Saturday, November 11, 2006

the battle for freedom of information

Yochai Benkler describes the battle over the institutional ecology of the digital environment:
To what extent will resources necessary for information production and exchange be governed as a commons, free for all to use and biased in their availability in favor of none? To what extent will these resources be entirely proprietary, and available only to those functioning in the market ... We see this battle played out at all layers of the information environment: the physical devices and network channels necessary to communicate; the existing information and cultural resources out of which new statements must be made; and the logical resources - the software and standards - necessary to translate what human being want to say to each other into signals that machines can process and transmit. It central question is whether there will, or will not, be a core common infrastructure that is governed as a commons and therefore available to anyone who wishes to participate in the networked information environment outside of the market based, proprietary framework
- The Wealth of Networks, 23
Benkler is pointing out that this battle over the freedom of information is operating over many different layers:
physical layer - companies tampering with hardware to prevent copying (DRM)
cultural layer - it's natural to share things which can be easily copied, such as CDs, with your friends
economic layer - some companies have Know-How (eg. google), others are more dependent on exclusive rights (eg. Disney)
legal layer - extension of copyright law,
logical layer - eg. whether software conforms to W3C standards, censorware in schools, code is law

He is bringing out attention to the fact that this battle is already raging all around us and that there is no guarantee that the commons, the free distribution of information, will be expanded. The battle has to be fought.

No comments: