Information Feudalism

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Information Feudalism is the thesis implicit in Jeremy Rifkin's Age of Access that holds that we are entering a regime where the freedom of property makes place for the unfreedom of licensing, in effect placing limits on what we can do with the things we purchase, resulting in a new kind of capitalist serfhood.


DRM as Information Feudalism

"What you need to know is that DRM can be, and has proven to be, a Trojan horse. In a back and forth thread of e-mails, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's John Gilmore described to me how DRM technology basically allows those who sit at the controls of it to arbitrarily change the rules. For example, one day, with Apple's iTunes, we were able to burn the same playlist as many as ten times. A day later, it was seven. Unlike before, when we could take our vinyl records and CDs and do pretty much anything we wanted with them (to facilitate our personal use) or even sell them (or will them to family members), the "R" in DRM is much less about what we have the right to do and more about the Restrictions that can be arbitrarily and remotely asserted over something we paid good money for. So far, the best suggestion I've heard to dodge the CRM bullet is seek used CDs. It may not be a la carte song buying. But it's not a premium price for a bunch of music you may not want anyway." (

Jordan Pollack on the 'information feudalism' scenario

If the cultural sphere is indeed taken over completely by commodification, the consequences would be quite negative: we will never own anything anymore, we will always be dependent on all kinds of licensing ..

“It seems to me that what we're seeing in the software area, and this is the scary part for human society, is the beginning of a kind of dispossession. People are talking about this as dispossession that only comes from piracy, like Napster and Gnutella where the rights of artists are being violated by people sharing their work. But there's another kind of dispossession, which is the inability to actually buy a product. The idea is here: you couldn't buy this piece of software, you could only licence it on a day by day, month by month, year by year basis; As this idea spreads from software to music, films, books, human civilization based on property fundamentally changes." (

Key Books to Read

Jeremy Rifkin, The Age of Access.

Drahos, P., with Braithwaite, J. (2002), Information Feudalism, Earthscan, London, UK.