Piracy myths debunked #6 Eliminating copyright will make art more democratic?

Here’s a comment found on an Internet thread that puts the case as clearly as I’ve ever seen it:

“Actually, I would say that the elimination of copyright tells poor people they should have less capacity to engage with other humans. Why? Because if creating art becomes a money-free enterprise with people doing it for the love of it, then only those with enough money and free time will be able to create art – or at least be able to distribute it.”

Empirical evidence is all around us that the rich are getting richer, while there are more people swelling the ranks of the poor every day. Amongst them are many artists who used to make an ok living from their creativity. Now they have to serve burgers or stack boxes, or be unemployed.

Here’s a couple more comments that are very telling …

” … up until the last ten years or so if I wanted to invest in self publishing or distribution there would be a chance that I coud make a decent living off it.

The few publishing successes of the digital era are not promising. The two biggest digital publishing sensations were a teen vampire fiction (Amanda Hocking) or teen vampire fanfiction turned erotica (Fifty Shades Of Grey), and in each case the authors eventually went the route of traditional publishing.

Of course a lot of people struggle to get their stuff distributed. However, the post-piracy model seems to be leading towards a more, not less homogenous culture.

Take a look at Deviant Art -the stuff that tends to get noticed and reblogged is the stuff that is derivative of other stuff – steampunk Avengers or Dr. Who anime style.”

Proponents of the theory that ‘free culture’ somehow democratizes accessibility to the making and consumption of art always fail to offer any convincing real world proof that the odd freak exceptional success story is repeatable or sustainable. And they consistently miss the point above … That the art being made in this environment is usually derivative or plain bad.

“The people who have succeeded with kickstarter (the Amanda Palmers of this world) are those who are the best at self-promotion. As well, by appealing to what the public wants (or more accurately what they think they want) they ensure that the works that will be funded will be ones that appeal to audiences by sticking to popular tropes (“a steampunk zombie musical Star Wars!”) the fact is that if kickstarter had been the only method of monetizing work in the past we would be less likely to have Star Wars or any other work that truly took audiences by surprise.

Truly innovative art has in the past come from those who managed to persuade one or two savvy editors/producers/publishers to take a chance in them. This is where the long tail comes in – I feel very fortunate to know, for example, that someone is still pressing The Velvet Underground or publishing Moby-Dick in spite of their lack of initial success. While Moby-Dick is long public domain, I think it’s great that Lou Reed, John Cale and Mo Tucker (Sterling Morrison RIP) get something, no matter small, when a teenager discovers “Sister Ray.”

The example I like to give for how Kickstarter is not a good model is Thomas Pynchon. I want to reward Pynchon for his work by buying his books, not expect him to hawk his work on Kickstarter.

Similarly, the Louis CK/Radiohead model gets a lot of noise but ignores the fact that this has only worked for creators who are already established through more conventional media distribution.”

The quotes above are excerpted from the comments section under the following article:


About Costa Botes

I'm a freelance film maker based in Wellington, New Zealand. I make mainly long form independent documentaries about characters I find interesting.
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