Digital sharecropping

A colleague talked of the:
unpaid digital sharecropping edifice of Wikipedia
This has a nice rhetorical ring to it, but is wrong because it's an analogy between physical goods and information. Property and information obey completely different rules, so you can't reason by analogy between them.

If someone makes a copy of some information I hold, I don't lose anything, but the other person gains something. However, if someone takes my cake, then I lose it, and the other person gains it.

The moral is: don't use the rules of property to reason about information.


  1. If their are no links back to you you lose the Google Adsense revenue from people that go to their site instead of yours. If they don't credit you you lose the credibility/kudos/chatever you would have gained by it being attributed.

    If that's what you meant by copying, that is...

  2. Yes, that's a good point. I've had a think about it and I suppose what I mean is that when someone copies something, you've still got it. But you're right, you lose the money you could have made if you'd kept a monopoly on it.