About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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January 17, 2005

Freedom of the Press Belongs to Those Who Own Servers

Posted by Ernest Miller

Over on PressThink, Jay Rosen tries to put another nail in the coffin of the ever-absurd debate of "bloggers vs. journalism" (Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over). Read the whole thing.

I do want to point out one of the most interesting comments, however. Scott Rosenberg notes (Fine Summary ...):

Fine summary of the moment, Jay. One small issue I'd raise re your first principle: "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, and blogging means anyone can own one." Really it was the Web itself that made it possible for anyone to own one; that's been the case for ten years now. I. like a whole lot of other people, started a Web site for pennies in Jan. 1995 (my god, it's a decade-iversary!). But you don't really *own* a press if you're posting a blog for free using someone else's server (press).

What blogging software has done, with huge impact, is make it possible for anyone -- even without much technical skill or experience -- to *operate* a press. These distinctions are perhaps small, but they sure start to matter once legal issues start to kick in, and that is happening all around us.

Rosenberg is precisely correct. Now that the cost of owning a press has fallen, useability and other costs associated with operating a press have become far more important. Distribution is cheap, but filtering is still expensive (relatively). The old "freedom of the press belongs to those who own one" line will have to be modified as other bottlenecks and gatekeeping issues arise.

However, "owning" a press is still a gatekeeper. I like to talk about the "server in the closet" as the centerpiece of the home information network of the future. I think it is important that it is a "server" and not merely a network. True freedom of the press will not happen until everyone will be able to easily own their own servers. We need to be able to upload as well as download. Only then will the true capabilities of the net be within our ability. Otherwise, we will still rely too much on various gatekeepers and controls.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting


1. Priapo on January 18, 2005 12:24 AM writes...

Well, hosting a webpage is accesible for almost anyone, but things get more complicated when the webpage gets a high amount of hits.

I don't see relying our hosting on a third party server as a bad thing. What we, as online writers, should do is to backup in our home computer all the entries we publish so we can republish them anywhere and anytime we want to or even build a mirror of our sites in our home computer. Unfortunately there are lots of people that don't do it yet.

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