Will the digital revolution give us digital dictatorships or digital democracies? Forget everything you think you know about the digital age. It’s not about privacy, surveillance, AI or blockchain—it’s about ownership. Because, in a digital age, who owns information controls the future.
Today, information is everywhere. From your DNA to the latest blockbusters, from lifesaving drugs to the app on your phone, from big data to algorithms. Our entire global economy is built on it and the rules around information affect us all every day.
As information continues to move into the digital domain, it can be copied and distributed with ease, making access and control even more important. But the rules we have made for it, derived from how we manage physical property, are hopelessly maladapted to the digital world.
In this urgent and provocative book, Rufus Pollock shows that we must make a choice between making information Open, shared by all, or making it Closed, exclusively owned and controlled, and how today’s Closed digital economy is the source of problems ranging from growing inequality, to unaffordable medicines, to the power of a handful of tech monopolies to control how we think and vote.
Choosing Open is the path to a more equitable, innovative and profitable future for all.
Prologue: Monopolies of Attention
An Open World
Defining Information and Openness
Patents and Copyright as “Intellectual Property”
Face to Face with Power
Triumph over Closed Minds: The Internet
Music to our Ears
How the Secret of Life Almost Stayed Secret
Meet Jamie Love
Openness: The Best Medicine
Making an Open World
Help us Make it Happen
Coda: The Original Copyfight
What People are Saying
Cory Doctorow - Journalist and Activist
The richest, most powerful people in the world have bet everything on the control of information in all its guises; Pollock's fast-moving, accessible book explains why seizing the means of attention and information is the only path to human freedom and flourishing.
Beth Noveck - Professor and Director, the Governance Lab, NYU and former director of the White House Open Government Initiative
A manifesto for the future”, Open Revolution is a powerful call to arms. It rallies all of us to take up the cause of Open information against the forces of monopolization, surveillance and control of information. Be inspired! Read this book!
Geoff Mulgan - CEO of NESTA, Former Director of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit
I hope this book will stimulate a much more imaginative, and balanced, debate about the many ways a knowledge based economy can be organised
Audrey Tang - Taiwan’s Digital Minister
This book’s practical insights are invaluable in guiding our “Open by Default” philosophy… beyond artificial scarcity and zero-sum games
James Boyle - William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law and co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School.
Rufus Pollock has worked tirelessly to show us the importance of access to knowledge and data. He makes a compelling and lucidly argued case that our society needs an open "information environment." Whether one cares about democracy, economic efficiency, innovation… Pollock’s work makes fascinating reading.
David Levine - Professor of Economics, European University Institute & John H. Biggs Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Washington University
This book draws the distinction between the open world in which we might live” - a world in which all information available to humankind is available to each of us instantly …. from music to medicine Pollock shows how the closed world is an unnecessary evil.
Mark Surman - Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation
The Internet and our digital future are under threat and this timely and accessible book shows why and what we can do about it. Essential reading for anyone interested in creating a fair, free and innovative future for the Internet age."