Re: Information Age Dilemma

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Mon, 22 Sep 1997 12:05:48 -0700 (PDT)

> The free market punishes stupidity and inefficiency. This is good. But
> it also fails to reward producing information for free, or exploration,
> which is bad if people need that reward to live. Copyright fills in the
> gap, but less than ideally, because it makes information not free for a
> while.

That's the "public good" argument; I don't buy it for things like
defense, and I see no reason to buy it for information. The claim
that the free market does not reward production of free information
absent copyright is manifestly false: anyone with a little imagination
can figure out dozens of ways to make money with information that
don't rely on copyright--I've posted many here already, as anyone can
look up in the archives. Beginning an argument with with such an
instance of philospher's diease (mistaking a failure of imagination
for an insight into necessity) weakens whatever follows.

> ...
> Is there a fix? And is it reachable from current society? I dunno.
> But this is what I've been getting at.

Where old institutions fail, the fix is new institutions. To create
the new business models for information business no longer subsidized
by copyright, its current beneficiaries must lead by example and
refuse the subsidy, and create those new business models for themselves.

The difficulty in fighting it politically is the same for fighting
any subsidy for what people think is a good thing. The political
reality is that if people think that farming is a good thing, then
they think that subsidzing farmers might be good. Likewise if they
think producing information is good, then subsidizing it must be OK.
You have to fight that by showing the real consequence of subsidies--
taking money away from what might have been a more productive use.

The state-enforced protection of information takes away billions of
dollars from productive use: school textbooks cost more than twice
what they would without it, the cost of legal research severely
hampers justice, every industry is crippled by not being able to
make small incremental improvements without major cost.

Copyrights and Patents reward novelty at the expense of craftsmanship,
and we allow this because our culture seems to think that intelligence
is somehow "better" than physical skill, or that invention is somehow
more noble and deserving than labor. That's nothing but snobbery; a
cultural bias with no legitimate excuse. Every producer must must
offer eir product in the free market with every other. Authors and
inventors should have no special protection.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC