Understanding Free Content

Content is an unlimited resource. People can now make perfect copies of digital content for free. That's why they expect content to be free — because it is in fact free. That is GOOD.

Think of "content" — culture — as water. Where water flows, life flourishes.

content is free, like water in a river

Containers — objects like books, DVDs, hard drives, apparel, action figures, and prints — are not free. They are a limited resource. No one expects these objects to be free, and people voluntarily pay good money for them.

containers are not free

Think of "containers" — books, discs, hard drives — as jugs and vessels. These containers add utility to and increase the value of the water. If you can get water for free in the public river, great — that doesn't reduce the value of vessels. Quite the contrary: when rivers flow, the utility and value of water vessels increases.

free vs not free; use the unlimited resource to sell the limited resource

Continuing this metaphor: copyright monopolies are an attempt to dam up and control all the rivers, reducing them to a trickle. When Big Media succeeds locking up culture, it's like in closing off water: they get a stagnant pool that turns to poison. Fish die and mosquitoes swarm, because the water has no source to flow from nor destination to flow to.

a stagnant pool with mosquitos and fish corpses (That's how we get things like this.)

Artists don't "own" culture, but we do own our names (attribution). Any artist who has enjoyed a community of fans knows how the power in their name is generously granted by audiences. Our audiences want us to thrive. They want their money and support to reach us.

artist and audience

Therefore an artist's cooperation with a merchandiser is valuable. A signed book is worth more than an unsigned one. Merchandisers who cooperate with artists — share revenue with them — get the blessing of both artist and audience and can sell more objects for more money.

publisher as exchange agent between artist and audience

Under the Creative Commons Share Alike license, Sita Sings the Blues-containing objects can be manufactured and sold by anyone without my permission. But whoever shares revenue with me gets my "creator endorsed mark" or signature, and gets my fans sent to the product (via community word-of-mouth and my web site).

the creator-endorsed mark

Competing products can nonetheless be sold without my endorsement. If they're cheaper, of better quality, or more accessible, they might sell better than my endorsed products. Why shouldn't they? Competition can be good. All the more incentive for any business I partner with to make their products high quality, reasonably priced and easily available. There's no incentive to compete with a good product; if there's a good affordable Sita Sings the Blues coffee table book or graphic novel, why should anyone bother publishing another? If they do, the competing book must have some important quality lacking in the first. If that competitor's quality differential is so high it's worth more than my endorsement, then good for them for doing something right.

Remember:

Free Enterprise is Free Culture too.

Common Questions about Free Content:

Q. Why make a book when you can get the content free on the Internet?

A. Because there are limits to the Internet. You can't touch it or smell it. Images are restricted to screen quality and may cause eyestrain.

straining to read a screen

Books have value as objects beyond the intellectual wealth they embody. They are portable, tactile, and invulnerable to power outages. Art books can have even more valuable attributes: glossy coatings, embossing, reflective and matte inks, paper textures, super-high resolutions. Books can be beautiful objects in their own right. Signed books are works of art. Books can have value as collector's items, because they are LIMITED.

a beautiful book

Audiences seek a connection with creators. Even if the content is free, many fans desire a physical token of the work. They also want to support the artist. Merchandise — objects, like books, DVDs, apparel — acts as a medium to conduct these artist-audience transactions.

Q. Why make it free on the internet if it's available as a book (or DVD, CD, etc.)?

A. Because if it's free, it can spread. If it's good, the audience will quote it, cite it, share it, review it, and promote it. Free accomplishes everything advertising does, except it's good not evil, free not controlled, voluntarily shared not forced down throats. Instead of spending vast sums on crappy advertising to sell "content" you've locked up, just free the content and let it advertise itself. Use the unlimited resource to sell the limited resource.

Q. But even with the internet, I still have to advertise!

A. Maybe. Depends on what your content and how much time you have. If what you have is good, just give it time. "Viral" growth is exponential, but it can take a while. Or you can use advertising to artificially direct audience attention to something they wouldn't care about otherwise. If the work is not good, interest will drop off when advertising does.

graph comparing free culture growth with restricted culture growth

That's our vision of Free. It's not communism. It's not capitalism as we know it. It's definitely not monopolies. It is Free Culture, and Free Enterprise.

 


 

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52 Comments

Re: Great article.....

