Posted by & filed under Pirates & Politics. 10 comments

Update: Find my annotated version here

To drag my thoughts away from Norway, I’ve been digging through pirate-y things to bring up here.  I dug this up from Falkvinge.net . It’s a little old, but since the copyright situation now is about what it was in January, it is still very much relevant. I didn’t write this article. No, I’m not “stealing” it. It’s in the public domain and anyway if Falkvinge wanted to come after me for copying his stuff I would have a good laugh and gleefully ridicule the hypocrisy.

Here he addresses one of the most basic questions–to artists, the most basic question–in the copyright debate. As a politician, he does not have to worry about making art pay the rent. As an artist, I do worry about this, as I am sure most of the people reading this blog do. Later, I will post my own answer to the question “How shall the artists get paid?” I thought however, that this was an insightful perspective and it prompted some reconsideration on my part. For your benefit and the benefit of any discussion, I wanted to post the source of my thoughts first and see what response the original material prompted in others.

I am very interested in your responses to this article.  So please leave your thoughts. I will be happy to discuss the responses both positive and negative.

By the way, though the specific examples given come from studies of the music industry, as I’ve mentioned before, I believe the publishing industry could learn a lot from the industries that digitized ahead of it. Or at least learn to ask the right questions.

How shall the artists get paid?
by Rick Falkvinge

One of the most common questions I get, and quite likely the most irrelevant, is “how shall the artists get paid?” in a scenario where the copyright monopoly is scaled back to sensible levels. But it makes no sense to ask that of a politician, for two primary and two secondary reasons.

1. This is not a problem for politicians.

In most of the world, we have a market economy. That means it is up to each and every one of us to find a paying job; politicians will not and can not dictate how a particular person is going to make a living.

In Soviet Russia, you had a planned economy. There, you could legitimately ask this question.

Vladimir Biletnikov! You say you want to be a tenor. You have a terrible voice, but you look strong. You shall work as a builder all your life and be paid by the Construction Bureau. Fjodor Dostoyevskij! Your health is appalling, but your writing is appreciated in cultural circles, although most people don’t see why. You shall work as a writer all your life and be paid by the General Directorate of Incomprehensible Arts.

It is notable that not you were not given the choice to be paid for the particular job you wanted even in a planned economy. But in a market economy, everybody need to find their own way to contribute to the economy and make a living off of it.

You can’t ask a politician where the next paycheck is going to come from.

2. It is not a problem in the first place.

Even if it would be on the politicians’ desk, it turns out it is not a problem at all. The average income for artists as a collective has risen 114% since the advent of file sharing. The amount of artists getting income from their artistry has risen by 28%, and the average income per artist has risen by 66%, according to a Norwegian study. United Kingdom numbers show the same thing. (This is for music, the industry complaining the most.)

The part of the industry that is losing out is the parasitic middleman structure which isn’t needed any more; the copyright industry. They — like record labels — are also the ones pushing for the eradication of the Internet as we know it.

But record labels are not needed for artists to produce, exhibit and sell culture. Which is probably what scares the record labels the most: their suppliers don’t need their brokerage any more, which is why they are attacking the distribution channels that allow artists to bypass them.

3. Entrepreneurs will be entrepreneurs.

Yes, the Pirate Party wholly supports people’s right to make a living. But nobody has the right to call their favorite pastime “work” and demand to be paid for it.

The instant somebody goes from playing their guitar in the bedroom and at parties to wanting to make money off of it, they are no longer an artist, but an entrepreneur and a business owner. The same rules apply to them as to every other entrepreneur on the planet: They need to provide something which somebody else is prepared to pay for.

If they can do that, they need no law to sustain their business. If they can’t do that, no conceivable law can save their business.

4. My fundamental rights go before your profits.

As we have seen, the question “how shall artists get paid?” is not a problem in the real world. Artists make more money than ever, there is more culture than ever, and it is not a politician’s problem. But even if all of this were not so, even if artists were indeed suffering (which they aren’t, but parasitic middlemen are), copyright would still need to be scaled back. It is now infringing on fundamental rights, and as a European citizen, I’m not prepared to give up those citizens’ rights for a multinational corporation to boost their profit.

