Is there a future for free legal content or am I being a hippy?

This is a repost from chilibean.  I’d love to know what you think so please comment below if you have an opinion.  Thanks!

I was having a discussion with my partners in a new venture today about legal content, paid and free.  The content I am referring to is the kind of content that you would find in a basic textbook on a variety of topics (employment, family law, business law and more).  This sort of content is available primarily from two legal publishers who charge for access to this content and more specialised content.  We were debating the viability of a very different model which involves this content being made available for free and, instead, the money is to be made on value added services and tools which take that basic content and make it more useful and relevant to users.

The question (well one of them) was whether this is a sustainable business model (the one based on free legal content) or whether the only real way to build and sustain a business is to make portions of that content (either excerpts of the articles or selected articles) available for free and use that free stuff to persuade users to subscribe and access the balance of the content in full.

I have my own thoughts on this and they tend towards what could be described as medial socialism.  Then again, free love (in the content sense) may not pay the bills so I’d love to know what you think.  Am I being a complete hippy or is there a sustainable and profitable model to be built on the back of free legal content that was formerly a valuable and expensive commodity?

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Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

31 Comments

  1. Paul – This issue is bigger than just legal content. It’s about any kind of information.

    I started The Forum SA as a free site pretty much as a cause and viewed the associated costs as somewhere between charity and R&D. I also realised that life tends to pay back in mysterious ways for that kind of effort – and some aspects of that are hard to pin down. I guess that’s just the way it is. However, all those good intentions did not prevent some people who were trying to monetise content for the same target market from taking offense.

    Basically, if you’re prepared to search hard enough, you can get just about any kind of information on the internet for free. The hard part is separating the wheat from the chaffe. The strategy of having ‘pay-to-access’ content seems blown out the window, and yet ‘pay-to-access’ content sites still survive – even thrive. Of course, plenty fail too.

    Very recently we had a really thought provoking post on entrepreneurship (can be read at http://www.theforumsa.co.za/forums/showthread.php?t=625 for anyone interested). One of the random thoughts was “In a world of over-supply and commodification, you are no longer paid to supply. You’re being paid to deliver something else. What that is exactly, is not always obvious.”

    I think very often that “something else” is convenience.

    So returning to free law material as context. Browsers might want to look up the law to try to get a handle on their legal position. I suspect quite often they’re still going to get a legal practitioner to do the work the moment it seems a bit much.

    As example:
    I need some fine print for my invoices – look it up on the web.
    I need to enforce that fine print – get me a lawyer.
    I need an employment contract – I’ll find a fairly good one on the web.
    Neeed to enforce it – get me a lawyer.

    Now if I got the fine print from a lawyer’s website – there’s a fair chance I’ll use that lawyer when I need one – if it’s conveniently possible.

    Whether the payoff will be bigger than the investment – well that’s why I have an R&D budget – to my mind there’s only one way to find out.

    We’re in the middle of an information revolution here and the best way for traditional business models to adapt is, I suspect, far from being clearly settled. But I can guarantee there will be drastic changes.

    One day somebody’s going to do something on the web that is going to change your industry forever – it may as well be you.

  2. Paul – This issue is bigger than just legal content. It’s about any kind of information.

    I started The Forum SA as a free site pretty much as a cause and viewed the associated costs as somewhere between charity and R&D. I also realised that life tends to pay back in mysterious ways for that kind of effort – and some aspects of that are hard to pin down. I guess that’s just the way it is. However, all those good intentions did not prevent some people who were trying to monetise content for the same target market from taking offense.

    Basically, if you’re prepared to search hard enough, you can get just about any kind of information on the internet for free. The hard part is separating the wheat from the chaffe. The strategy of having ‘pay-to-access’ content seems blown out the window, and yet ‘pay-to-access’ content sites still survive – even thrive. Of course, plenty fail too.