The culture, or body of water, represents for the most part the oral tradition. Stories and songs passed down from memory, freely available for anyone to listen and recall whenever needed. The best actor/storyteller/singer/dancer is container and conduit for the content. The best performers inspire all before them, and create new performers with their own interpretations to suit their own times as the culture changes over time.

The containers are still limited resources, especially if they are people. Only a few people have the opportunity to see one performer's work over their lifetimes. The ability to store performances by writing (even dance movements can be rapidly described in notation) them down, allowing future performances to approximate great works after the originators are no longer able to repeat themselves.

[EDIT: link removed]

Are you on crack?

So the DVD case manufacturer should get paid, but not the filmmaker?

As a filmmaker who has spent the last 5 years shooting, editing, and now distributing my film (at most of the same venues as you BTW) am I simply to give my work away for free, simply to get my name noticed?

I can see it now - "hey power company, I can't pay my bill, but do you know who I am?" Yeah, that will go far.

The reality is that you ignored many people who told you not to use music that you did not have the rights to. Now you can't hop on the distribution train (which you admit you tried to do), and now that nobody wants to touch your radioactive product you are giving it away and trying to make it sound as if filmmakers who actually create art and actually (gasp) make money at it are douchebags?

Give your head a shake lady. You messed up and ruined what could have been an awesome money making opportunity. Too bad. Move along to your next project and admit you screwed up.

Re: Are you on crack?

It's always questionable whether we should even leave this sort of comment on the site or not, sigh...

First, Nina Paley has never said anything to insult her fellow filmmakers, whether they agree with her positions on freedom of information or not. I don't know where you got that "douchebag" language from, but it certainly wasn't Nina. Nor has she ever been opposed to anyone making money, and in fact is making some herself -- more than she would have under a standard exclusive distribution arrangement (a fact you may have been unaware of).

You speak of these "rights" as though they're natural, unchangeable things, instead of government-granted monopolies whose exact terms are a matter of policy. Of course, they are the latter: that's why these monopoly rights weren't invented until there was a centralized distribution mechanism (the printing press) to benefit from them.

Regarding her so-called "radioactive" product: Nina is now struggling to keep up with all the emails from distributors who want to distribute her film under non-exclusive terms, and who want her endorsement or involvement. Again, you might not have known this; on the other hand, you could stop for a moment and wonder who exactly is setting up all those screenings of the film that are publicly listed, if the film is so radioactive that no one wants to touch it.

Finally, if there's money to be made selling DVDs, then the artist is just as free to sell them as anyone else, and is in the best position to do so. That's exactly what Nina is doing. You're welcome to do it too.

Lots of people work hard at what they do. I used to work hard in a bagel shop, and the owner there worked three times as hard as I did. Yet no one has ever suggested that he should be "protected" from competition by being given a government monopoly on the recipe for bagels, or a monopoly on selling bagels on that street. I'm glad you finished your film, and wish you luck with it, but your hard work is not a justification for interfering with the rights of people to use their computers and networks for the purposes for which they were designed: to share information and culture with each other. Since when does hard work justify censorship and monopoly? In other fields it doesn't, and it shouldn't in this one either.

-Karl Fogel

*Sigh* - you just cut your

*Sigh* - you just cut your own argument off at the knees. If distributors are stumbling over each other to get the rights to her film, they are obviously willing to pay the required licensing fees. Thus the system isn't broken.

Re: bagels, nobody is stopping somebody from making other films. That's fair competition. Stealing your bagels and reselling them isn't competition - it's theft.

Get a clue.

Re: *Sigh* - you just cut your

No -- they're not stumbling over each other to get the rights to the film. Everyone has the rights, including you. They're stumbling over each other to get Nina's endorsement and involvement in distributing a film to which they (and you, and everyone) have non-exclusive rights. And they're willing to pay Nina for this.

(Did you even read what I wrote?)

You seem confused about stealing. If someone steals bagels from my shop, now I can't sell those bagels -- they're gone. But when someone copies a work of art, no one loses their existing copies. Instead, a new copy comes into existence. Selling those new copies does not deprive anyone else of the ability to sell *their* copies. If someone broke into my house and stole my DVDs, now *that* would deprive me of the ability to sell copies :-).

A monopoly right on copying really is different from physical property. Different physically, and different legally. You can't make them be the same thing by repeating "stealing" over and over.