In the 21st century, the Internet IS speech, IS assembly, IS association and IS the press.

If a corporation can’t sustain a business without having these rights limited, then that corporation deserves to go out of business. The sooner the better.

5. History repeats itself and we are cultural animals.

There will never be a shortage of culture. We have created since the day we learned to put red paint on the inside of cave walls. There is more culture available than ever, much thanks to the Internet.

There are millions more people who want to live off creating culture than the demand will bear. Most create for different motivations than money. You will have no hard time finding a professional broker or accountant who picks up their guitar as they come home from work to relax a bit, but show me a professional rock guitarist who picks out the financial ledgers for some relaxation in their spare time? In financial terms, there is an oversupply of creators. Always has been.

When the printing press and libraries arrived, the middlemen proclaimed the death of culture. History repeats itself. Let’s get rid of the middlemen, limit their monopolies, and let the artists and culture flourish.

10 Responses to “How shall the artists get paid?”

  1. live60

    Hi. A very nice blog. I haven’t gotten around to reading all yet, but I plan to. Thanks for dropping in on my blog.

    R.D….

    Reply
  2. Crosbie Fitch

    Surprisingly few people want to know how the artists shall get paid. Most signed artists just want the dreams their labels told them would have come true but for piracy to finally come true. Thus the labels hoodwink their ‘would have been a star but for piracy’ artists into becoming devout pirate hating copyright supporters (aka fan haters).

    See my comment on the 1709 blog: http://the1709blog.blogspot.com/2011/07/copyright-and-creatives-leigh-harrisons.html?showComment=1311754515134#c1079802845774193029

    Reply
    • aeliusblythe

      Absolutely true (and thanks for the link, I hopped over there and left my two cents). It is really very sad how artists are duped into the “rock star dream.”

      There is a horrible irony in writing circles where the commercial publishers/writers/agents/etc. point at the self published authors/companies and say “Look at those tricksters over at the indie/vanity/POD/self-publishers–they make you think you’ll be the 1 writer in 1000 who make money.” Which is true, actually. However, what they don’t tell you is that the statistics for successful commercial writers are very much the same.

      Fact is, most people don’t make any money at it. Some people make very little money and a couple people make a lot of money. It sucks but it’s absolutely true. Yet the industry still sells itself by promoting that fantasy.

      If artists did not lean on that fantasy, perhaps they would be more concerned with how they can make money in the new digital landscape.

      Reply
        • aeliusblythe

          Yes.
          The difficulty is in presenting new options without 1)constructing a new rock-star fantasy to replace the one the industry is peddling, and 2) combating the expectation for this fantasy.

          In discussions on alternative methods of payment that don’t rest on the current “protections” the response is often “But so FEW people will make money with that!”, as if we are supposed to present a system where all artists would be wildly successful, or at least rent-paying successful.

          It is hard to have a discussion about artists getting paid without the assumption that we are talking about artists getting success (which, of course, no one really has control over and is a completely different topic anyway!)

          Reply
          • Bernard

            Hi Greg and Bailey. Just watched your video and you did a great job. Chris and Kathryn were here the end of July for the windedg of the last to get married of her group of 7. Chris told us about your new venture so wish you all the best in launching this Mimi

  3. Rick Falkvinge

    Hi mate,

    of course I won’t “come after you” for giving my ideas a larger audience. That would be entirely contrary to my work. :)

    So rather — thank you for copying my text and republishing it here. I appreciate it.

    Cheers,
    Rick

    Reply
    • aeliusblythe

      Great-no hypocrisy-ridiculing sarcasm required! I was worried about squeezing that into my schedule. Not that I really thought I would need to, but always good to be prepared…

      I’m glad to share something worth sharing.

      That we cannot and should not turn to politicians to legislate our income is very hard for artists to hear, especially when most artists are struggling to support themselves. But it is something we need to hear nonetheless. Better to stop turning to the politicians and start finding ways to adapt and survive.

      Reply
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