    Very recently we had a really thought provoking post on entrepreneurship (can be read at http://www.theforumsa.co.za/forums/showthread.php?t=625 for anyone interested). One of the random thoughts was “In a world of over-supply and commodification, you are no longer paid to supply. You’re being paid to deliver something else. What that is exactly, is not always obvious.”

    I think very often that “something else” is convenience.

    So returning to free law material as context. Browsers might want to look up the law to try to get a handle on their legal position. I suspect quite often they’re still going to get a legal practitioner to do the work the moment it seems a bit much.

    As example:
    I need some fine print for my invoices – look it up on the web.
    I need to enforce that fine print – get me a lawyer.
    I need an employment contract – I’ll find a fairly good one on the web.
    Neeed to enforce it – get me a lawyer.

    Now if I got the fine print from a lawyer’s website – there’s a fair chance I’ll use that lawyer when I need one – if it’s conveniently possible.

    Whether the payoff will be bigger than the investment – well that’s why I have an R&D budget – to my mind there’s only one way to find out.

    We’re in the middle of an information revolution here and the best way for traditional business models to adapt is, I suspect, far from being clearly settled. But I can guarantee there will be drastic changes.

    One day somebody’s going to do something on the web that is going to change your industry forever – it may as well be you.

  3. Paul – This issue is bigger than just legal content. It’s about any kind of information.

    I started The Forum SA as a free site pretty much as a cause and viewed the associated costs as somewhere between charity and R&D. I also realised that life tends to pay back in mysterious ways for that kind of effort – and some aspects of that are hard to pin down. I guess that’s just the way it is. However, all those good intentions did not prevent some people who were trying to monetise content for the same target market from taking offense.

    Basically, if you’re prepared to search hard enough, you can get just about any kind of information on the internet for free. The hard part is separating the wheat from the chaffe. The strategy of having ‘pay-to-access’ content seems blown out the window, and yet ‘pay-to-access’ content sites still survive – even thrive. Of course, plenty fail too.

    Very recently we had a really thought provoking post on entrepreneurship (can be read at http://www.theforumsa.co.za/forums/showthread.php?t=625 for anyone interested). One of the random thoughts was “In a world of over-supply and commodification, you are no longer paid to supply. You’re being paid to deliver something else. What that is exactly, is not always obvious.”

    I think very often that “something else” is convenience.

    So returning to free law material as context. Browsers might want to look up the law to try to get a handle on their legal position. I suspect quite often they’re still going to get a legal practitioner to do the work the moment it seems a bit much.

    As example:
    I need some fine print for my invoices – look it up on the web.
    I need to enforce that fine print – get me a lawyer.
    I need an employment contract – I’ll find a fairly good one on the web.
    Neeed to enforce it – get me a lawyer.

    Now if I got the fine print from a lawyer’s website – there’s a fair chance I’ll use that lawyer when I need one – if it’s conveniently possible.

    Whether the payoff will be bigger than the investment – well that’s why I have an R&D budget – to my mind there’s only one way to find out.

    We’re in the middle of an information revolution here and the best way for traditional business models to adapt is, I suspect, far from being clearly settled. But I can guarantee there will be drastic changes.

    One day somebody’s going to do something on the web that is going to change your industry forever – it may as well be you.

  4. Hi Dave

    Thanks for your comment. One thing I am pretty sure about is that the way information is traded is changing rapidly and I am just not so sure that there will be a sustainable market for paid information of this nature. The money is going to be made on value added services, not the information itself.

  5. Hi Dave

    Thanks for your comment. One thing I am pretty sure about is that the way information is traded is changing rapidly and I am just not so sure that there will be a sustainable market for paid information of this nature. The money is going to be made on value added services, not the information itself.

  6. Hi Dave

    Thanks for your comment. One thing I am pretty sure about is that the way information is traded is changing rapidly and I am just not so sure that there will be a sustainable market for paid information of this nature. The money is going to be made on value added services, not the information itself.