Wow, you are so delusional

Wow, you are so delusional it's almost entertaining.

Whether or not a physical copy or a virtual copy is made, if it is illegally made and shared rather than purchased from the artist, the artist is harmed. You seem to want to embrace this meme that it is more important for an artist to be viewed by many rather than be compensated the way he/she wishes.

If somebody copies my film and then distributes it to others who in turn copy and distribute it, all without the artist being compensated, then the artists loses financially. You may be ok with that, but I - and many many many other artists aren't. We expect to be compensated. Feel free to give your dinky Flash movie away, the rest of us would like cold hard cash thank you very much.

Re: Wow, you are so delusional

Well, we're questioning a current monopoly policy, yes, on the grounds that overall it does more harm than good. That's what this entire site is about. I think "delusional" is a bit strong, though, considering that for all of human history until 300 years ago, things worked the way we're recommending :-).

We put our money where our mouth is. I'm an author (two books so far), published and available in bookstores, but my works are available under free licenses and if you want you could publish them too. Interestingly, I have made the same amount of money from my books as my publisher would have expected under a standard non-free copyright license.

You still haven't answered the question of how much money you're making in copyright-based income...

Some questions about when "the artists [sic] loses financially"

If someone hears about a film, becomes interested in it, but then decides NOT to give the artists who created it any money, "the artists [sic] loses financially", don't they? They don't get any of the person's money, right?

And if the interested person tells 5 of their friends about the film, but none of them decide to give any money to the artists, either, then isn't that 5 times as bad?

But if one of their friends tells another friend, and that one does decide to financially support the artists -- then have the artists gained or lost, in a financial sense? Note that I said nothing about whether or not the various interested people actually saw the film, or copied it, or read reviews of it, or made fan fiction about it, or just fantasized about it in their heads.

Would the artists financial situation be different depending on which of these things had happened? Why?

--Jesse Weinstein (http://purl.org/NET/JesseW/SundryStuff/ ) (still waiting for my account details to come through)

yep

Quality x Time in circulation = Audience size. Q x T = A. Forced payment acts as a divisor, because with the barrier of having to pay at the gate, far fewer people will see the movie. (Q x T)/FP = A.

Take two movies with a quality of, say, 100, over a time of, say, 2 weeks. Let's say the forced payments reduce audience size by a factor of 10, so FP = 10.
Q=100
T=2
FP=10

freely shared movie: 100 x 2 = A = 200
strictly licensed movie: 100 x 2 / 10 = 20

But most strictly licensed movies have a much shorter Time window, since they cost more money (advertising) to keep in circulation. T for most commercially distributed independent films is 2 weeks (if they're lucky). The free film has a much longer life span - forever, really. The strictly licensed movie still exists, but it's virtually impossible to find, thereby drastically reducing its audience. Over a two-year window - 104 weeks - the free film enjoys 104 weeks of prime circulation, while the strictly licensed movie just has 2 weeks of circulation.
Q=100, T=104, FP=10

freely shared film: 100 x 104 = 10,400
strictly licensed film: 100 x 2 / 10 = 20

Now, let's say only 1 in 100 viewers of the freely shared movie contribute any money to the artist, via buying a T shirt or DVD, or making a donation. That makes 104 paying viewers. Compared to Strictly Licensed's 20 paying viewers, that seems like a pretty good deal. Subtract advertising for Strictly Licensed, and Freely Shared looks even better.

Very cool

Thanks so much for breaking that down, Nina! It makes a LOT of sense, and what's more, it's logical and convincing and…good. I love it. This is my first time really exploring the copyright concept, but so far I'm beyond impressed.

BTW, I'm downloading Sita right now, cannot wait to watch it. All the best! :)

Nina, we need you guys to

Nina, we need you guys to make your arguments based in actual circumstances not false ones. Now films are in short circulation??? and impossible to find???

Are you serious? Do me a favor, Google "watch movies free"! You can easily watch any film you want for free at literally THOUSANDS of sites! No waiting for downloads, no signing up or giving your credit card, with just two simple clicks of button (the link to the film and play)! I even easily found a Brothers Quay DVD rip that already own on the Pirate Bay and downloaded it, just to see how easily accessible obscure films are! These are Absolutely WONDERFUL and Beautiful obscure filmmakers. I've never seen such beautiful work before. And freely sharing their work has not helped there bottom line in the least bit. It has only hurt them! And it's Indie's with the most to lose that it's hurt the most. If films made more money being freely distributed and shared then why are 90% of indie's still losing money and more than ever before, in current sharing environment???

