Chris Sprigman just published a lament, "A Good and Bad Week for Free Speech," in the Chronicle of HIgher Education about the Supreme Court's decision in a copyright case.
Cash-strapped and maybe myopic universities that want to defend their traditional revenue streams, and squeeze more from new ones, can not see how they profit from the release of intellectual property to the public domain. But this behavior results from their urgent wish to hold themselves apart, as branded institutions, in their still-medieval model.
The struggle begs for a more agile model: a redefinition of legal identities, corporations, and the corporate identities we call universities. A low bar for information-sharing is simply healthy: it has the longest pedigree of any biological meme. But it does come at the price of having to yield one's cherished sense of identity, one's family, one's patrimonial right to control the semantic value of the words "mine" and "ours."
Literary lights like Mikhail Bakhtin (The Dialogic Imagination) and mathematical prodigies like Douglas Hofstadter (I Am a Strange Loop) show that an utterance is by definition "out there," and that to the degree that our shared knowledge infrastructures lack a capacity for empathy, we find our identities--and our properties--are over leveraged, and we collapse from inability to repay the debt. Maybe that's why Andrew Carnegie decided to share his wealth rather than keep it in-house. He loved his kids that much.
From viruses to Free Speech, the fittest information-sharers have survived to become something new. So I agree with Sprigman.
The SOPA debate has clarified that knowledge is worth more and has a greater marginal utility when information is shared than when it is constrained. Other values than money--respect, trust, influence--accrue not only from consistently providing good formulations of ideas, but also from being able to graft those ideas efficiently onto other ideas, without the processing cost of citation--to say nothing of royalties. There's motivation besides money to invent and express new ideas. Those values make life worth living.
And regardless of philosophy, we are seeing in the biome the limits of a resource-intensive way of living. Everything--everything--will have to be redesigned around sharing if we are to avoid resurgences of nationalism and tribalism, confiscatory wars and sieges, to say nothing of the erosion and collapse of institutions--including schools, universities, and the Constitution--that we erected to defend our right to evolve and adapt.