If you’ve been following my updates here or on Twitter, you are likely aware that over the last nine months or so I’ve been working on a new, nonfiction book, discussing the value of creative works. The book, Starving the Artist, focuses on how in today’s Internet age where information can be transferred for a negligible amount of money (basically for free), the underlying creation that makes up the music, movies, books, art and other types of media that we enjoy, is being viewed as something that should be free as well. A lot of this comes from the thought process that the actual cost of a product should be determined in great part to the physical cost of the packaged good, as well as the general philosophy of those that argue “Information should be free.”
The full title of the book is Starving the Artist: How the Internet Culture of “Free” Threatens to Exterminate the Creative Class and What Can Be Done to Save It. It’s not a book about copyright law or an argument that “free is evil” – instead it’s a discussion of our current state of how we value other people’s work and creations, and how it should not be up to us as consumers to decide whether or not we want to pay what the creator is asking (if they are asking for anything at all). In some ways it’s a response to Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price and tangential to Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur.
With the massive amount of creations available to us through the new distribution channel of the Internet, as well as the greatly reduced costs of creation, we are at a point where we can very easily find enough media to fill our time, made available free of charge by their creators. The fact remains, however, that many creators would like to be compensated for their work – whether monetarily or in other ways. But above all, creators deserve our respect for what they’ve done. If you want something, but aren’t willing to pay for it (in whatever manner and at whatever price it is offered), then there are plenty of other alternative options instead of that specific product.
The fact that a creator has made something that you want means it has value to you. Otherwise you wouldn’t want it. To take something that’s not yours, without permission, however, is stealing – and is a blatant act of self-serving narcissism in which the one taking feels they are entitled to something that they, in fact, are not. If one wants to steal, that is up to that individual – but in my moral framework, stealing is wrong …
Here’s the full description of the book:
For a lot of people, creation is their livelihood. For others, it’s where their livelihood ought to be. As Richard Florida wrote in his 2004 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, “Stimulating and glamorous as it may sometimes be, creativity is in fact work…The creative ethos is built on discipline and focus, sweat and blood.” All music, art, movies, writings and games were brought into being by their creators – and for these creators to have created them, there was some underlying motivation to do so. Without their creators and their motivations, creative works simply would not be.
Why then, in today’s Internet culture, is all creative work expected to be free?
Why is it that some individuals feel it is their right to take things that do not belong to them, without receiving any permission to do so?
Why, in the Internet culture of “free,” are those creations we enjoy and value most the ones that we are most likely to simply take?
This is not a book about copyright, nor is it a book about the evils of free.
This is a book about right and wrong.
This is a book about respect.
This is a book about the value of creative work.
This is a book for the creators. May you keep on creating.