This model you point to above, 5 people hear about a film and number 6 chooses to support it. That's not enough for a film. We're not taking about products that cost a few hundred grand to make, which is what this model your advocating is designed for! This will work for Music, Books, and very cheaply produced films (under 350,000 grand). But not for films costing MILLIONS to make! Even Films without stars cost us between 1 and 5 million to make, try generating that in online compassionate donations! Unless we're going to increase the price of DVD's, we HAVE to charge people to view our work the first time they see it, or bring our budgets to under 500,000, in order to be able to turn a profit and make another film. And thats not likely to happen because it'll mean everyone has to work for peanuts. Have you generated over a million dollars in sales from Nina yet?

Re: Nina, we need you guys to

I'm not Nina, but now you've got me curious:

Do you support freeing everything but films, then? I mean, I'd love for everyone to have the freedom to share everything, but if you're proposing a compromise in which texts and music are liberated, but some films are not, then sure, that'd be pretty good.

Still, though, I don't see why the existence of a monopoly-based business model that supports multi-million-dollar films automatically means that any attempt to get rid of that monopoly has to satisfy the burden of still supporting multi-million-dollar films. A different system would favor different kinds of films -- there's no harm in that. Any distribution system we have is going to affect the art we get. Right now, we have a system that suppresses lots of sharing, and clearly affects the art we get: films like Nina's, that draw on (say) existing music, usually can't get made. This one only got made because Nina stayed true to her vision and bucked the system.

Monopolies make money; that's why monopolists favor them. Monopolies also often have employees, and expenses, and if you propose changing the monopoly, or getting rid of it entirely, of course they'll complain that, well, now everything is going to change! The fact that things might change when a monopoly is allowed to lapse is not an argument in favor of continuing the monopoly.

Suppose I build multi-million dollar space shuttles, with a government-granted monopoly on the technology, and someone comes along saying "Wait, we can do this better and cheaper, if you'll just let us use some of the same technology in our designs. We won't built space shuttles, instead we'll build little six-seaters that go just as high for much less money, and everyone can have one." Would it be a valid argument for me to say "No, because if you do that, we can't build our multi-million-dollar space shuttles anymore"? Of course not. And that's kind of how I feel about this argument that we won't have multi-million-dollar movies without this system (copyright) that prevents people from sharing movies freely. Maybe we won't have as many of them, true, but we'll have a lot more of something else, and your argument ignores the "something else" entirely, in favor of the multi-million-dollar space shuttles we have today.

It's as though what exists in front of our eyes at this moment is the only thing that can ever possibly exist, and we must do whatever we can to preserve it, even if it means criminalizing people for sharing culture.

Re: Re Nina we need you guys to

"It's as though what exists in front of our eyes at this moment is the only thing that can ever possibly exist, and we must do whatever we can to preserve it..."

I love this quote. There are so many things that can be applied to. We forget that laws are completely arbitrary and were created by a small group of people to address a particular need or interest at a particular time -- so does this mean that by the mere fact they ARE law, they must never, ever be examined to see whether they are indeed serving us? Laws are supposed to serve and protect us, not the other way around. We should at least be able to ask questions and analyze the facts, not just have emotional responses.

I don't feel that I have enough facts yet to comment on the economic aspects of all of this -- at this point, your argument is something I'm going to explore with an open mind.

This discussion is so interesting in so many ways.

I was a child that dreamt of "saving my favorite shows forever." From my early audio cassette recordings of my favorite TV programs, to twenty years of VHSs sitting gathering dust in my basement, to the couple hundred off-air recordings of shows I never got to see while I was working, I can say that both sides of this discussion have only part of the solution.

I think the basic metaphor of culture, content, and container is good, but lacks another element -- the conduit.

In this case the conduit is the Internet, but also represents official DVD releases, the TV broadcasters, cable providers, and the ships and trucks employed by pirates to move their DVDs.

The free content is free to those that can access it, collecting it in buckets (cameras, camcorders, word processors, all recording media). If not recorded in some form, the content is lost. If the container is not accessable (eg. unusable media or outmoded presentation methods), the content is useless and as good as lost. I think this interpretation fits the Understanding Free Content metaphor.

