[MGSA-L] PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC INFORMATION ...
june.samaras at gmail.com
Tue Jan 17 21:55:50 PST 2012
It is not just scientific and medical information financed by public
agencies that is being sold for private profit - see this potentially
profitable way of selling access to public archives :
Interesting to wonder who "owns" the copyright under these agreements ...
In the days of "Old" technology there was a commonly understood
relationship between the need to recoup legitimate costs incurred in
the assembly and distribution of information and the normal retail
prices at which it was sold.
The "real" cost of using, typists, editors, typesetters, printers,
paper producers, binders, shippers, retailers etc has been
considerably diminished in the past 30 years as "new" technology and
automation replaced manpower with machines and digitization.
These savings at first served to increase the profits of publishers,
and a clientele accustomed to these prices did not at first seriously
question the amounts they were charged - which was precisely
calibrated to what "the market would bear"
Now the costs of bandwidth and computer storage capacity are
negligible and obvious to everyone with a smartphone and access to
Google and Wikipedia.
The mega companies (newspapers, TV, print, movies, music) that grew
rich by distributing "old" technology have been reluctant to let their
cash cows out into the open fields where anyone can milk them for a
profit or even drink for free.
Hence their support of SOPA, PIPA ,the Digital Millenium Act and other
legislative mechanisms for turning information and knowledge into
property that can generate profits
Of course, despite this, they all LOVE the free content that they can
glean from Blogs & Facebook and Twitter that they can then package and
sell on for profit (as happened with the Huffington Post)
Their business model is also being transposed from selling goods (with
clear title) to the more profitable tactic of renting services (Kindle
anyone?) A lot more revenue can be generated from recurrent cash flow
than from one off purchases (this is the famous Gillette Gambit - give
away the the razor for free, but make a profit from the blades, give
out a "free" cell phone for 3 years of being tethered to a Telco
contract with dropped calls)
And need I mention Amazon with its tentacles everywhere - extracting
fees from all parts of an apparently straightforward transaction with
their suppliers (a monthly on line listing fee + a % of the retail
list price + a slice of the mailing cost + a final transaction fee)
Since they no longer have any real control over the medium of
distribution (a continually moving and expanding universe even before
Napster) they are concentrating their efforts into laying claim to
exclusive ownership of content. The more savvy investors have been
doing this for decades by active consolidation and takeovers of their
It is not just the most egregious Elsevier type examples of
extortionate pricing of scientific and medical journals that tell the
tale of businesses sucking profits from information sources.
Bertelsmans in Germany has acquired most book imprints around the world
In Canada Thomson Newspapers morphed into a conglomerate including
Reuters that takes a slice out of almost everything you need to know
and has a stranglehold on many on legal and educational sources
<<<Some of Thomson's brands are better known than the company name
itself. Its brands include Westlaw, FindLaw, BarBri, Physician's Desk
Reference, RIA, Tax and Accounting (tax and accounting software and
services for Accountants) Creatives Solutions, Quickfinder,
DISEASEDEX, DrugREAX, Medstat, Thomson First Call, Checkpoint,
EndNote, Derwent World Patent Index, SAEGIS, Micropatent, Aureka,
Faxpat, OptiPat, Just Files, Corporate Intelligence, InfoTrac,
Delphion, Arco Test Prep, Peterson's Directories, TradeWeb, Web of
Science and the Arden Shakespeare. Thomson formerly owned Jane's
Information Group. These information sources are produced by the many
companies of Thomson, including West Publishing, Thomson Financial,
ISI, Thomson Gale, Dialog Corporation, Brookers, Carswell, CCBN,
Course Technology, Gardiner-Caldwell, IHI, Lawbook Co, Wadsworth,
Thomson CompuMark, and Sweet & Maxwell.>>>
In fact I suspect that MOST of the serious information in the world
has now been privatized by a relatively few corporate entities (ignore
the names and labels and logos they sell under) Some of them are more
benign than others, but none of them are really "free" in either the
monetary or intellectual sense. Their "take" through
subsidiaries,licensing, copyright etc. can be substantial in aggregate
but is mostly invisible to the customer (and probably the taxman).
20 odd years ago I tried to buy shares in a new company called Corbis,
which has just purchased the Bettmann Archive. I could see that such a
resource would become a significant factor as the internet grew from a
text to an image based medium.
No chance, however, for me to make a fortune from this insight. It
turned out that Corbis was wholly owned by Bill Gates, and no shares
were for sale!
So I am now a poor retailer of actual goods, not a rentier ...
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