There is a famous saying by Stewart Brand that "Information wants to be free." This is the idea that, with increasing technology, more information will be created, made available, and accessible to more people.
The second half of that quote, however, is where we run in to reality: "It also wants to be expensive."
When something is valuable, it costs money. When something is desirable, it costs money. It also costs money to create something and share it. It is impossible to fully separate information from the costs associated with funding its creation and distribution.
That is where paywalls come in.
A paywall is a method of restricting access to content by limiting it to those who make a purchase or pay a subscription fee. Paywalls can block full access to content (like a HULU subscription) or limit the amount of content a person can access - like getting to read only half an article or allowing people to only read 3 items a month.
Paywalls are important because they fund the people and companies who make valued and desirable products. Paywalls can sometimes improve the quality of the material as well. News companies need trained journalists to track down, write about, and verify stories. Academic journals need scholars and experts to work on hard science that leads to medical breakthroughs. Artists need time and space to develop scripts and videos. Even newsletter writers who provide cultural commentary should be fairly compensated for their labor. Paywalls are one way people can be paid for their hard work.
Whenever you run into a paywall, whether it's for a journal article, news story, newsletter, magazine, or streaming service, you are being asked to help fund the work of others. Without funding, there would be no way this information could be created and shared. Paywalls provide a sustainable business model which allows many industries and companies to remain financially viable.
Paywalls, however, also create roadblocks to people who want to access that very same information.
Paywalls restrict access on purpose. That means those who cannot afford to pay miss out on information they need to use or want to see. This can hinder professional and personal development. It can also hinder our growth as a society because we are not able to build on the work of others. Locally, it means that people can miss out on important news that is happening in their area.
The UDC Library, and all academic libraries, are one way you can push through some paywalls. We provide full-access to peer-reviewed material and other academic support material. Yes, you may find a great article through Google, but you are going to be prompted to pay ($40 for a single article ?!?!?). You can often find that very same article (for FREE!) if you go through the Library. When you use a link to access this material from the UDC Library (through our A-to-Z Resource List), you will not run into a paywall.
Even if the UDC Library does not have exactly what you need, we can often help you track down that very same information through our consortium or interlibrary loan services. We can also direct you to other places which provides unpaywalled access to what you need.
While the library can't breakdown every paywall - looking at you Netflix and Amazon Prime - we can help find alternative ways for you to access information for free.
Paywalls are important, but the library is here to ensure that you get access to what you need.