  7. Just to add to what has already been said…

    I think one of the keys to understanding the issue is to separate knowledge and skill. In my mind the internet is the great knowledge leveller – as Dave said it is all out there if you’re prepared to search hard enough. We could probably say that the internet has commoditised knowledge.

    What the internet can’t deliver is skill, and that is where the key lies. Again to quote Dave, “separating the wheat from the chaffe” is the hard part. You could probably go and download just about all the knowledge that I picked up studying 6 years of engineering, but the skills imparted via lecturers, practical training, self-learning, project work etc. etc. can’t be downloaded (unless you go all Matrix-ey or something).

    So I could go and download a contract, but not be sure whether that is suitable for my business – who am I going to ask? The person who is handing out free knowledge in an interesting and insightful way.

    You know that I’ve contacted you about certain things (for which you’ve referred me to the relevant expert) – that has all come about through contact with you on the internet through your blog and forums.

    I like your blog and think you’ve got a good understanding of where the balance lies in all of this.

    You might find that you’ll end up doing less work, but I’m sure that it will be more interesting and higher paying – giving you more time to blog and play with the puppies 😉

  8. Just to add to what has already been said…

    I think one of the keys to understanding the issue is to separate knowledge and skill. In my mind the internet is the great knowledge leveller – as Dave said it is all out there if you’re prepared to search hard enough. We could probably say that the internet has commoditised knowledge.

    What the internet can’t deliver is skill, and that is where the key lies. Again to quote Dave, “separating the wheat from the chaffe” is the hard part. You could probably go and download just about all the knowledge that I picked up studying 6 years of engineering, but the skills imparted via lecturers, practical training, self-learning, project work etc. etc. can’t be downloaded (unless you go all Matrix-ey or something).

    So I could go and download a contract, but not be sure whether that is suitable for my business – who am I going to ask? The person who is handing out free knowledge in an interesting and insightful way.

    You know that I’ve contacted you about certain things (for which you’ve referred me to the relevant expert) – that has all come about through contact with you on the internet through your blog and forums.

    I like your blog and think you’ve got a good understanding of where the balance lies in all of this.

    You might find that you’ll end up doing less work, but I’m sure that it will be more interesting and higher paying – giving you more time to blog and play with the puppies 😉

  9. Just to add to what has already been said…

    I think one of the keys to understanding the issue is to separate knowledge and skill. In my mind the internet is the great knowledge leveller – as Dave said it is all out there if you’re prepared to search hard enough. We could probably say that the internet has commoditised knowledge.

    What the internet can’t deliver is skill, and that is where the key lies. Again to quote Dave, “separating the wheat from the chaffe” is the hard part. You could probably go and download just about all the knowledge that I picked up studying 6 years of engineering, but the skills imparted via lecturers, practical training, self-learning, project work etc. etc. can’t be downloaded (unless you go all Matrix-ey or something).

    So I could go and download a contract, but not be sure whether that is suitable for my business – who am I going to ask? The person who is handing out free knowledge in an interesting and insightful way.

    You know that I’ve contacted you about certain things (for which you’ve referred me to the relevant expert) – that has all come about through contact with you on the internet through your blog and forums.

    I like your blog and think you’ve got a good understanding of where the balance lies in all of this.

    You might find that you’ll end up doing less work, but I’m sure that it will be more interesting and higher paying – giving you more time to blog and play with the puppies 😉

  10. Okay, summary of what I said in lost post,

    1) Key lies in the difference between knowledge and skill
    2) Internet has commodotised knowledge
    3) Requires skill to “separate the wheat from the chaffe”
    4) Skill requires time to learn

    So, I can download a contract, but not necessarily know if that is suitable for my business – skill is in interpretation and application (and customization).

    Even though all the knowledge that I learnt in 6 years of engineering studies is available on the web, my skill has been imparted through lecturers, practical training, work experience, projects etc.

