David and Doc Searls comment that we are screwing up the internet by making a mistake about what it is. That is accurate, but I think that the problem stems from the fact that people try to fit everything into models that they understand.
We understand telephones and television, so it is natural that we compare the internet to those models. Google is really just like the TV Guide, helping me figure out what is on. We assume that it can be regulated just like we do with commercial broadcasting.
The RIAA, manufacturers of CDs and other recording media, also apply their existing model to the internet. They are willing to sell a song for 99 cents because that is the price to produce, market, sell, and distribute a song. They assume that people will not realize that much of the cost has been eliminated. Of course they aren’t satisfied with that. They now want to charge multiple times for the same song, once for the home, once for in the car and once for on our computers. Or they’ll sell you the right to copy it twice but no more. Or the CD will self-destruct after 10 playings. If they were willing to work to create a reasonable model for the internet they might solve their own problem. On the other hand, the artists who create the music are split on this issue.
In Blown to Bits, Philip Evans and Thomas Wurster state:
Information is the glue that holds value chains and supply chains together. But that glue is now melting. The fundamental cause is the explosion in connectivity and in the information standards that are enabling the open and almost cost-free exchange of a widening universe of rich information. When everyone can communicate richly with everyone else, the narrow, hardwired communications channels that used to tie people together simply become obsolete. And so do all the business structures that created those channels or explot them for competitive advantage.
By enabling the exchange of rich information, the internet is melting that glue. What you’re reading is an interlinked collection of information, comprised of bits and pieces from people who may never have met or even heard of one another. The concept of that collection didn’t exist until recently, and will probably change even more in the future.