The culture, or body of water, represents for the most part the oral tradition. Stories and songs passed down from memory, freely available for anyone to listen and recall whenever needed. The best actor/storyteller/singer/dancer is container and conduit for the content. The best performers inspire all before them, and create new performers with their own interpretations to suit their own times as the culture changes over time.

The containers are still limited resources, especially if they are people. Only a few people have the opportunity to see one performer's work over their lifetimes. The ability to store performances by writing (even dance movements can be rapidly described in notation) them down, allowing future performances to approximate great works after the originators are no longer able to repeat themselves.

Culture is frozen when captured into a container. The culture is dead if the contained version becomes the only representation of the culture. Freely distributing little frozen blocks of culture is not necessarily improving culture.

Encouraging people to start copying content they have no rights to is a bad idea.

Encouraging people to buy content they have no rights to is also bad idea.

There are many flaws with the current model of movie, music, print, and other artistic endeavours. The corporations that arose from the early pioneers of the industries wield great power over the direction creativity flows into containers, and are losing control of the conduits that transmit the containers to us.

I think that when it is so easy to recreate exact duplicates of containers, it becomes dangerous to the creative environment. Increased availability of containers decreases the value of an artist's creations.

Experiencing the art is what makes it live.

Revolutionize the conduit to ensure people that want money for their craft get what they deserve.

Revision your consumption patterns to align with the ethics you believe in.

If you believe buying more DVDs will make you happy, good luck.

I have more video than I could ever hope to watch.

I buy legal copies of most of what I want to watch eventually, and regret wasting money on blank media, and time and effort recording for my own enjoyment now.

If people want to give you their own work, and it appeals to you, watch and enjoy. Otherwise consider each case carefully before you hit download, or make that purchase.

Most of the rest of the time, it just might be a waste of your life to worry about getting the latest video. Piracy will ultimately limit the corporation's and individual's who rely on tickets and container sales to continue to provide new content to you.

"we HAVE to charge people to

"we HAVE to charge people to view our work the first time they see it"

And then people like me will never see it because I won't spend money on something I am not sure I will like. If you are making indie films then I doubt I know you or your previous work so there is no reputation for me to base a decision on. If I watch it free and decide it is worth my money then I will buy it. If I decide it needs to be seen in a theater to be appreciated then I will go see it. Otherwise I will never see it, never tell friends about how good it is, etc. If I see it free and cannot afford to buy it but tell all my friends how awesome it is and some of them go buy it then that is money you would never have had had I not seen it for free.

And if you don't like pirates making money selling bootleg DVDs then sell the originals for a fair price and put the pirates out of business. (If you sell DVDs for $5 instead of $15 but sell 5 times as many you get more money. What a concept...) Personally I refuse to buy bootleg DVDs because I won't pay for something I can do myself, but I almost never pay more than $10 for a DVD and usually then it's a movie I know I already like. (The only DVD I can remember ever paying more than $15 for is City of God and I had seen it on HBO twice before it was released and knew it was one of the most amazing films I had ever seen.)

-- Andrew

Re: Nina, we need you guys to

"This will work for Music, Books, and very cheaply produced films (under 350,000 grand). But not for films costing MILLIONS to make! Even Films without stars cost us between 1 and 5 million to make, try generating that in online compassionate donations!"

It seems to me that it all depends on whether we treat artists as Investors or as Workers-- and I think that's a fair question to ask. Investors can pump millions into a project, get no return, and nobody cares because they knew the score going in, and did it of their own initiative. Workers on the other hand are paid in proportion to their effort, regardless of the outcome, and this is because they were asked to do it-- they're acting on someone else's initiative.

By that logic, I think somebody making a film would probably be acting on their own initiative, and therefore acting as an investor, not an artist. If the risk of not turning a profit isn't acceptable to you, then clearly you should either lower the stakes or change to a worker role...

Another counter to your argument, money invested does not transfer to quality of product. Some of the best movies I've ever seen were small-budget films by nature-- "Primer" comes to mind. You don't have to put in millions of dollars to make a good movie, and if 'Summer Blockbusters' are any indication, throwing money at a movie reduces the quality instead. Why should we endorse a business model that supports such colossal wastes of money when we should be doing what we can to foster and preserve quality?

