Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Find a way to pay the people who create

'Mr. Lanier, a musician and avant-garde computer scientist — he popularized the term “virtual reality” — wonders if the Web’s structure and ideology are fostering nasty group dynamics and mediocre collaborations. His new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” is a manifesto against “hive thinking” and “digital Maoism,” by which he means the glorification of open-source software, free information and collective work at the expense of individual creativity.'


My mother-in-law has given up her beloved allotment, where she spent many happy hours and earned a decent side-income growing veg. The reason? Bums constantly raid her allotment, indeed all the allotments, and steal the veg, long before she gets around to harvesting them. It has taken a huge chunk of happiness out of her life. Not to mention money.

If I had just spent two years and three hundred millions dollars making a film, I would almost certainly know just how she feels. All over the world, spotty dickheads would download it and watch it for nothing. Millions and millions of dollars of my revenue would never arrive in my bank. It might make me give up making movies completely, if it got bad enough.

If I had just spent eight weeks researching an important news story, I would also have some common feeling with my mother-in-law. After all, as soon as the story appears on the web, fifty thousand people will steal the story and present it on their own website as their own work without attribution to me. Fan-bloody-tastic. All that driving around, all that networking, all those boring hours in the public records office- and I get virtually no money or recognition.

If I had just spent a year in the recording studio, pouring my emotions into song, I would be likewise be feeling the deep blues. Music piracy has reached proportions where nine out of ten songs listened to by most adolescents is pirated. Who can earn a decent living when one high school student buys my album, and copies it for four hundred people?

Why is there so much discussion of the web and electronic media which avoids these simple truths?

You don't have to have read 'Atlas Shrugged' to understand that when people work hard and get nothing in return, unless they are deeply stupid they eventually quit working. They go and find something that pays, like speculative banking. So unless we find a way to make sure that film-makers, journalists and musicians get paid for their work, there won't be any decent films, news stories or songs.

I don't think I can say this any simpler.


Sophist said...

"So unless we find a way to make sure that film-makers, journalists and musicians get paid for their work, there won't be any decent films, news stories or songs."

I think it's more a case of unless we find a way to pay the film production companies, newspaper publishers and record comanpies these good things are unlikely to distributed. In the meantime the urge to create runs independently of considerations of financial return. After all you continue to post week in, week out: how much have you been paid for your efforts?

PS Happy New Year

Edmund Ironside said...

I'm not sure I agree about the link between creativity and getting paid. My thoughts immediately turned to renaissance Italy, when rich men looking for pleasure and presitge paid for an artist plus his establishment. They benefitted enormously, and so did we, permanently. I think there is a direct link between financial security and the leisure needed to produce works of creative excellence.

Sophist said...

"They benefitted enormously, and so did we, permanently"

I think the biographical details of the men involved suggest that they were far from financially secure. The bigger picture I will leave to Roger Scruton:

"It has been argued that wealth is the great precondition of domestic order and of national culture...But then one must forget ... most of all that every nation in the West possesses wealth far in excess of what was conceivable in Renaissance Italy, while not one of them can produce an artist to match the least among the hundred who briefly flourished in the tiny town of Florence"

- The Meaning of Conservatism, p. 89