I’m going to address a controversial subject – with some of the public anyway…. copyright. More specifically, paying extra for the copyright element of a product. Or in many cases, paying for it at all…
The public thinks artistic endeavour should be free
Now I understand why this is. Creativity is typically portrayed as something creative people ‘can’t help’ doing. So why, this section of the public thinks, should I be paying for something those people would do anyway? Let me try not paying for it, and see if I still get the benefits.
Creativity isn’t like that
It isn’t something we can’t help doing. It isn’t something we can always afford to do anyway, if we also have to do something else to earn enough to live. It isn’t something that abundantly spills out of us. It’s work. Hard work. You get up in the morning – sometimes excited, sometimes dreading it. And you begin. Whether you want to or not.
You sit there with a blank page. Or with a project idea that you know you have to do, but which will be controversial and you’ll get criticised for. You hit blocks. You’re unhappy with the quality of work that day. You have to get it finished to a deadline. Doesn’t that sound like work – and pretty scary work – to you?
Creativity isn’t easier for good artists
Sometimes it can be. For others, it’s increasing pressure to be good. Eric Morecambe probably died early due to the pressure of writing good material for the legendary Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials. Spike Milligan credited his terrible depressions and breakdowns as being precipitated by the pressure of writing. And although I’ve been praised for the innovative quality of my musical work – much of which was down to the ground-breaking material I wrote for myself − I can tell you I absolutely hated every damned minute of writing it. I’m not a natural songwriter. And the ‘coal face’ of creativity isn’t an easy place to be.
People think they should get artistic product for free
There’s a peculiar inconsistency about demanding that in the age of the internet, creative product should be free. We don’t demand other online goods for free. Not physical products. Not books. But music and in some cases, images ‘should’ be apparently. And why? Because so much of it has been pirated that it can be. In other words the logic seems to be, ‘If I can steal it easily, it should have been free in the first place….’ This is so obviously a post-fact justification for theft.
“But I really believe that ‘stuff for free’ is the future!”
There are those who say that they’re stealing artist’s work (or letting their stealing and consequent devaluing of music affect the market so much that even legitimate outlets only charge a pittance for it) because the future is a world where everything is free. Now I’m with you on this one. I’d love this to be true. We’re the only animal that actually pays to live on a planet which is our birthright. But…. food, energy, shelter etc. aren’t free. Not yet anyway. So why are you singling out creators? Because those of you who choose to, physically can without prosecution. That’s the real answer.
You already pay for copyright on other things without begrudging it
Oh yes you do, you little rascal! You pay for branded drugs that cost drug companies R&D to create which are copyrighted (or the NHS does, and you pay them back via your taxes). You do it every time you buy ‘Nurofen’ instead of a generic ibuprofen capsule. Where apps are free, you’re paying the developer from the ‘upselling’ that the app encourages you to do.
That lovely ‘Apple’ device in your pocket or on your desk? You’ve paid a premium for copyright on that because it took a lot of R&D to develop it and now Apple has to get it back. Those Heinz beans? You’re paying copyright on their secret recipe. And you’re happy to pay the premium price to get what you want. Why? Because if you want it, you don’t have a choice.
So why aren’t you happy to pay a decent price for creative product, again?
By now it should be obvious that begrudging musicians and in some cases, photographers, alone a decent price on their work and respect for their copyright, is a double standard. If you really think all copyrighted items ‘should be free’ on principle, then you should be stealing branded beans and demanding that Apple give you ipads for free – or at big discounts. That isn’t going to work anytime soon.
And before you protest that those items are ‘different’ because they exist in the physical world, remember so does an MP3 or Jpeg file. And those files take at least as much time, energy and money to create as a branded can of beans. So before we arrive at an ‘everything is free’ nirvana, please understand that creative people have to live, pay bills etc. and support the idea of paying them properly so that they can afford to keep creating.It’s simply the only way to treat everyone, from Apple to your local band, equally.