Saturday, June 15, 2024

Information Wants to Be Free

From the Web2001 Internet and Mobile conference and exposition at the Moscone convention center in San Francisco August 4-8, comes an interesting set of keynote speakers offered to attendees. Rather than major computer or software company CEO’s, we have commentators on our culture speaking to a conference full of web developers and corporate strategists charged with developing web initiatives.

One very important speaker was Dr. Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law professor, speaking on the threat represented by corporate interests to the creativity of the web. A creativity being regularly squashed and supressed by legal wrangling and debate.

I attended Dr. Lessig’s talk given to web developers at Web2001 9-7-01 and expected a lively debate when I visited his discussion forum at the Harvard Law web site. To visit and see posts over a year old is disappointing and worries me. I purchased his book, “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace” at the show and highly recommend it to all small business webmasters.

Dr. Lessig strongly advocates that creativity not be stifled by intellectual property owners asserting control over software and coding of web pages. This basically represents a viewpoint (and only in my own humble opinion, not Dr. Lessig’s) in support of Open Source computing and freely available content for the web with appropriate copyright protections extending only a short time to allow the compensation of the creator.

As a list owner that distributes content freely to web publishers and a columnist that publishes in multiple small business forums and portals around the web, I am disturbed by the control being sought by information “owners” over content.

My list at distributes articles written by small business owners to publishers of small business ezines and web sites across the web. We have over 700 members, some representing very large distribution ezines and high-traffic web sites with potential exposure approaching 5 million readers.

This approach allows exposure for the authors and results in sales of products or services from their web sites. The method of producing and distributing web content is an accepted means of small business exposure for the little guy. Sometimes we are infiltrated by publicists and distributors of PR for large content “owners” seeking wider distribution and access to a small business market segment.

This inevitably leads to threats from publishers of “affiliate” articles for distribution. They are suddenly concerned that we are using their copyrighted articles and book excerpts for purposes other than those intended by the affiliate programs they are connected with. They then threaten the list and the affiliates posting their “articles” (read PR pieces) with copyright violation. This is bizarre, frustrating and worrisome.

Is it free or not?

Another talk at this conference by Stewart Brand, author of “How Buildings Learn, What Happens to Them After They Are Built” who is often quoted as saying “Information wants to be free”. He would be a welcome contributor at the “Free-Content” list and would probably upset a lot of list participants torn between small business ecommerce, copyright issues and other business concerns about “ownership” and protecting that ownership.

Authors who contribute to free content request that their articles only be used if their “Resource Box” is maintained and a link to their site is listed. It is doubtful that any would persue violators in court if that condition were not met, simply because most lack the financial resources to do so. No money, no law suit. Simple.

Is it free or not?

Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at and blogs about SEO at
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.

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