly on the idea of the information economy being about selling information that it's pushing other countries to put laws in place that support the US's position on this -- and doing so under the false banner of "free trade." The purpose of real free trade is that it's beneficial to both parties through the efficiencies afforded by comparative advantage. In this case, however, these new protectionist policies are only beneficial to the US -- and, as Cory notes, this means they'll eventually be ignored. The benefit is too strong not to ignore them. And, once that happens, then it's those other countries that gain the benefits of recognizing that information makes everything else more valuable, while the US suffers under the modern equivalent of information mercantilism. It's not good for the US economy. It's not good for US businesses -- and yet due to this one incorrect belief, it's what we're left with.
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  1. identicon
    Buzz, 12 Jun 2007 @ 3:18pm

    It never ends...

    As DCX2 pointed out, Mike has never once condoned (indirectly or otherwise) stealing content. He points out that piracy is a strong indicator of where the market is headed, but everyone compulsively tacks onto the end of those sentences: "... therefore, we should all engage in piracy because piracy is good." He refers only to the changing marketplace and how those who cleave unto the old business models will be left in the dust. The only reason those old models are still alive is that the new models are still developing. The old business models are deeply rooted in society, so it is hard for most people to grasp this concept of giving digital content away for free.

    As for those who insist on calling piracy "stealing", it has already been clarified to be copyright infringement. We are dealing with information and ideas, not trophies and artifacts. If certain companies had their way, we would be arrested for humming our favorite tune in public. Where is the line? Do I have to play my protected music only at home where no one else can hear it? Can I play at my place of work? Is it infringing if my neighboring co-worker hears it too? Can I lend my whole computer loaded with thousands of songs (with DRM) to a friend? What exactly are my rights with this piece of data on my computer? Why can't I transfer those songs to other music devices?

    There are businesses (both inside and outside the music industry) that thrive very well by giving away their non-scarce resource and charging money only for scarce premium services. Stop trying to claim that Mike is making this stuff up!

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