I consider myself a creative individual, but my feelings on copyright and intellectual property are somewhat complex and I’ll admit that, if anything, I lean toward a worldview of equal accessibility to all forms of media.
By “media,” I mean everything from films and books to artwork and music.
I suppose it’s important to disclose that I value respect more than money.
I feel that equal access to the creative works produced by mankind is ultimately a benefit to all, as a collective whole.
Increased access leads to increases in reactions, feedback, conversations, inspiration, derivative works, ideas and personal enrichment.
To me, these combined benefits usually outweigh the importance of one or a few people becoming rich by restricting access to their creations.
To be clear, I am certainly NOT saying that artists, musicians, authors and actors shouldn’t be compensated for their creative contributions.
A Hypothetically Starving Artist
For example, if a painter creates an original piece of artwork then they have every right to sell that painting to another person if they so choose.
BUT – the implications of this are pretty obvious.
In the case of selling it to someone who wants to hang it on their wall, the two people negotiate a price and the deal is done.
They won’t get paid again for that painting because it has already been sold to a new owner.
Since it was a new and original work, the sold painting is the only one that exists at this point.
But since our artist was starving (not stupid), let’s assume that he took some photos of the painting before selling it and posted them online for others to see.
Otherwise, it becomes a very real possibility that the buyer may be the last and only other human being who ever sees the painting at all.
Maybe it hangs on the new owner’s wall for the next few decades before both are completely destroyed in some natural disaster.
Had the artist not taken photos of it, the art would then be lost forever.
And I think we can all agree on what a shame that would be!
I tend to think this is ALSO fine for the buyer to do as well.
After all, he loved the painting so much that he bought it.
I’d like to think that any two people who create and appreciate these things enough to have made any such transaction would also be the kind who want to share its beauty with the rest of the world.
So I see absolutely nothing wrong with the buyer taking some photos of his new painting and posting them online for others to see.
Now that we know what I am okay with, let’s make it clear what I find unacceptable.
Stealing Something You Paid For
It would NOT be okay (in my mind) for the buyer to take photos of his new painting and then claim to have created it himself.
Under no circumstances would that be okay with me.
THAT is theft, even though he paid the real artist. It doesn’t matter.
Stealing it outright in the absence of permission or compensation would obviously be theft as well.
Both of those scenarios suck…but assuming our artist had still taken photos, then the second crook is guilty of the lesser crime.
At least as far as I’m concerned.
In the first scenario, the artist is paid with money and then robbed of credit and denied respect.
I can only speak for myself, but credit and respect are way more important to me than cash ever has been.
I also don’t think that it’s acceptable for the new owner to take photos of the painting and then sell them to other people.
If he wants to charge money, I believe he should have to sell the actual painting to someone else.
The artist, however, wouldn’t be doing anything wrong by charging others for copies or reproductions of the work if he wanted to.
You see, I have much less of a problem with people selling their creative work than I do with denying others access to them in the absence of money.
I’m fine with people getting paid for the things they create.
But if we lived in world where artists were paid for their work, it would be much harder to explain why they are so often starving.
Cool Story, Bro
In reality, most of us need some kind of day job or supplementary career to live comfortably.
And you know what? There is nothing at all wrong with that.
Bits and pieces of my own original work have been included in the work of others, sometimes after asking for permission and others under the assumption of fair use.
Do I get upset if I’m not asked first? No.
Would I be upset if I wasn’t credited? Mildly.
Real life example: a quick Amazon search turned up this book, which is very ironically a collection of quotes centered around the topic of happiness (you know, me being the cheery, optimistic type and all).
Now I know what Tom Hanks and I have in common.
While a lot of people will probably guess things like how much money we make or the number of awards we have won, it is actually neither.
(He is also not as sarcastic as I am).
It turns out, the only thing we have in common is that we are both quoted on page 116 of this book.
Pirates Are Cool Too!
Most people will probably think it’s kind of ass backwards for me to be as enthusiastic about a concept like Kickstarter as I am about The Pirate Bay.
But I totally am.
Being the broke asshole I’ve kind of always been, I frequently download torrents if there is a film I would like to watch or a software I could find a lot of use for.
I don’t lose any sleep over this because at the end of the day, I simply do not have the money to pay for these things even if I wanted to.
Now, you should probably take everything I say with a grain of salt since we have clearly established that I do NOT get paid a Tom Hanks salary.
You may think THAT is the real reason I feel the way I do about this stuff.
Perhaps you’re right.
I may feel differently if I was as rich as Tom Hanks, and then suddenly encountered some financial threat to a level of wealth I had grown accustomed to.
But I’m pretty sure after nearly 29 years of living the way I have, it would just seem like returning from a bizarre vacation or waking up from a dream.
Yeah, I’m weird.
The moral of the story is this: if you have the money and can afford to buy one of my books, that’s fantastic. I appreciate every dollar.
And if you can’t afford it or don’t have the money but still would like to read something I’ve written, just email me and ask for it.