    I think you have a really good understanding of the issues at hand to find the right balance. I really like the way you are sharing knowledge and insight through your blog – it keeps you at the fore of my mind when someone asks about lawyers (and I mention you when I get the chance!)

    You might find that at the end of the day you will do less work, but it will most likely be more interesting and higher paying.

  11. Okay, summary of what I said in lost post,

    1) Key lies in the difference between knowledge and skill
    2) Internet has commodotised knowledge
    3) Requires skill to “separate the wheat from the chaffe”
    4) Skill requires time to learn

    So, I can download a contract, but not necessarily know if that is suitable for my business – skill is in interpretation and application (and customization).

    Even though all the knowledge that I learnt in 6 years of engineering studies is available on the web, my skill has been imparted through lecturers, practical training, work experience, projects etc.

    I think you have a really good understanding of the issues at hand to find the right balance. I really like the way you are sharing knowledge and insight through your blog – it keeps you at the fore of my mind when someone asks about lawyers (and I mention you when I get the chance!)

    You might find that at the end of the day you will do less work, but it will most likely be more interesting and higher paying.

  12. Okay, summary of what I said in lost post,

    1) Key lies in the difference between knowledge and skill
    2) Internet has commodotised knowledge
    3) Requires skill to “separate the wheat from the chaffe”
    4) Skill requires time to learn

    So, I can download a contract, but not necessarily know if that is suitable for my business – skill is in interpretation and application (and customization).

    Even though all the knowledge that I learnt in 6 years of engineering studies is available on the web, my skill has been imparted through lecturers, practical training, work experience, projects etc.

    I think you have a really good understanding of the issues at hand to find the right balance. I really like the way you are sharing knowledge and insight through your blog – it keeps you at the fore of my mind when someone asks about lawyers (and I mention you when I get the chance!)

    You might find that at the end of the day you will do less work, but it will most likely be more interesting and higher paying.

  13. Hi Duncan

    Thanks for your comment! You ask about what you could do with a contract you download and I can tell you that I am involved in a project at the moment that will answer that question. I can’t say more at this stage but you can expect some pretty exciting stuff to happen in this space this year.

  14. Hi Duncan

    Thanks for your comment! You ask about what you could do with a contract you download and I can tell you that I am involved in a project at the moment that will answer that question. I can’t say more at this stage but you can expect some pretty exciting stuff to happen in this space this year.

  15. Hi Duncan

    Thanks for your comment! You ask about what you could do with a contract you download and I can tell you that I am involved in a project at the moment that will answer that question. I can’t say more at this stage but you can expect some pretty exciting stuff to happen in this space this year.

  16. I’ve actually given this topic quite a bit of thought, specifically for the legal environment, in which I am a spectator (i.e. not a lawyer) I think this sort of idea has definite merit, and I think it is sustainable in the long run. I believe that touting is prohibited in the legal fraternity in South Africa, so my belief is that Law firms need to attract customers in various ways, and my feeling is that in the next 5 years or so, the main way of attracting customers will be within a virtual environment. If you can link some sort of knowledge base to your firms name, I think you are basically are increasing your online presence, which I feel is the key! This, at a guess, would be one of the reasons why the site: http://www.jacobson.co.za is structured in the way it is.

    I think there is also room for publishing articles, with your client’s consent of course, about various cases and issues regarding those cases. I also think there’s a gap for legal discussion groups between lawyers (Although I think the legal field is still inching its way into the online arena). I still have a vision of doing something similar for the site (www.iplegal.co.za) although where to find the time is a good question! Hopefully this post makes sense, it is quite late in the afternoon 🙂

  17. I’ve actually given this topic quite a bit of thought, specifically for the legal environment, in which I am a spectator (i.e. not a lawyer) I think this sort of idea has definite merit, and I think it is sustainable in the long run. I believe that touting is prohibited in the legal fraternity in South Africa, so my belief is that Law firms need to attract customers in various ways, and my feeling is that in the next 5 years or so, the main way of attracting customers will be within a virtual environment. If you can link some sort of knowledge base to your firms name, I think you are basically are increasing your online presence, which I feel is the key! This, at a guess, would be one of the reasons why the site: http://www.jacobson.co.za is structured in the way it is.

