For over two centuries, freedom of expression is, by its very nature, linked to the medium which most makes it possible (the press), so much so that the two freedoms are often seen as overlapping and the "container" is given the same safeguards as the "thing contained". Nevertheless, over time the channels for the expression of thought have multiplied (radio, television, advertising, Internet, satellite television), and contemporary information has taken on unprecedented functions, beyond the expression of public opinion and with increasing economic implications. A growing number of collective actors (publishers, tv production companies, marketing firms, ad agencies, and so on) engage in expression of thought according to market and business criteria. The strategic importance and the actual ways in which information is spread are such that it is no loner sufficient to conceive of information as an individual right; new, specific rules need to be found in order to control and protect whoever creates, assembles, distributes, or consumes ideas. The author feels that anybody who "sells" information should be subject to the same norms governing those who "sell" other kinds of goods; individual freedom, as economic liberty, should be maximised by greater access to sources and telecommunication networks and by more public investment for expanding networks, wide-band technology and computer literacy.
Vincenzo Zeno-Zencovich teaches Comparative Private Law at the Third University of Rome.