Will working for free ever work?

Lawrence Lessig hates copyright. Or at least that’s the impression I get from reading his work and listening to his lectures. He believes that it’s unnecessary, that it stifles creativity, and that remix culture is not only the way of the future, but it has actually been the way all along. We just haven’t realised it.

To his credit, he co-founded Creative Commons (CC) to fix this. Providing an alternative to copyright for people who believe that sharing is caring, or rather that sharing is creating. There’s no denying Creative Commons is useful. If I want to put an image in a slideshow for my school project, or share it on my personal blog, why should I have to ring up some faceless corporation in Hollywood to make sure they won’t come knocking my door down over 10 cents.

That said, however, whether CC and other general licensing schemes such as GNU or FLOSS, can be viable alternatives to copyright in the long term, remains to be seen. At the end of the day, CC and others rely fundamentally on the belief that people are happy to have their works distributed and remixed, (usually) for free. While this may be fine for those who, as Medosch puts it are “still very young and live in a squat or have very rich parents or both”, whether the creative professional, the struggling musician, or the fledgling artist can live with this (and more precisely live off this) seems unlikely.

Personally, I think it is naive to believe that in a capitalist society, such a model can become the viable alternative to the current, even if extreme, model of copyright.

But it sure would be nice.

One day...

AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Toban Black

References:

Medosch, Armin. ‘Paid in Full’: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’. in Deptforth. TV Dairies II: Pirate Stratagies, London: Deptforth TV, 2008. pp. 73-97.