    I think there is also room for publishing articles, with your client’s consent of course, about various cases and issues regarding those cases. I also think there’s a gap for legal discussion groups between lawyers (Although I think the legal field is still inching its way into the online arena). I still have a vision of doing something similar for the site (www.iplegal.co.za) although where to find the time is a good question! Hopefully this post makes sense, it is quite late in the afternoon 🙂

  18. I’ve actually given this topic quite a bit of thought, specifically for the legal environment, in which I am a spectator (i.e. not a lawyer) I think this sort of idea has definite merit, and I think it is sustainable in the long run. I believe that touting is prohibited in the legal fraternity in South Africa, so my belief is that Law firms need to attract customers in various ways, and my feeling is that in the next 5 years or so, the main way of attracting customers will be within a virtual environment. If you can link some sort of knowledge base to your firms name, I think you are basically are increasing your online presence, which I feel is the key! This, at a guess, would be one of the reasons why the site: http://www.jacobson.co.za is structured in the way it is.

    I think there is also room for publishing articles, with your client’s consent of course, about various cases and issues regarding those cases. I also think there’s a gap for legal discussion groups between lawyers (Although I think the legal field is still inching its way into the online arena). I still have a vision of doing something similar for the site (www.iplegal.co.za) although where to find the time is a good question! Hopefully this post makes sense, it is quite late in the afternoon 🙂

  19. Hi Paul

    The answer to your question will ultimately be answered by the marketplace. From what I gather from the trends in other industries, as soon as information becomes easily accessible outside the boys club it will eventually become free. Its the knowledge which comes from that information that is valuable. Anyone who can take all this freely available information and convert it into user friendly, relevant and instantly applicable knowledge for individuals and SME’s will make their mark and will probably be finacially rewarded for it.

    Oscar’s comment regarding collaboration within the profession is for me the more exciting opportunity. Small firms working with other like-minded professionals on formulating a legal argument for an upcoming case in say a wiki. Or lawyers collaborating with interested industry people to make submissions to parliament on new bills to be passed.

    The future is an exciting place for those willing to lift their heads!

  20. Hi Paul

    The answer to your question will ultimately be answered by the marketplace. From what I gather from the trends in other industries, as soon as information becomes easily accessible outside the boys club it will eventually become free. Its the knowledge which comes from that information that is valuable. Anyone who can take all this freely available information and convert it into user friendly, relevant and instantly applicable knowledge for individuals and SME’s will make their mark and will probably be finacially rewarded for it.

    Oscar’s comment regarding collaboration within the profession is for me the more exciting opportunity. Small firms working with other like-minded professionals on formulating a legal argument for an upcoming case in say a wiki. Or lawyers collaborating with interested industry people to make submissions to parliament on new bills to be passed.

    The future is an exciting place for those willing to lift their heads!

  21. Hi Paul

    The answer to your question will ultimately be answered by the marketplace. From what I gather from the trends in other industries, as soon as information becomes easily accessible outside the boys club it will eventually become free. Its the knowledge which comes from that information that is valuable. Anyone who can take all this freely available information and convert it into user friendly, relevant and instantly applicable knowledge for individuals and SME’s will make their mark and will probably be finacially rewarded for it.

    Oscar’s comment regarding collaboration within the profession is for me the more exciting opportunity. Small firms working with other like-minded professionals on formulating a legal argument for an upcoming case in say a wiki. Or lawyers collaborating with interested industry people to make submissions to parliament on new bills to be passed.

    The future is an exciting place for those willing to lift their heads!

