The Whole Web/Intellectual Property Thing

I have recently subscribed to the New Yorker after a many years absence. I'll be honest - I get it for the cartoons. Specifically to see more of Rina Piccolo's single panel cartoons. Unfortunately, there have not been enough of those and I may have to cancel the subscription if that doesn't change. I hope the editors appreciate the gravity of this situation. 

Anyway, last week I actually stopped to read an article by Malcom Gladwell that caught my eye. Titled "Priced to Sell - Is Free The Future", it reviews the recent book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" by Chris Anderson and also addresses the basic premise behind it. He also recounts a story of the testimony of Dallas Morning News publisher James Moroney when he recently appeared before a congressional committee at a hearing in May. The story centers around negotiations with Amazon's Kindle for Dallas Morning News content. This is a story anyone associated with newspapers should read.

One of the driving forces in Anderson's book is the statement by Stewart Brand that "information wants to be free". My personal problem with this philosophy is that I draw a distinction between "information" and "entertainment".  While I agree that information such as basic news like "There's a tornado coming - take shelter" should be free, many, many things  on the internet do not fall into that category. Rather they are in the category of intellectual property I would classify as entertainment. Movies, columns, editorials, The Daily Show, comics, etc. are all entertainment and intellectual property. Just because consumers would like them to be free does not mean they should be. My kids would like it very much if the candy at our corner store was all free and they could gorge on it to their hearts' content. However, the candy is not free, and if my kids go help themselves, they will most definitely be prosecuted for shoplifting. There has to be a way to protect the creators of intellectual property as completely as we protect the retail industry. 

Malcom Gladwell actually addresses this very succinctly - I hope you can find time to read the article. 

And Mr. Mankoff - if you're reading, please give us more Piccolo cartoons :-) 


  1. That was a great article, but I have to admit that I wouldn't have read it if I'd had to pay for it...

  2. Anderson apparently doesn't answer this question: Why does Amazon both sell the Kindle AND charge for content to load on it? And I'm hoping, BTW, that he doesn't have the hypocrisy to take pay for editing Wired or writing these books. Maybe I'll shoplift a copy of his book and see what else he's got to say ...

  3. @ arcticcartoons - Point taken :-)

    @Mike - LOL! Maybe it won't have one of those little electronic things that beep as you go out the door.

    I still maintain that there are two things required to change the mindset of free when it comes to the internet. 1) all PREMIUM content gated (Just like people pay more for stuff like HBO - I am AMAZED at what people will pay for TV these days) and 2) a payment system so unobtrusive the consumer becomes accustomed to it without a lot of squawking. This would have to be cheap and convenient. As I've said before, you don't have to charge much if you have enough viewers - a million nickels is a LOT of money.