Although Matthew Brimer has identified a weighty issue in “Pirates do fuzzy math” (Feb. 26), he has shortchanged the copyright and DRM controversy. When Brimer suggests that the shift to public goods “push[es] the price of all information to zero” and creates negative “economic consequences,” he misses the mark.
Rather, in the modern shift from product-oriented businesses to intellectual capital industries, the value of information is amplified, not reduced. In the rapidly expanding intellectual property economy, the product itself becomes ideas — in terms of operating systems, development platforms and electronic marketplaces — and these non-rivalrous creations may in turn encourage more innovation in the forms of modifications, applications and even new material products. Goods are not valueless; they merely have economic worth measured in new terms, by their application and interface in the networked system.
At times, Brimer’s argument sounds like rhetoric from the RIAA, an association that has put a stranglehold on free expression. Contrary to popular assertions, the liberalization of DRM and copyright law is not about “theft”; it is about opportunity. For instance, YouTube users who mix different recordings, videos and photographs to form pieces create new added value in the marketplace. “The Daily Show” splices together different clips that may derive from Fox News or MSNBC, but the show is a truly original product. Moreover, torrent sites aren’t merely used to steal existing creations; they also allow unknown artists to gain popularity, circulate out-of-print books etc.
The collapse of rivalrous goods does not forebode end times. In the words of Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, “If the Internet teaches us anything, it is that great value comes from leaving core resources in a commons, where they’re free for people to build upon as they see fit.”
The writer is a freshman in Davenport College.