REVIEW: Information Doesn’t Want to be Free

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In this short non-fiction book from 2014, science fiction author and journalist Cory Doctorow shows why copyright policies, laws, and surrounding politics are bad for creative arts on the internet (and, by extension, all people). The book is organized into three sections by his three ‘laws’ of modern day copyright, and subdivided into short chapters of supporting points. And when I say short I really mean it — some are two pages long! This makes it an accessible read during lunch breaks or whenever you can find the time. On top of that, examples of his points are separated from the text and put into the margins, making them easy to skim and re-find.

All that to say — it is a very readable book for anyone interested in putting their work on the internet and does not have time for a legal course.

His three laws are:

Any Time Someone Puts a Lock on Something that Belongs to you and Won’t Give you the Key, that Lock is not there for your Benefit

Fame Won’t Make You Rich, but you can’t get Paid Without It

Information Doesn’t Want to be Free, People Do

My Favourite Takeaway

The book title is taken from a famous quote by American writer and entrepreneur Stewart Brand in conversation with Steve Wozniak in 1984. He says the information wants to be expensive because it can be so valuable while at the same time it wants to be free because it is becoming easier and easier to access any information. Doctorow corrects him to say, also the name of his third law, that information doesn’t want to be free. People do.

This is a powerful summation of the book as a whole. Everything he writes is centered on the humanity of humans. Who uses the internet? My mom uses the internet to share photos of her cats. Kids use it to watch silly videos. Teens use it to see what a singer looks like after breaking up with their boyfriend. If the internet were fully regulated by the laws of copyright, most of that sharing would stop. The logo on the blanket behind the cat is illegal to share without permission. Those funny videos are using popular music and therefore, are criminally stealing from those musicians.

Many defenders of copyright will point to these actions and say, ‘these are not things of value.’ Doctorow poetically reminds us that these ‘insignificant moments’ are in fact the things that make up our lives and form the basis of our relationships.

Why I Love this Book

I love this book because the laws are simple to remember, it is clear what they mean, if you want to understand them better the book is easy to reference, and Doctorow writes from the personal perspective of someone who cares about the internet and artists.

Oh — and did I mention that the book is available for a minimum $0 donation directly from his website?

Image Courtesy of Cory Doctorow via

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