Life interfered yesterday with a timely post, for those of you that hang on to my every word, but I bloviate on. I’d like to veer off a bit from my usual rants on the health care and general economic debacles and focus on a cultural phenomenon that reflects values, the underpinning of all our troubles.

A conversation with a young physician last week refocused me on an issue I’ve been ruminating on for the past couple of years. We were talking about a very fine professional service that is a “living,” dynamic textbook of medical information in all areas of clinical study and provides the service to the individual for about $500 a year. One of my colleagues has access to it free of charge (legally) through an outside university affiliation for which the university pays a steep multi-user licensing fee. This physician does not share his sign-on privileges, and I respect his decision. The younger colleague (perhaps only a bit more than a decade) I spoke with talked about sharing an individual license amongst a group of physicians, and implied that this is commonplace, the general philosophy among the younger set.

Young people have been brought up on and immersed in all aspects of the Internet. They’ve basked in the sunlight of free content, whether legal or pirated, for so long that it has become an expectation, an entitlement. They unconsciously or willingly ignore the distinction between intellectual property that is given freely by the rightful owners, or that which is stolen and distributed. It’s now become so commonplace that people who would never walk into a store and pilfer a shirt or a television, think nothing about sharing “free” music, videos or programs they themselves received gratis.

There is a more long-term downside to this degradation of human values, of course. In the news industry, they quickly learned that giving the same content away for free on line that was paid for by ads in their print editions was a prescription for disaster. Many are now retrenching with paid subscriptions. The jury is still out on the best business model for these beleaguered enterprises. The music industry is unveiling a new model that relies on a subscription to the “cloud” to get revenue for itself and its artists.

The fact is, as we all know in our hearts, “you don’t get nothing for nothing” unless our artists, journalists, academicians, et. al., want to donate their time and effort indefinitely, and we know how likely that is. There will always be free content, and some of it will be very good, even excellent, but the best, vetted content cannot survive indefinitely on an economic diet.

My discussion with the younger physician highlights the disturbing fact that even the best, intellectually and morally, are willing to bend their morality when it comes to intellectual property encoded in the digital vapor. If this trend continues, we’ll pay a price greater than can be quantified in dollars.


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: