Microsoft's announcement in March 2009 that it will discontinue Encarta provides valuable business strategy and management lessons. Encarta is an encyclopaedia offered from 1993 on a CD-ROM disc and subsequently on the web. All will end in 2009.
While money was not the motivator, the crowd that clouds at Wikipedia and elsewhere on the internet has helped starve the business out of Microsoft's Encarta. That crowd are computer users and they in the sense that they are part of cloud computing sending content by them or others to external hosted servers.
This article is a case study on 250 years of business and legal history relevant to three encyclopaedias - Encarta, Encylopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia. It is structured by three historical periods, or Acts, as we've called them here. Our focus is on content licensing for these three publications. Their content includes images, text, video and other data. Like them, others with an interest in methods for making money from content include business consultants, authors, creators, and various intermediaries.