On Sunday, The New York Times ran an op-ed by essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider, who writes eloquently and humorously about his frustrations with the fact that many people expect him to work for free.
Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge. I now contribute to some of the most prestigious online publications in the English-speaking world, for which I am paid the same amount as, if not less than, I was paid by my local alternative weekly when I sold my first piece of writing for print in 1989. More recently, I had the essay equivalent of a hit single — endlessly linked to, forwarded and reposted. A friend of mine joked, wistfully, “If you had a dime for every time someone posted that …” Calculating the theoretical sum of those dimes, it didn’t seem all that funny.
Kreider reveals the demoralizing effect he feels as an artist living in a society and culture that does not value creativity.
Practicalities aside, money is also how our culture defines value, and being told that what you do is of no ($0.00) value to the society you live in is, frankly, demoralizing. Even sort of insulting. And of course when you live in a culture that treats your work as frivolous you can’t help but internalize some of that devaluation and think of yourself as something less than a bona fide grown-up.
No one doubts the Internet’s immense power to provide unprecedented access to creative works of all kinds, from films and television shows, to books and music, to news and photographs.
But we should not accept the notion that creativity has no value – nor should we forfeit the fundamental right of all creators to determine how their works are distributed.
Respect for creativity and a vibrant digital economy can go hand in hand.
Read the full op-ed: “Slaves of the Internet, Unite!”.