Hey! Cory Doctorow! I pirated your book. Yea bitch, what are you going to do about it, huh? Come at me bro!
Now that I have gotten that off my chest…
Information Doesn’t Want to be Free is Cory Doctorow manifesto of sort decrying this now seemingly unending fight between those championing Internet freedom and those who, seeing their financial future threatened by this technology, want to limit creativity with increasingly draconian copyright laws. Doctorow works in this book to show how these copyright laws seemingly exist to only benefit the industries, and how since the coming of the digital area creators are no longer incentivized to play with those rules. The argument itself is pretty compelling, if not rather obvious.
This book’s virtue is that it is legible enough, being simply written for the topic. But for something that is meant to be politically activating, the other cutting side of that blade is that it can seem sophomoric and lacking nuance. I found the book compelling, but I think the first few sentences of this review make it firmly clear on what soil of this debate I have planted my flag on. To be fair, the book also at times came across as a bit rambling. For such a short book, it seemed rather long-winded.
But the greater problem with the book is the audience problem. I read it for a selfish reason; I am a person who wants to ultimately become self-employed in the field of the arts, and therefore a book about how to think about publishing and copyrights in a digital, copy-friendly world is pretty important to me. However, I wonder what a person who has absolutely no dog in this fight would think. Its hard to see what – if anything – this book would say to that hypothetical layperson. But perhaps that is also a virtue of the book: after all, with near ubiquitous cameras who isn’t a content creator nowadays? Still, the point remains that this book seems to offer a very narrow slice of what Jaron Lanier gave us in “Who Owns The Future”, a much better book. I think it would have been much more interesting if Doctorow – or anyone else up to the task – would write a manifesto about being an anti-copyright consumer. This is something that is much more needed nowadays.
But if nothing else this book contains within it a very interesting look at the recent history of certain industries, notably the music industry, and how they have been affected not only by digital technology in the recent years, but also how they have been harmed by the implementation of anti-piracy technology. It clearly spells out who are the winners and who are the losers. That alone seemed worth it.