It didn’t bode well when, at the opening press conference of Frankfurt Book Fair, Prof. Dr. Gottfried Honnefelder, the Director of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, described the computer as “a machine that looks like a typewriter with an upright picture.” Even more astounding, thousands of people can now use books, such as the encyclopedia, simultaneously!

Welcome to the Internet, Professor, the temperature’s balmy.

And while my hopes were foolishly raised when he said that “others have to learn how to handle it and accept that “Open Access” prevails time and again, and that Internet users don’t have any patience when the “free flow of information” runs into walls” [cute use of quotation marks there], in the next paragraph Prof. Honnefelder calls for a political debate about the basic conditions of handling intellectual property.

These resources must be protected! Anyone who steals a book out of a bookstore can expect consequences. Why should there be different laws on the Internet? Simply because this book is not printed on paper and bound?

Hopes dashed.

In the next 60 years the Frankfurt Book Fair will certainly be changed as a marketplace for content. It will, however, only continue to exist and continue to create international trends in the publishing industry when the handling of intellectual property proceeds down a regulated path. And only then can international knowledge be truly useful.

Funny. I always thought international knowledge was truly useful when shared openly, copied, improved upon, used as the basis of innovation, creation and ideas. Wasn’t that the hallmark of the Age of Enlightenment, ushered in by minor little invention known as the Gutenberg press?

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