Anything else would be implying that Quality is valueless, and the only deserving trait is Marketability. This is a position I refuse to take. As a consumer I would much rather have one good product than a hundred successfully marketed ones; and as an artist I would rather produce a handful of really good works than a flood of shoddy knock-offs. So where's the problem?

Re: Some questions about when "the artists [sic] loses ...

If someone hears about a film, becomes interested in it, but then decides NOT to give the artists who created it any money, "the artists [sic] loses financially", don't they? They don't get any of the person's money, right?

There might be a lost oppotunity to have a viewer, but external to that person's head, there is no difference between that person and someone who has never heard of the film. That isn't "losing financially" in any sane sense.

Re: Wow, you are so delusional

This is the best quote to explain the difference between physical and virtual.

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."
-- George Bernard Shaw

Another good quote i like that you might learn from is

"Its not what you take things from, its where you take them to." - Jean-Luc Godard

Re: *Sigh* - you just cut your

I sense a very strong arrogance and ignorance towards the artists that tries to make a living out of their work. Justifying this "sharing" is very unsympathic and arrogant toward these. You try to justify some anarchy here, and your'e living in some fixed belief (old thinking) that its only possible to buy and sell materials. But hey morons! They are not trying to sell you some nice book or this nice looking DVD plate so you can get some emotional stability from (or whatever), they're trying to sell the stuff it contains - and what does it contain? Artwork, like music, movies or novels.

I would please see rational responses to this comment, and not some arrogant shameless shit.

Re: *Sigh* - you just cut your

Well, the two people you've engaged with in these comments so far are a published author and a professional filmmaker (someone who actually makes a living from it).  So we're making this argument from the inside, so to speak -- it's not abstract to us; we've put our money where our mouth is, and the numbers support what we're saying.  Not that economic success should be the only only criterion when civil liberties are at stake, of course.

Re: Are you on crack?

To sell bagels, you need 2 things - bagels and hungry customers.  Of course, if someone steals your bagels we can see that you will not be able to sell those bagels.  You've been robbed.  However, someone can take your hungry customers, too.  If I sit outside of your bagel shop and give away bagels for free - trust me - you won't sell very many bagels.  Certainly less than if I were not there.  Now, if I do that until you run out of money and close up your bagel shop - have I caused harm to you?  I think most reasonable people would say that I have.

Now, some might argue that you could make better bagels than my free ones.  But let's say that I make a copy of your recipie - it's copying, not stealing.  If I use your recipie the customers would be getting the same goods - free from me, but paid from you.  Will you sell very many?  Have I harmed you?

Your hungry customers could also be "stolen" from you by removing their hunger.  I could go into your bagel shop and set off stink bombs.  Now, I'm still not taking your bagels - you still have them to sell.  But if your customers lose their appetite before they make a purchase they won't buy anything.  If I do this continually until you are driven out of business, have I harmed you?  Again, I think most reasonable people would say that I have.

Here's the fundamental question - would a fair legal system prevent me from sitting in fromt of your bagel shop and giving away free bagels until you are driven out of business?  Would a fair legal system give you relief from me setting off stink bombs continually in front of your store?

Re: Are you on crack?

Why aren't you asking "Would the hungry people be harmed if the law prevented someone from giving them free bagels, in the name of protecting one party's business interests?"

We all get free oxygen.  Yet there are also some who sell oxygen (these new oxygen bars that are cropping up in some cities).  Would you propose that the free supply of oxygen be cut off, in order to favor that business interest?  We now have the infrastructure for music and culture to be like oxygen.  The argument is simply this: don't cut off everyone's supply in order to subsidize the old, obsolete infrastructure.

Your stink bomb argument I don't get at all.  No one is arguing for some imaginary right to create public nuisances.  However, if you equate giving away free bagels with creating a public nuisance, then we won't find much common ground here, for I am a true lover of bagels! :-)

Re: Are you on crack?

Bagels cost money to make - it's unlikely someone would spend a bunch of their own money to stand outside a bagel shop and give them away for free. (Not to mention, I think people might be suspicious these days of some weirdo on the street giving away free food for no reason...) 

