Information Doesn't Want To Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age

McSweeney's. 2014. 164p. ISBN 9781940450285. $25. TECH
OrangeReviewStarDoctorow (Pirate Cinema; Little Brother; Rapture of the Nerds) mentions so many past careers in this title that he's hard to describe. Suffice to say that his history makes him an authority on the creation, sale, distribution, and consumption of various kinds of artistic media. Here the author distills the benefit of his experiences into three laws, to wit: digital locks are not for the benefit of the creators of the material they "protect"; "Fame Won't Make You Rich, But You Can't Get Paid Without It"; and "Information Doesn't Want to Be Free, People Do." Much of the material will make readers more conscious of facts they already had some awareness of: that record companies rip off artists, for example. Doctorow will also make all but the most savvy consumers aware of outrages they had no idea about—for example, that those companies deduct from artists' royalties for "breakage" (physical damages caused by shipping), even when they sell digital music.
VERDICT Each of the miniessays and lengthy sidebars Doctorow offers in support of his laws is an education in itself. The entries are perfect for standalone examinations in library science classrooms, where students will take away an important lesson: copyright is broken, given that computers work by creating copies (opening a web page, for example, creates a copy of it on the user's hard drive). Mainly, though, his nonstop barrage of hard-won information-age wisdom is for everyone who consumes copyrighted material today—which is everyone.
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