Jaron Lanier and the “pay me” gang

Nick Carr points to a piece by Jaron Lanier in the New York Times, wherein the virtual-reality guru with the wacky dreads talks about how he has changed his mind about the whole “information wants to be free” thing and would just really like to get paid, thank you very much. Maybe the virtual-reality guru and experimental musician/filmmaker business isn’t paying off any more and Jaron needs the rent money.

In any case, (as Nick himself points out), what Jaron suggests is virtually impossible. In fact, his rant might as well be entitled “I Want To Put the Genie Back in the Bottle Please.” Information of all kinds has breached the wall and is hurtling in all directions, unable to be contained — or not for long anyway — or metered or subjected to a toll approach. That’s a fact. One hopes that Jaron hasn’t been advising the music industry (and he clearly hasn’t been talking with Rupert Murdoch).

On a related note, author Harlan Ellison has a similar rant about getting paid, which you can watch on YouTube. It seems that Warner Brothers wanted him to contribute to some kind of DVD — for nothing! Can you imagine the gall?

I think Harlan Ellison has written some amazing science fiction, and I am a huge fan, but after listening to his rant on YouTube, I get the impression that if he were a musician, he would charge you for singing Happy Birthday at your kid’s party. In fact, if you happened to pass by his apartment on your way somewhere and heard him singing in the shower, he would probably want to charge you for that too.

It’s ironic that Ellison’s rant is on YouTube, where it is free — and where I saw it and got at least a little value out of it. If it had been on a DVD somewhere, I would never have seen it. Does Harlan get any value from me seeing it on YouTube? He might someday, theoretically. But Harlan wants cash in his pockets right now. He doesn’t want to build a relationship with me as a reader, or any of that New Age crapola.

Tell you what, Harlan. I’ll keep my money to myself, and you keep your rants to yourself. And that goes for you too, Jaron.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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