  22. Hi Oscar and Steve

    Thanks for your comments. I have recently launched a project aimed at creating a legal content resource for anyone who wants it. Take a look at http://openlaw.wikia.com and perhaps start adding content? The idea is to create a Wikipedia of South African law and contributions from the legal community are not only welcome but necessary to create what I hope will become a free (so no material under copyright please) legal reference work that continues to grow.

    I am still working on the site’s formatting so please excuse the rough edges.

  23. Hi Oscar and Steve

    Thanks for your comments. I have recently launched a project aimed at creating a legal content resource for anyone who wants it. Take a look at http://openlaw.wikia.com and perhaps start adding content? The idea is to create a Wikipedia of South African law and contributions from the legal community are not only welcome but necessary to create what I hope will become a free (so no material under copyright please) legal reference work that continues to grow.

    I am still working on the site’s formatting so please excuse the rough edges.

  24. Hi Oscar and Steve

    Thanks for your comments. I have recently launched a project aimed at creating a legal content resource for anyone who wants it. Take a look at http://openlaw.wikia.com and perhaps start adding content? The idea is to create a Wikipedia of South African law and contributions from the legal community are not only welcome but necessary to create what I hope will become a free (so no material under copyright please) legal reference work that continues to grow.

    I am still working on the site’s formatting so please excuse the rough edges.

  25. If the government were to pay a premium to researchers on a grant as a way of paying for mandated open access publishing, the researcher could transfer that premium through an author-pay model to the publisher of the OA journal. This way the OA journal can be financially solvent.

    In order to rationalize the forward investment of the premium, OA needs to become widespread enough to reduce the demand from research libraries for subscriptions. At some point, the government must realize that it can spend less money on an open access system than it would subsidizing research libraries to buy back research. Less money for free product. That’s pretty nice.

    In terms of textbook type material. Today, I had an epiphany when I realized that the $94 textbook I had just purchased was functionally useless to me, because of the advent of high-quality open learning content and other free content on the web. So I returned it. Now, if only professors would assign topics, keywords and actually teach their students how to research on the web, instead of textbooks, then students would save money and learn how to learn. Student loans would be less onerous, and fewer would default. People can spend well over $1000 a year on textbooks today, at some point all of the information in these textbooks will exist is some form on the web. When the public realizes that it can spend less money to get free material, they will like it. Since nearly every family with children recognizes the need for a 14 yr plus education (grade 12 plus at least 2yrs college), if the public is smart about this, it will want to make a smaller forward-investment for free return, rather than pay for expensive intellectual property. For the creator, this would mean public support for funds to develop the needed knowledge.

    When something is free, two things happen. One rule of economics is that if the price of something falls, people become wealthier, particularly if the value (apart from price) of that thing is increasing. If the price becomes zero, people become limitlessly wealthy in the thing. In this case, that remains true while the forward-investment amount needed to establish ‘freedom’ remains constant or even falls. The only problem can be that in perception, when the price of something falls, the value of it is less, even if the actual property of the thing remains the same. So, some people would be less attracted to a designer scarf, for instance, if it was priced at $5 rather than $500.

    In conclusion, I don’t think ‘priced’ intellectual content can compete with free content. So, where the purpose is not commercial, and rather in the public interest, a forward-investment by the public for a return of zero-cost content that is limitless in value, such as knowledge, is the way to go. I think that regardless of whether you are a hippy or not, you just have opened the doors of perception as to a better way to do things.

    wishing you well,

    arif

  26. If the government were to pay a premium to researchers on a grant as a way of paying for mandated open access publishing, the researcher could transfer that premium through an author-pay model to the publisher of the OA journal. This way the OA journal can be financially solvent.

    In order to rationalize the forward investment of the premium, OA needs to become widespread enough to reduce the demand from research libraries for subscriptions. At some point, the government must realize that it can spend less money on an open access system than it would subsidizing research libraries to buy back research. Less money for free product. That’s pretty nice.

