What happens when this ‘free’ and ‘open’ side of the Internet isn’t so free and open?

“..That’s why I’m laying out a plan to keep the Internet free and open. That why I’m urging the Federal Communications Commission to do everything they can to protect net neutrality for everyone..” – Barack Obama, President of the United States

The Internet used to be a place where we gain information and resources for free, but things are changing. Increasing amount of resources are becoming available only if people are willing to pay a price. This caused students to be against paywalls and often demand for easy access to these articles for research and projects.

As a consumer, the Internet should definitely be free to legal content, such as videos, music and social networks. Open Education Resources (OER) enables free access to education materials. It supports self-study and enhances learning at a reduced cost. This allows people whom are less privileged to have the opportunity to learn. Knowledge should be free! It’s the motivation that drives one in willingness to study that should bother, not money/wealth. I understand that education institutions need to earn, but what about those that can’t afford them? Does it mean that their future will be ruined? Probably not anymore, given the access to OER.

Gaining knowledge grant people the power to innovate, promote economic growth and create jobs opportunities. Thus, knowledge should not be kept behind paywalls and expensive publication. Instead, we should promote the spread of knowledge online.

People living in this generation are the main drivers of consumer sovereignty, we demand for convenience of access to when and what we want. An example would be Spotify, a commercial music streaming application that provides consumer with the advantage of having free online contents. Additionally, the application also connects to PlayStation™ and social media such as Facebook. However, if users don’t pay to upgrade their application to ‘Premium’, they will be listening to lower quality music with advertisements played in between songs.


Source: Quickmeme

Producers of these music materials may disagree to what Spotify is doing. On 30/03/2015, Jay-Z along with other A-list artists re-launched Tidal, another music streaming platform that allows users to access music content… but at a cost! The main difference between Spotify and Tidal (claimed by Tidal), other than the price, is the 1411kbps HiFi CD-quality streaming and artist-owned. However, only with a decent sound system, then you’ll be able to listen to the differences.

Thus, which will you prefer? Free Spotify with 320kbps quality or Paying Tidal for a CD-quality?

20528391 (1)

Source: NewsINC (focus on ONLY Spotify and Tidal)

Another example against free online content would be the newspaper industry, with most requiring readers to pay a subscription fee.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 10.31.02 pm

Source: Screenshot from SPH subscription

Whilst I agree that publishers and producers should receive some form of compensation for their work, there’s also downside to adding a price. Like what I’ve mention in Topic4, people will always find ways around boundaries. Which results to pirate downloading of music or students searching for PDF files online illegally.

(438 Words-excluding dialogues)


A Guide to the Open Internet (The Open Internet: A Case for Net Neutrality)

ERIC – Dramatically Bringing down the Cost of Education with OER: How Open Education Resources Unlock the Door to Free Learning, Center for American Progress, 2012-Feb

Everything you need to know about Tidal — in 90 seconds | Mashable (YouTube)

Litttle records: Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Access Journals 

President Obama’s Statement on Keeping the Internet Open and Free (YouTube)

Should online content be free or should we pay a fee? 

Spotify vs Tidal vs Apple Music (Spotify vs Tidal vs Apple Music)

Tidal: 10 things you need to know

US Senator Brian Schatz on Open Access and Turning Breakthroughs into Businesses (- Open Access Week)

90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests by: Lepitak, Stephen.


10 thoughts on “What happens when this ‘free’ and ‘open’ side of the Internet isn’t so free and open?

  1. Hi Siew Woon,

    You have an interesting take on this topic.

    Upon seeing your point on the open education resource, I went to research more about it and found out that recently schools in Canada has a open textbooks project where college students is able to save thousands of dollars (http://www.newskamloops.com/blog/post/students-save-a-million-on-amplsquoopen-textbooksamprsquo). I feel that this is a really good project as college fees are already expensive so by lighting their load off about affording the textbooks will benefit them.

    I also mention about the music industry in my post and we both have a little different takes on it. Like how Tidal was created because they want consumers to listen to high quality of music. While I said that certain artist like Taylor Swift feel that music must be paid to value their art. I feel that their objective is right, like how we go to the cinemas to enjoy the movies so that the production cost can be covered. However there are many illegal downloading platforms like Torrent, it is difficult to restraint users to pay for content. So the question is as a marketer how should we market artist to influence users to appreciate their music and pay for content?


  2. Hey Siew Woon! 🙂

    The question that popped into my mind right after reading your post was how then should content creators be appropriately compensated for the work that they do? Just like music producers in your Spotify case, if they aren’t charging for their music, they are basically giving it out and working for free. Which led me to think maybe then maybe some things should be paid for, but the price should be appropriately justified. If the consumers then find a different legitimate source for obtaining the content, the producers and creators should also adjust the way they are selling their product.

    However, with regards to education, I feel strongly that considering how much money education costs, academic material should absolutely be provided for free and be ‘open access’ through means of the education provider. Learning is simply not optimised when so many papers are lying behind paywalls. I agree with you that the opportunity should be equal for all.

    (Word count: 158)

    Thank you!



  3. Hey Siew Woon!

    Lovely to note that your stand is towards OA (Open Access). I understand the pains of restricted access online materials as a student coming from a 1st world perspective. I can’t imagine how research is strangled in developing countries with significant poverty.

    Your Spotify example really speaks to me because I use this application as well. As a music lover, the Jay-Z’s Tidal platform is definitely preferred. But then again, will I pay this amount to access it and how do I justify this good ‘quality’ with the price? From Kai Yuan’s post, I learned that quality is subjective and may not be pinpointed as a price.

    Having restricted-access does not mean that writers will be compensated for their work. When it comes to desperate situations, we can’t deny that people will resort to illegal and unethical actions: download restricted-access materials illegally. Isn’t it better to open the doors to online materials where content producers can be credited through reputation? It may even speed up their chances of being headhunted. What do you think? 🙂

    (178 words)


  4. Hello Siew Woon!
    Thank you for your blog post, I learnt a lot regarding Open Education Resources (OER) and how it has benefited those people who are not able to afford the paywalls set for acquiring research or papers they need for their education.

    Considering your perspective of how you feel that knowledge should be made free, even though education institutions need to earn. I agree to this statement only to an extent, considering the fact that nothing comes free, we pay for all the educational levels we have previously and currently as well. I believe it applies to the digital world. Do you think it will be fair to the publishers/producers to not earn a single cent for what they have produce?

    Do you feel that it is a feasible way to only set up paywalls for those who are able to afford it? Will it be fair for the less privileged people? You may want to take a look at the statistics from this article (under table 3): http://www.pewinternet.org/2010/12/30/65-of-internet-users-have-paid-for-online-content/
    Do let me know about your views!


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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