The end of the age of free

For a decade now, consumers have become accustomed to free access to music, films and information, via the internet. But with many of the media’s big players – including Rupert Murdoch – thinking of charging for content, is the tide about to turn?In art, as in commerce, a price tag traditionally has magical powers. With the flick of a wand, a pound sign confers desirability on an item that might be thrown away if it was handed out for nothing.And yet for almost a decade now, quality entertainment and culture, as well as mainstream sources of news, have been freely available on the web. The arrival of the internet has seen musicians, publishers and news organisations all slowly float off together into uncharted waters. Is the era of free news over?
One safe prediction where the internet is concerned is that most predictions will turn out wrong. If some of the headier late 20th-century forecasts had proved correct, we would already be living in a world without books, offices, coins and banknotes, ­newspapers …

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