in COM 530

Wealth of Networks Response 1

If anything, the reading was able to answer only one question that I generated earlier in the week: how can we break the cycle of copyright begetting more copyrights. The answer is deceptively simple. It is not to get rid of copyrights nor is it to to make everything distributable by the whim of the creator. The trick to solving the problem lies in open-source methods and peer content generation. Open source works because it utilizes larger groups of users to work as developers on their own time to improve the software. By distributing the knowledge of how the software works, patches and upgrades can happen more quickly because suddenly there are more eyes pouring over code and brains troubleshooting problems. Copyright only serves the holder and hinders innovation since the copyright holder can choose to not let anyone create derivative works until the copyright is up. Also, something that Benkler does not expressly say but seems to me to be implicit in his argument is that open source is forever whereas exclusive copyright should be at best extremely limited in duration. This is to maintain the flow of innovation without having gaps or hiccups where innovation was controlled instead of being allowed to work freely and without structure.

It appears to me that what Benkler is really arguing here is for the distribution of knowledge across a wider user base than has been previously used or allowed. Benkler loves to come back words like “decentralized” and talk about markets with less structure; the more rigid the structure, the less chance there is for innovation and improvement from the original model. Decentralization is key because it distributes everything across a larger plane without sacrificing efficiency or a semblance of order. The saying goes “knowledge is power” so with more people having that knowledge, now they are more powerful to affect change in whatever they are involved in. McGonigal would have a field day with this because it supports the idea that having many people doing small things toward a larger positive goal can do the same amount of work as professionals in s smilar time period. There is no need for Big Brother to watch over us as warden if we are all doing what we want and need to. As McGonigal says, we are more likely to do something out of our own volition than if a boss tells us what to do; at times we are even more efficient being our own boss rather than having someone looming over us all the time. If everyone or even a small portion of the populace has the knowledge then there is a greater network of people who can work on that particular subject matter. Suddenly there are armchair-experts in the field of biomechanics because a company has suddenly decided to make all ove their information open source. Iterative plans, designs, and/or ideas can be generated quicker and more efficiently with a networked group of people than a couple of eggheads in a cubicle.

TL;DR We need to decentralize and distribute knowledge to foster innovation because centralization of information only stagnates the market without giving way to bigger and better things.

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