January 22, 2012


Robert Levine, Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back (New York: Doubleday, 2011) (In the final analysis, there is no such thing as a 'free ride'. Someone, perhaps not the actual rider, is always paying the price. Ultimately it is not just the culture business that is paying for others' so-called 'free ride.' Ultimately, it is the culture that suffers . . . and declines. If the creator of cultural content cannot make a living creating culture, then they will trying to create culture. And that leave our culture where? In the long term, we will get that for which we pay. And, as a result, be culturally poorer for it. From the bookjacket: "In an incisive chronicle of media's collision with the Internet, journalist Robert Levine narrates how the culture business succumbed to the siren song of 'free.' Fearless in its reporting and analysis, Free Ride is an epic tale of value destruction and the business history of the decade." "It has become conventional wisdom that on the Internet, 'information wants to be free.' This memorable phrase helped shape the online business model, but it is now driving the media companies on which the digital industry depends to close their doors. In the first comprehensive business history of a decade of perilous change, Robert Levine uncovers how the United States built an information economy only to find that information worthless." "Levine reveals how technology companies build businesses on content that belongs to others, and spend millions to undercut copyright protection, often through public-advocacy groups that don't make the sources of their funding clear. As crucial decisions are made about the future of the Internet, he reminds us that the online world was shaped by laws and that the battleground of the Net has never been 'neutral.' Also, see Jeffrey Rosen, "Inconspicuous Consumption," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).