The freehadists like to say that digital content is only bits, but the truth is that there is a substantial carbon footprint to free. So big is this carbon footprint that it is causing concern by environmentalists.
All of that allegedly free music could have a larger carbon footprint than CDs. Although this article from Paid Content specifically comments on streaming content, there is a large carbon footprint across the entire digital ecosystem. Anyone who thinks that Media Piracy has almost no cost isn’t paying the electric bills or maintenance costs to keep a server farm up and running. These costs specifically illustrate how the exploitation economy works. The internet does not operate on fairy dust, it does in fact require capital. We’ve heard it said, denial is not just a river in Egypt. There’s even a carbon footprint to spam. So the next time someone mentions that the internet is a post-scarcity economy, they might want to rethink that… and review this piece from Harper’s on “Google’s Addiction to Cheap Electricity.”
Also, here’s a fantastic essay at The Cynical Musician by Jose Luis Pérez Zapata which states,
So, in brief, to make a process post-scarce, you need to make everything about it free; everything – absolutely no exceptions. If there is a cost anywhere, then we just changed one scarcity for another.
Indeed. So when servers and electricity are free, when the labor and other costs to run web businesses are free, than perhaps that is the time to contemplate that digital content itself should be free.