Is Free Old-Fashioned?

Over at the music recommendation blog, Fingertips, Jeremy is once again dipping his toes into the maelstrom of debate around issues of the value of digitally-distributed art, an issue that now affects stories as well as songs. Most of you are doubtless very tired of the whole discussion, but there are a couple of things about Jeremy’s article that are interesting.

Firstly, being someone whose web business is based solidly around pointing people at free music online, Jeremy might be expected to be solidly in the “music wants to be free” camp. However, he’s nothing of the sort. Indeed, he comments:

If nothing else, this insistence on a free music future seems an inexplicable diversion of good energy. Why are people more willing to fight for free music than to fight for a talented musician’s right to earn money from his or her handiwork? Why do people jump through hoops to invent alternative scenarios for musicians to make money, rather than fight to defend the value of music itself?

But the thing that caused me to sit up and think was his comment about how the idea that electronic copies have zero value is not some bright new 21st Century idea, but actually a very old 20th Century one, because it is rooted in the idea that something that has no physical existence can’t have value. Anyone in the IT industry whose family are always asking them when they are going to get a “real job” in which they “actually make something” will know exactly what he means.

You know, I think he’s probably right. Go read the whole thing (especially if you are Jay Lake, Amanda Palmer or anyone else who thinks a lot about this stuff).

2 thoughts on “Is Free Old-Fashioned?

  1. It gets even more complicated when it comes to file sharing networks–not only are the artifacts of exchange not physically “real,” they’re also not independent artifacts; they’re fragments of a whole that require a re-coordinating map to be applied to them in order to render the “original” artifact. So if I get the new Dead Weather album from you and 50 others, and each of you only gives me 1/51st of the data I need to end up with “a song,” who has committed copyright infringement?

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