Money For Nothing & Shit For Free

Ed at Gin & Tacos has an incredibly relevant post up about the current intellectual property crisis facing creators. By creators I mean musicians, songwriters, artists, graphic designers, photographers and the like. And folks like your humble scribe, moi.

Anyone remember back in the’90s when Garth Brooks railed against used CD stores? I remember attending a press conference where he talked about his copyrights being violated and loss of revenue and all that. I look back on that and laugh. I mean, duuuuuude! If he’d only known what was coming. He’d have shut his trap right quick.

Of course no one cares about a multi-platinum mega star losing out on a tiny revenue stream from file sharing and all that. And I’m not going to weigh in on the Amanda Palmer thing at Ed’s post, as I know nothing about her situation. But people forget about the thousands and thousands of little people who really are affected by this. I really do appreciate Ed pointing out the changing expectations in the marketplace:

Today, however, people who generate creative output for a living – this problem isn’t limited to writing, of course – face the additional obstacle of changing expectations. Namely that they are expected to work for free or close to it. If you think all those writers on big name sites (Slate, HuffPo, Gawker, etc.) are being paid more than a pittance or at all for the content they generate, you are mistaken. Consumers now expect to be provided with content for free; behold the wailing and gnashing of teeth across the internet when something is put “behind a paywall” at Harper’s or the NY Times. Can you believe that they actually expect us to pay for information and entertainment? That’s so 20th Century.

This is definitely true. And I get that — hey, I want my shit for free, too. I want to link to non-paywalled stories (as I did in the last post) so everyone can read it. I would hope that The Tennessean paid Bob Smietana a decent salary to write it and the fact that it ended up at isn’t taking food out of the mouths of Bob’s children. People steal my shit all the time. I’ve found my bylined pieces on blogs all over the internet. Sometimes they keep the byline, sometimes they don’t.

On the other hand, I really do object to big companies like Gannett, or Demand Studios, or other outlets wanting their stuff for free or nearly free. Just go over to Craigslist and read a few of the writing/editing help wanted ads and you’ll see how pervasive this attitude is. It’s all part of the brave new world known as the Internet Age. It’s going to shake down eventually, it has to, I firmly believe that. I just don’t know how or when. I imagine it will be driven by some piece of hardware: there will be some kind of device, maybe it’s the tablets we have now, I don’t know, but it will provide a mechanism for content to be monetized and thus valued again.

I’m not a really tech-y person by any means. But this got me wondering: is there an app or device which hasn’t been invented yet that you would like? Anything that would make your world better in some way? Or just be cool to have? Let me know in comments.

Oh, and the first person who says “jet packs” gets poo flung at him/her.


Filed under copyright, Media

10 responses to “Money For Nothing & Shit For Free

  1. So you want your shit for free, but you do not want certain other to get their shit for free?

    • No, I’m merely commenting on the wretched reality that is our modern world. When and if that “thing” comes along to change everything, I don’t expect to be whining and moaning about no longer getting my shit for free. Pretty sure I haven’t whined and moaned about firewalls and other stuff, either.

  2. democommie

    “So you want your shit for free, but you do not want certain other to get their shit for free?”

    We ALL want to get other people’s shit for free and sell ours for top $. A lot of us realize that such a thing is:

    A.) Unfair.

    3.) Unsustainable.

  3. I don’t know how it works now but in the early, pre-internet, days I got a lot of my software as shareware, where the prices for full functioning versions of it had a very reasonable price. I don’t know if the freeware I sometimes use has destroyed that or not.

    I’d gladly post some of my musical content online for a minimal price, less than a dollar, if there was a venue to collect the fee. As it is, I don’t publish it and only my students get to use it, assuming they keep their promise to me not to hand it out to other people. I can’t afford to produce it for free. My writing, which is definitely amateur, I can’t imagine anyone paying for it. I heard Winton Marsales point out that if a CD cost as much as a newspaper no one would bother stealing them. That was a while ago, though.

    I would gladly pay a small yearly subscription to the blogs I read regularly if the price was reasonable. I wonder how such a mechanism could be set up. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for someone to set up such a mechanism so people can directly support bloggers without having to deal with PayPal or giving out their credit card information to, perhaps, insecure places.

    • greennotGreen

      You know, there is a model for supporting blogs we like: Act Blue. Progressive blogs (I’ll let the other blogs come up with their own plan) could be listed on one Act Blue style page and you could just click the ones you want to support and pay one time at one secure site. If you wanted to do it yearly, you could just click something else that says, “Remind me in a year,” and you could do it again. I’d be more than willing to do that even though I rarely donate to individual blogs I like.

      • That’s a good idea but I’m not sure it gets to the heart of what I’m specifically talking about, which is just that creative output has been devalued across the board. It’s not that I’m not paid to write my blog — I don’t put up ads, heck I haven’t even gotten around to putting up a tip jar — it’s that places where I used to write to earn a living are now paying me half of what they used to 4 or even 3 years ago. And it’s not always all their fault, either. No one has really figured out how to make money off the internet, at least editorial sites haven’t. Everyone in the corporate world knows they need a website but no one has figured out how to make it profitable.

      • greennotGreen

        I understand, SB. I’m sure you’re right that it has become harder to get paid in an environment in which a lot of writers are willing to produce content for free. But it’s just a more severe example of the conundrum faced by people who like to make other kinds of art: you can spend all your time making the art you love, but make no money, or you can spend less time making art you may love a little less, and spend more time marketing yourself and your wares, but make some money. It’s an imperfect world.

  4. democommie

    Blogging is a fairly democratic way to make a living for some folks. If you write stuff other folks want to read and you let th moneylenders and other hucksters run their ads on your page you can make a little cash. The controlling factor being what you write and how it is received by your readers. Demagogues like Rushbo and misinformationistas like Ann Coulter have done quite well for themselves telling lies that a certain segment of the populace need to hear/read to justify their bigotry, hatred and indignorance–if only to themselves.

  5. democommie


    Indignorance: n. a frightening combination of profound ignorance, self-righteous indignation and o’erweening pride. It is exhibited, with depressing regularity among both the rank and file of today’s GOP and those who call themselves PATRIOTS and Christians.

    It’s mine, it’s been copyrighted (copywritten, copywrote?) by, PC, Ltd, Allgemeine Gesellschaft, etc.,. You may use it any way you wish, provided it is used, at least once per day, in a sentence such as:

    “The ReiKKKwing of the GOP (the 99% that make all of them look bad) is possessed of an adamantine and perpetual indignorance*.”