I don’t know why so few commentators have remarked on the contradiction at the heart of the Internet. Freedom is central to its rhetoric – free content, free access – and those of us who want to be paid for our original work are chided for getting in the way of those ambitions. Yet the very technology companies that want books, movies, music and journalism to be free, or at least very cheap, draw the line when it comes to their own business models. In essence, they are hi-tech delivery systems that make profits by selling advertising and offering access to material they didn’t originate and don’t own.
The American journalist Robert Levine, who has been executive editor of Billboard magazine and features editor at Wired, understands that this is the motivation behind attempts to weaken laws on copyright. ‘It isn’t out of idealism that Google spends millions of dollars to influence public policy,’ he writes: