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...

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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.

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Plundering Pirates or Digital Robin Hoods?

Pirates are thieves. Plain and simple. From Disney to Digital Rights Management, this is what we’ve been taught. Pirates steal the hard work of artists and distribute it for free, leaving them penniless and powerless in the face of an online epidemic.

But are we taking it too seriously?

There is a problem with depriving artists of remuneration for their hard work. Undoubtedly. And I in no way condone the theft of someone else’s work. Yet, often the losses of artists and corporations are exaggerated, and more importantly, it is undeniable that piracy does have its  benefits both for the wider community and the individual user.

Piracy is ultimately motivated by money (or more precisely, the lack of money), however, it also plays a much more important role in society. In fact, piracy forms an integral part of contemporary culture, or more precisely, the distribution and development of culture. Without pirates, many, if not the majority, of society would go largely unexposed to art, music and technology. All over something as trivial as money. Does this seem fair?

The extent to which someone can learn and participate in their culture shouldn’t be based on how much they are able to pay. In any case, isn’t educating the human collective more important than deepening the pockets of greedy celebs and corporations?

South Park sure thinks so. And I tend to agree.

After all, piracy’s not that bad is it?

Piracy's not stealing, it's piracy!

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Web Creativity: But I can’t speak computer!

The Web is built to foster creativity. But which are the best ways to go about it? And do you need to be a computer hacker to succeed in online content creation?

Do you speak computer?

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While contributing to certain aspects of the web undoubtedly require specific skills, the evolution of Web 2.0 technology is providing more and more ways for the average person to interact with the Internet. In particular social networking sites and the blogosphere pose the greatest potential for laypeople to create online. But can a website or online space every be truly completely accessible to the average person?

Coding: child's play?

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This blog, for instance, is being hosted by WordPress. I don’t need any specific training or extra knowledge to get everything up and running and my thoughts out into the ether of the World Wide Web. From the outside, it appears as if I can do whatever I want to my blog. Customising its appearance, posting to my heart’s content and even changing the URL to my own personal domain, if I have the cash to do so. But if you take a closer look, everything is not as malleable as it seems. In fact, many argue that customizable domains such as blogs, and Facebook pages, are actually very tightly controlled. Think about it. What can you do to your Facebook profile, apart from change the picture. Not much.

I can’t even change the font of this post! Lame.

Which raises the question: is the full creative potential of the Internet truly available to everyone? Or only those who speak computer?