video: Some Thoughts on the Free Culture Debate

by on March 21, 2010 · 8 comments

Andrew Keen recently asked me to sit down and chat with him as part of a new series of video interviews he is conducting for Arts + Labs called “Keen on Media.” You can find the discussions with me here (or on Vimeo here). Keen asked me to talk about a wide variety of issues, but this first video features some thoughts about the tensions between the free culture movement and those that continue to favor property rights and proprietary business models as the foundation of the economy. Consistent with what I have argued in the past, I advocated a mushy middle-ground position of preserving the best of both worlds. I believe that free and open source software has produced enormous social & economic benefits, but I do not believe that it will or should replace all proprietary business models or methods.  Each model or mode of production has its place and purpose and they should continue to co-exist going forward, albeit in serious tension at times.

Adam Thierer (part 1) from andrewkeen on Vimeo.

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  • Mike Wendy

    Pay the creator – yes, indeed. No doubt, a Pi calculation's worth of 9's of innovation sits at the edge. And, pay the creator we must. But for that little sliver that doesn't – that important core innovation, which starts the ball rolling – let's not forget that integral aspect (which enables the iterative process. And, I think this is the main problem of the “free culture” – i.e., its myopia (or, outright disrespect) to this central fact.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    The free-market is based on competition. If someone wishes to produce and distribute something for “free” it is entirely their prerogative. If a proprietary product can't compete; too bad. That is the free-market at work. Conversely, if a “free” model for product development proves unsustainable, it too will “die” leaving the propriety product to rake in the $$$$.

    In fact, the “free” model is economically better. For example, you can use LINUX for $0 which beats paying Microsoft $XXXX. These are savings that help you produce products at lower cost and thereby allowing you to pass these savings onto your customers. Less expensive products, translates into greater sales and hopefully better profits.

    Again – I reiterate, if a group of people seek to organize themselves to produce something, and then give it away for “free” it is entirely their prerogative. Think of it this way, there loss is your gain. Enjoy the benefit. If a proprietary product can't compete, too bad. The free-market speaks.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Hey, I’m all in favor of free, Steve. I think that should be clear by now given all the work I’ve done defending advertising as a key source of funding for “free.” But that’s jut it: “free” business models still require some other source of revenue. And as a cyber-libertarian, my goal is to keep open as many options for marketplace experimentation as possible. I certainly don’t think the government should be picking winners & losers.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Hey, I'm all in favor of free, Steve. I think that should be clear by now given all the work I've done defending advertising as a key source of funding for “free.” But that's jut it: “free” business models still require some other source of revenue. And as a cyber-libertarian, my goal is to keep open as many options for marketplace experimentation as possible. I certainly don't think the government should be picking winners & losers.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    True, other sources of income, such as advertising, may be required to support the “free” business model. However, that does not negate “free” as a legitimate form of competition.

    I fully agree that government should not pick winners and losers, but it is never that simple. Both government and business solict bids on contracts for products./services that they desire. In theory, the “low” bidder should get the contract. Clearly the entity that gets the contract is the “winner”, the entity that did not get the contract is the “loser”. This, however, should not be morphed into the government “picking winners and losers”. Clearly sole source contracts, such as LINUX only or Microsoft only, would fall into the category of the government “picking winners and losers” and should not be allowed.

  • http://blaise.ca/ balleyne

    It's unfortunate that so much of the focus here was on money. Free doesn't mean unpaid. The opposite of a free culture is a permission culture. Gratis is the economic / business side, but libre is the cultural side.

  • http://blaise.ca/ balleyne

    It's unfortunate that so much of the focus here was on money. Free doesn't mean unpaid. The opposite of a free culture is a permission culture. Gratis is the economic / business side, but libre is the cultural side.

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