"Give it away, give it away, give it away now"

Sure, the title of this post is from a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, but it’s an interesting one. Today’s Globe and Mail had an article reporting on how much information is available for free on newspaper websites (“How much should newspapers give away?“).

The content wasn’t that interesting or surprising in and of itself, but I found it interesting that the general public and media are starting to become aware of the issue regarding access to online information. I’ve made a few posts on this topic because of my interest in open source and open access publishing.

So, how much should a newspaper make available for free? I know that as a customer, I’d like to have it all for free (which very few papers do). In my household, we have three papers delivered each day: The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and a The Korea Times (for my parents). As a regular subscriber, I think online access to articles should be included. I can understand that newspapers need to make money in order to stay in business. But, I recall hearing somewhere that information *wants* to be shared, accessed, and freely distributed. Information isn’t like a tangible good. We only accrue the benefits when information is shared, not hoarded and protected like a precious stone.

If newspapers begin to start charging for access to reports and information, I don’t see health specific sites staying “free” for too long. It may only be a matter of time before we need to pay for everything. I don’t consider myself socialist, but in this case, I think we need to encourage sharing of information rather than limiting access. As health information sites start to charge for access to information, aren’t we saying that health is a luxury available to those who can afford it?