Whilst we have been ripping off music and cheering as software and news became free, the work we were doing every day increasingly relies upon respect for and valuing of intellectual property. But as free software, music and news have undermined the value of intellectual property we have undermined the very basis for our emerging knowledge economy.
When the advertising revenue streams for our major newspapers are taken by Google because they can freely place their ads alongside any newspaper content then who will be paying the salary of the investigative journalist working on the next Watergate break in? It is not the sensational story that is important it is the constant enquiry into the power and politics of every nation that keeps our institutions honest and operating with some level of accountability to the people. That’s what is important.
When taxpayer dollars are spent creating public data, who should have access to that data? It is all very well for Google to lobby our governments to make this data freely available but when Google pay almost no tax in many countries (preferring to shift their profits to the lowest tax paying regimes) why should our legal system provide such a valuable income-earning asset without charge?
Chris Anderson the great advocate of “Free” argues in his book that “Everyone can use a Free business model, but concedes all too typically only the number one company can get really rich with it.” It is not surprising that the two major advocates for free; Google and Apple are also the most guarded and proprietary about their core revenue generating digital assets and benefit greatly from others providing their digital assets free.
This is not a formula for an economy to create better ways of working learning and living for all. It is a formula for turning us all into digitally enabled itinerant workers never achieving Jefferson’s dream of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This demonetised result for most digitised ideas will render the inventor the poorer. There are only a tiny handful of writers and musicians who actually make a decent living in the new digital utopia.
It is blindingly obvious that a knowledge based economy must protect intellectual property and build an efficient value exchange system for earning money from our ideas and inventions because in the longer term technology will just get better and better.