a man with his hand on his face in front of a bookshelf

Stewart Brand, who said the famous quote that “information wants to be free” in 1984.

Information wants to be free. It’s a battle cry for the relentless march of the Internet. Everything that we used to pay for before, now is basically free – news, music, movies, whatever. Don’t want to pay for a New York Times paywalled article, never mind, there’s a free version floating around there somewhere. On the Internet, someone is always will to give away content for free, even if they don’t own the rights to that content. Don’t believe in free, what are you some old square? Don’t you know that “information wants to be free”?

But that’s not what the quote said. Or rather, that’s only half the quote. Here’s the full quote said by Stewart Brand in 1984:


“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life.

On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. 

So you have these two fighting against each other.”


In a later book, Brand shortened the statement to: “Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive…That tension will not go away.”

That tension will not go away, except on the Internet, where part of the quote will get omitted. We’ve been saying the quote wrong this whole time.