The November 2007 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, their fortieth anniversary issue, contains interviews with musicians, asking them about the future of music and sales. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips is generally excited with technology and its ability to make new/old literature, film, and art available on a whole new level. His optimism and misunderstanding of information policy and Internet architecture is brought forward, to quote, “computers and the Internet have made music and art and literature and movies and great ideas- not just new ones, but the old ones, too- available to everyone, almost for free. The Internet is like this great library in space.”
Wayne’s viewpoint is not only misconstrued but absolutely wrong. On a large scale information, articles, literature, music, art, etc. are locked up in databases, unsearchable via Google, and are in the realms of the hidden, deep, and invisible web. Additionally, information that we can get at easily on the web isn’t available to everyone. The digital divide separates the haves from the have-nots; in order to retrieve online information one must live in an area that supports Internet infrastructure and have a computer, software, Internet access, etc. In order to have access and knowledge to use the Internet, one needs money and education. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean that everyone can or will access it equally.
Wayne’s next concept of the “almost for free” makes little sense to me. Universities, corporations, law firms, etc. pay extraordinary amounts of money for access to databases on law, business, the arts, literature, news, medical studies, historical records, and much much more. John Q. Public may never have access to these databases unless he pays tuition at a college or works in a business that has the need for a specific database. Wayne may be thinking of the “free” music and movies people are downloading through peer-to-peer technologies and torrents. However, we have seen that this “free” service leads to lengthy litigation, lands people in jail, and slaps them with huge fines. see napster see Italian arrests see OiNK torrent
Lastly, the Internet is nothing like a great library in space. It isn’t as free as the library and the Internet proves more difficult and sometimes impossible to navigate. A library contains highly organized collections and selected materials that are made available to all patrons. Patrons can get movies, art, literature, music, and more at their library without fear of arrest or problems of access. The library also has librarians to guide and assist patrons in finding what they want/need. The Internet doesn’t provide a free service of this magnitude on any level, unless of course you use your library website and contact a librarian directly.