Letting Go: How Bits are Crippled Through Control

Attempts to control, horde or restrict information is anachronistic and counter-productive in the data age.  In extreme cases, it can be dangerous.  This is not, as some might suggest, because information wants to be free.  It’s simply the nature of bits: Their power and value is derived solely through application.  We can channel, pool and/or use information, like water, but it stagnates in untapped, fixed pools.

Consider a pure information product, like a popular book or a song.  In most cases, it’s peak value is time-related, bound to the era of it’s creation.  The clock is always running for cultural observations, so a song’s natural audience will be found closest to the time of it’s creation.  If the song or book is “hoarded”, and not released, it’s context is compromised.  By not being released, it’s relevance and very existence is challenged.  Assuming the work survives this challenge, the next hurdle is it’s creator’s larger success in the same venue.  If the creator has no audience, the work has no power.  So, today, when media companies mine their archives for content, never-have-been works rarely find new audiences.  Without a “first run”, there was likely no VHS (or CD) version, to drive demand for a DVD re-issue.  Further, as archives naturally grow with time, the likelihood that someone will notice (much less consider) undiscovered works by unknown artists becomes increasingly remote.

Copyright and intellectual property laws make things worse.  In an attempt to render bits as atoms, corporations have distorted our laws, extending exclusivity to give them a legal right to corral ideas indefinitely.  Obviously there is a good reason to reward creators with some control of their creation.  But there is equally good reason to allow individual voices within corporations expression, especially when such expression could benefit the creator himself or society at large.  Since no one can fully value information at it’s creation (remember: this cannot be known!  It is a market of ideas, not a fixed-currency), and restriction implies such knowledge, the premise itself is false.  The truth is some information only has value through expression or transmission.  Even creators of information cannot predict or manage how these things will work out.

Put it out there.  Use the law to ensure compensation, but use common sense in the laws application.

, ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply