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A few days ago, I reposted an article from about how artists will make money in a world without the strict copyright “protections” of today. Well, actually it wasn’t so much about how artists will make money, but about how this really isn’t an issue–or at least it isn’t an issue for politicians. Well, I’ve got my own ideas about how artists–or at least writers–will make money.  But before I lay those out, I wanted to respond specifically to the points of this article.

So here it is again plus my own annotations in red.

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.

Uh…it’s not always a problem for politicians.  No, they cannot dictate how a person makes a living, but politicians are concerned that people do make a living and may support regulations for ensuring this–for example, minimum wage regulations.

To be fair, he says this up in the comments (emphasis mine): “… but nobody has the right to demand to be fed by the taxpayers. At least not over and above basic sustenance (social welfare) — but that has nothing to do with copyright or culture.”  And this is true. An out of work artists is free to seek unemployment or welfare checks, just like an out of work landscape architect or an out of work dog breeder. However politicians are not required to make jobs for artists, landscape architects, or dog breeders.

Of course, Mr. Falkvinge might do well to note–and to remind his successors in the Pirate Party–that politicians who promote job growth and protection are likely to do better at the polls.

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.

Again, the issue is not making people get paid for certain jobs, it’s making people get paid.   btw I usually like this guy’s analogies but this one in particular kind of misses the target.

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.

Stats for the music industry…. ho hum, not very useful for writers. But I’ve already talked a bit about how there is not really a problem for writers either.

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.

Ouch. This is harsh. I may have actually flinched while reading this part. This is the part where we get angry.  This is the part where we proclaim that we are not entrepreneurs.  We are artists, damnit! And we deserve the right to force payment for every copy of our books that goes out because of all the work we have put into them. And besides, we don’t write for the money anyway, so we are definitely not entrepreneurs!

I was a little angry here too.

But harsh as this sounds, writers said it first. No doubt they had no idea whose argument they were making, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have made it.

For the last few years at least (as long as I’ve been on the writing scene anyway) the buzzword has been author “branding”. This is basically saying: you had an idea; you made something based off of that idea; now go out and sell it. In other words, you are the entrepreneur of your book. I think a lot of artists hate the word, but it’s true. At least, it’s true if you want to get paid, and if you’re reading an article called “How shall the artists get paid,” it’s safe to assume you do.

Making shit for free isn’t necessarily entrepreneurship (though it can turn into it) but as soon as you start asking for money for it, then that’s what it becomes.  You become a brand.  A product.  Sure, this sucks.  In general, work sucks.  Not the kind of work where you stay up for 48hours straight drinking cup after cup of coffee trying to finish Chapter 3 because you really, really want to finish Chapter 3.  The kind of work that turns human beings and their activities into equations that look like this:  You do this much work and give us this result for your work you get this much money.

Welcome to publishing.

The idea that artists = entrepreneurs does not come from the founder of the pirate party. It comes from the new waves of writers, agents, and publishers. As much as it sucks to hear it, if you ever want to make money from your writing, listen.  If you do not listen to him, listen to them.

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.

Yes.  (But again, ouch.)  I haven’t really touched on the whole rights issue.  If you really want to hear about it you should just head over to and read the whole damn site.

For my part, I believe writers need to be aware of just what would need to happen to enforce current copyright law. Many writers have no idea just how invasive this process would need to be.  The following is from a post I made over at Absolute Write trying to explain this.  Good thing I’m used to being unpopular…
If you want to stop most sharing of copyrighted material…

1) watch all internet traffic in private homes for transfer of copyrighted material.
2) Compel ISPs to block internet access to offending individuals
3) watch all internet traffic on public computers
4) collect all personally identifying data on indiviuduals using public computers.
5) Compel those responsible for public computers (libraries, universities etc.) to ban access to offending individuals.
6) collect personally identifying data from individuals using public wifi networks on any personal devices.
7) compel any public wifi networks to ban offending individuals
8 ) criminalize use of proxies/VPNs/TOR or any attempts at anonymizing internet activities.
9) Invest in telescopes
10) Look through windows.

And if you want to stop international sites such as the Pirate Bay from enabling piracy you would have to:

1) find the servers
2) force the countries to accept the original countries interpretation of copyright law
3) force the countries to investigate and raid individuals suspected of harboring the servers–probably through threats, as the US did to Sweden to get TPB.
4) force other countries ISPs to block offending sites
5) Hold meeting with Hu Jintao and emphasize, respectfully, that censorship is bad.

By the way, that last part is a joke, admittedly in bad taste, but the point is that to really enforce copyright law a government would have to endorse extreme censorship and invasion of privacy–something that many western countries fight to uphold–at least in ideology if not in practice.

Ask yourself, if you want to protect your work, is it worth eroding our rights?  Not their rights. Not the pirates’ rights.  Our rights.

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.

Again, ouch. But again, this is not his argument. As writers we have been told this again and again and again and again. This is why writers collect stacks and stacks of rejection letters, and why most would-be writers give up before they get one acceptance. The percentage of people who succeed in the arts in miniscule. There are just too many of them.

There is no reason to punish any pirates for the failure of any artist.

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.

Yes.  We who create culture should not have to learn this lesson from politicians. 


  1.  How shall the artists get paid? « Cheap Ass Fiction

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