I've just observed another burst of debate on Twitter about the old saying "information wants to be free". As usual the two sides are:
1. Information wants to be free – as in unbound, not locked in
2. Information wants to be free – as in free of charge, without a price
In this debate business and politics are put against each other.
I have trouble seeing the relevance of this kind of debate and have arrived at a different perspective. "Information wants to be free" can instead be seen as a "law of nature" with regard to information, much like the second law of thermodynamics deals with entropy.
Such a "law of nature" would imply that information in itself has no or very limited value if it is free for all. Also, it cannot be locked in (thus given higher value) without the addition of energy, creativity, aggregation, capital, secrecy, laws, etc. And left to itself, information would strive to liberate itself. If a business wants to extract value from information then it must constantly add the kind of elements I have listed above. If it neglects to do so, value diminishes over time. Also if information with high value is locked in, there will always be forces – commercial, political, idealistic – that want to liberate it.
For a business it is important to make a solid cost benefit analysis that reflects the "law of nature" of information for any information value generating project that is undertaken.