Cory Wants to Be Free

I spent much of today in Bristol where Cory Doctorow was promoting his new non-fiction book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. He was there at the behest of the Festival of Ideas and the local branch of the Open Rights Group. I tweeted quite a few quotes from his talk so I’m going to be lazy and reproduce those tweets here.

Cory’s main question in all this is to determine how creative people such as himself can make a living in the digital world. He admitted upfront that being a creative person is not a great money-making proposition. Nevertheless, there are ways in which the world can be arranged which allow creative people to make a living, and there are ways that prevent them from doing so.

His central thesis is that the big media and technology companies are leaching all of the value out of the work of creative people, thanks to a combination of:

  • Technological curbs on consumer behavior (e.g. DRM, which locks you into the supplier you rented, rather than purchased, content from);
  • Market regulation designed to raise barriers to entry against potential competitors;
  • Legal bullying of consumers (e.g. punishing an entire household if one member of it downloads pirated content).

This is all fairly basic economics. The big media and technology companies have found ways to establish market dominance, and are now proceeding to “extract rents”, as economists say, on the back of that dominance. Often they will use “regulatory capture”, that is using their contacts in government to have laws passed that favor them and disadvantage their competitors and customers. As we have seen with the TTIP fiasco, governments on both sides of the Atlantic are firmly in the pockets of big business. The scary thing is that it is hard to see what anyone can do about it. With TTIP ordinary people, and even most politicians, have been prevented from having any say in what goes on.

It is worth noting that all of this makes very little difference to actual piracy. Illegal copying goes on regardless. What it does is put a stop to legal challenges to the dominant companies, sometimes by simply making competing with them illegal.

Kudos to Cory for adopting a policy of taking alternate questions from men, and from women/non-binary people. He says that if he doesn’t do this then his questioners tend to be almost exclusively male.

Naturally I ended up providing one of those questions, but I was pleased to see a young woman in the audience ask something too. She turned out to be one of the people from Hydra Books, our local anarchist bookstore (hi Anna!). Cory and I popped in for a coffee on our way back to Temple Meads, and I was pleased to find that they had several trans-related books in stock.

All-in-all, it was a splendid day. Thanks to Cory for being such an engaging and enthusiastic speaker, and for being so approachable.

This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Economics, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cory Wants to Be Free

  1. Kudos to Cory for adopting a policy of taking alternate questions from men, and from women/non-binary people. He says that if he doesn’t do this then his questioners tend to be almost exclusively male.

    Heh. Does that mean that when women stop asking questions, he stops taking them? If there are blokes left with questions and no women putting their hands up?

    • Cheryl says:

      Fortunately we didn’t get to find out, but I presume he does.

      I suspect that this is a complex issue. Partly he’s encouraging female/nb folk to be brave and stick their hands up. Partly he may be subtly conditioning moderators who would otherwise only pick men to ask questions. Possibly it is also a way of keeping Q&A sessions short.

Comments are closed.