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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