Information Should Be Free

Mark Guzdial makes the point teachers add value to the learning process. Normally, I would agree. However, I got hung up on a misquote from a Walter Isaacson article How to Save Your Newspaper in TIME offering micropayments as the solution to newspapers finding a working model to survive since advertisements are not the right one.

Mark said it was “information must be free.” TIME said, “[T]he Web got caught up in the ethos that information wants to be free.” Mark correctly attributed it to Steven Levy who said, “All information should be free,” but in the context of: “Access to computers — and anything which might
teach you something about the way the world works — should be
unlimited and total.” 

Higher education provides such access. However, we hide the access behind beaucracy and tuition. Is it worth it?

Another thought on all this came from a Dorothy E. Denning quoting Richard Stallman:

I believe that all generally useful information should be free. By ‘free’ I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one’s own uses. … When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving.

This reminds me of the concept of Creative Commons and open source. Restrictions to information like copyright ensure the creator makes money. At the same time copyright provides some opportunities for reusing it. (CC and open source just do it better than the Copyright Office.

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