Just because something has value doesn't mean it has a price

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DOCTOROW C., Just because something has value doesn't mean it has a price, The Guardian, 08.01.2013

Type Article
Link http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jan/08/why-charge-everything-kill-creativity
Topics Business Model, Property, Technology


"A positive externality arises when you do something you want to do that also makes life better for someone else."

[O]ur era's defining mania" is "resentment over positive externalities".

"[T]ake DRM – digital rights management – which is used to restrict the way you use the media you buy, such as ebooks, videos, and games.

DRM systems have been deployed to stop people from selling used games, to stop them lending their ebooks, to stop them from taking DVDs from one country to another. This is pure positive-externality resentment.

The reasoning for DRM goes like this: "I sold you this [ebook/game/video] for the following uses. If you figure out a way to get any more value out of it, it belongs to me, and you can't have it, until and unless I decide to sell it to you."

In the pre-digital world, this would have been laughable. "I sold you that book: if you want to use it to keep the table from wobbling, you'll have to pay me extra." Or: "I sold you that game to play in your house. How dare you bring it on holiday with you?! You owe me!" Or: "That TV was sold to you for the purposes of watching programmes, not to be used as a white-noise machine to lull your newborn to sleep, and certainly not to support a pile of knick-knacks!".

Of course, removing positive externalities also removes value. Cars are worth more because of the used-car market. University textbooks command a higher price because of the market for used textbooks. If either sector managed to kill those externalities, it would be selling goods that its customers valued less (and would likely find that they demanded lower prices for them, too)."

See also Lockdown. The coming war on general-purpose computing.