    In terms of textbook type material. Today, I had an epiphany when I realized that the $94 textbook I had just purchased was functionally useless to me, because of the advent of high-quality open learning content and other free content on the web. So I returned it. Now, if only professors would assign topics, keywords and actually teach their students how to research on the web, instead of textbooks, then students would save money and learn how to learn. Student loans would be less onerous, and fewer would default. People can spend well over $1000 a year on textbooks today, at some point all of the information in these textbooks will exist is some form on the web. When the public realizes that it can spend less money to get free material, they will like it. Since nearly every family with children recognizes the need for a 14 yr plus education (grade 12 plus at least 2yrs college), if the public is smart about this, it will want to make a smaller forward-investment for free return, rather than pay for expensive intellectual property. For the creator, this would mean public support for funds to develop the needed knowledge.

    When something is free, two things happen. One rule of economics is that if the price of something falls, people become wealthier, particularly if the value (apart from price) of that thing is increasing. If the price becomes zero, people become limitlessly wealthy in the thing. In this case, that remains true while the forward-investment amount needed to establish ‘freedom’ remains constant or even falls. The only problem can be that in perception, when the price of something falls, the value of it is less, even if the actual property of the thing remains the same. So, some people would be less attracted to a designer scarf, for instance, if it was priced at $5 rather than $500.

    In conclusion, I don’t think ‘priced’ intellectual content can compete with free content. So, where the purpose is not commercial, and rather in the public interest, a forward-investment by the public for a return of zero-cost content that is limitless in value, such as knowledge, is the way to go. I think that regardless of whether you are a hippy or not, you just have opened the doors of perception as to a better way to do things.

    wishing you well,

    arif

  27. If the government were to pay a premium to researchers on a grant as a way of paying for mandated open access publishing, the researcher could transfer that premium through an author-pay model to the publisher of the OA journal. This way the OA journal can be financially solvent.

    In order to rationalize the forward investment of the premium, OA needs to become widespread enough to reduce the demand from research libraries for subscriptions. At some point, the government must realize that it can spend less money on an open access system than it would subsidizing research libraries to buy back research. Less money for free product. That’s pretty nice.

    In terms of textbook type material. Today, I had an epiphany when I realized that the $94 textbook I had just purchased was functionally useless to me, because of the advent of high-quality open learning content and other free content on the web. So I returned it. Now, if only professors would assign topics, keywords and actually teach their students how to research on the web, instead of textbooks, then students would save money and learn how to learn. Student loans would be less onerous, and fewer would default. People can spend well over $1000 a year on textbooks today, at some point all of the information in these textbooks will exist is some form on the web. When the public realizes that it can spend less money to get free material, they will like it. Since nearly every family with children recognizes the need for a 14 yr plus education (grade 12 plus at least 2yrs college), if the public is smart about this, it will want to make a smaller forward-investment for free return, rather than pay for expensive intellectual property. For the creator, this would mean public support for funds to develop the needed knowledge.

    When something is free, two things happen. One rule of economics is that if the price of something falls, people become wealthier, particularly if the value (apart from price) of that thing is increasing. If the price becomes zero, people become limitlessly wealthy in the thing. In this case, that remains true while the forward-investment amount needed to establish ‘freedom’ remains constant or even falls. The only problem can be that in perception, when the price of something falls, the value of it is less, even if the actual property of the thing remains the same. So, some people would be less attracted to a designer scarf, for instance, if it was priced at $5 rather than $500.

    In conclusion, I don’t think ‘priced’ intellectual content can compete with free content. So, where the purpose is not commercial, and rather in the public interest, a forward-investment by the public for a return of zero-cost content that is limitless in value, such as knowledge, is the way to go. I think that regardless of whether you are a hippy or not, you just have opened the doors of perception as to a better way to do things.

    wishing you well,

    arif

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