Arnt Gulbrandsen
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2011-12-05

Half a quotation is no quotation at all

Information wants to be free has turned into one of those soundbites that are believed by virtue of being so often repeated, like a cross breeding of of Drink Coca-Cola and blah considered harmful.

At least Drink Coca-Cola is an accurate summary of what the Coca-Cola Corporation said. Information wants to be free is a misleading, disgraceful misquote.

Here is Stewart Brand's entire clueful paragraph, quoted from page 202 of my copy of The Media Lab: Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free, because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy and recombine — too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, intellectual property and the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.