free content

Information wants to be free ... and expensive

July 20, 2009: 10:00 AM ET
Stewart Brand, futurist

Stewart Brand, futurist, who first said, "Information wants to be free."

Futurist Stewart Brand was the first to say "Information wants to be free." He also said it "wants to  be expensive."

By Richard Siklos, editor at large

Rarely a day goes by in media and tech business circles without somebody crying "Information wants to be free!" as a justification for distributing or copying someone else's content -- and as an explanation for why so many traditional information purveyors are in peril.

So I thought I'd ring the man who coined the phrase: Silicon Valley futurist Stewart Brand. This year, after all, marks the 25th anniversary of the event where the words were first uttered -- the first Hackers Conference, which Brand helped organize, in 1984. According to a transcript of the event, Brand first said "Information wants to be free" in response to a point made by Apple co-founder (and recent Dancing With the Stars contestant) Steve Wozniak. Wozniak told the 125 programmers gathered in Sausalito, Calif., that it was a shame companies wouldn't give engineers the rights to products they developed if the company decided not to market them. Brand followed up by saying, "On the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. More

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