You might say that books and movies cost money to make too, but the difference between a bagel and a book or a movie is that when you buy a bagel, you eat it and then the bagel is gone, or else you let the bagel rot and its gone; whereas the movie you saw continues to exist and can be watched again, and generally doesn't have an expiration date. So the bagel argument doesn't really work here. Bagels need to be replenished because they have to be consumed each time and so inherently cost money to use; a movie does not need replenishment and is basically only a one-time expense in most cases. If the bagel shop loses business its stock and ingredients go bad and the shop loses money by remaining open; if no one buys your film it doesn't inherently cost you anything.

 

 But even at that, bagel shops also provide more than just bagels -- they offer drinks, chairs, restrooms and other conveniences that presumably your man on the street isn't providing. Even if people accepted random dude's free bagels while they were on the way to the bagel shop, they very well might still go in to buy coffee or other things to go with the free bagel. With a movie -- yes I can probably watch a free blurry video someone shot on their cellphone in the theater, or I can go to the theater and pay to see it in conditions that won't make me throw up. However, with a lot of movies -- especially smaller films -- initially seeing that free blurry cellphone video might be the only evidence ever presented to indicate that this might be worth watching in better conditions. 

Back in the days of Napster I downloaded a lot of music I'd have never been able to hear otherwise -- Rammstein, Pizzicato Five, Dariusz Paradowski -- whose music I later bought on CD. (I've even paid to see Rammstein perform live -- I even paid to see the movie Triple-X just to see Rammstein in it.) Getting free exposure to these kinds of things lets you discover whether or not it's something worth spending money on. If all I had to go on to learn about Rammstein was that they're "some metal band from Germany" (and word of mouth also tends to misidentify them as Nazis for some reason) I don't think they'd have become my favorite band, and I would have ever nearly burned to death in 110 degree heat to be first in line for their autographs, or spent money buying RAMMS+EIN patches to sew on my luggage, or performed their songs at karaoke, etc. Rammstein and their related companies have made much more money off me due to my illegal downloads of their songs in the 90s than they would have ever gotten had I not received that exposure. Just to give an example of how these things help.

Content is free?

Wish I'd known that before I paid my sound guys, camera people, video and audio editors, lighting crew, caterers, airlines, rental houses, and location permits.

I would have saved myself a lot of money.

Good lord, you guys are delusional.

Re: Content is free?

No matter how much you pay anyone, including yourself, you can't make your stuff non-copyable. Face it: you live in a networked world. You're fooling yourself if you think there's such a thing as "controlled release" anymore. Our argument is simply that this is okay: freedom for everyone to share is more important than the narrowly-focused benefits of granting monopolies on distribution -- monopolies that come with not-so-narrowly-focused costs, such as that they criminalize normal human activities like sharing.

Your argument is nonsensical.

Your argument is nonsensical. Because someone can break DRM then that makes it ok? I can pick a lock to my neighbor's house does that give me the right to take his items because I can? No.

As a filmmaker I absolutely SHOULD have the "monopoly" to decide who can get access to my art, and where it ends up. Just because people can pirate material doesn't mean they should.

You confuse SHARING, which is where the artist willingly allows the art to be shared (as I have done with benefit screenings for charities), with STEALING - the unauthorized copying of my material, which deprives me of my rightful compensation.

STEALING does not equal SHARING.

you do have control over what happens to your work

"As a filmmaker I absolutely SHOULD have the "monopoly" to decide who can get access to my art, and where it ends up."

I agree! All creators get to decide what happens to their work. You can keep it secret. You can keep it private, and limit access to private parties. Or you can make it public, by publishing it. Once you've made it public, it is public.

So if you don't want people copying your work, please, please, keep it secret or private.

I've often wondered why "creators" (or corporations) get so upset when the public accesses their oh-so-valuable work, after they've made it public. If you can't stand people looking at it without your permission, why not keep it locked up in a vault somewhere? No one's forcing you to publish it; why do you insist on doing so, and then feeling like a victim?

The answer is that a work has little or no value, except what the audience gives it. Let me say that again:
A WORK'S VALUE COMES FROM THE AUDIENCE.

Sita Sings the Blues is tremendously valuable now, and its value increases every time someone watches it. Back when I finished the film in 2008, and hardly anyone knew about it, it wasn't worth much. The very worst thing that can happen to a film is nobody sees it: that makes it worthless. Lots of people seeing the film make it valuable.

Artists make an enormous mistake when they believe a work's value comes from themselves. Some of it comes from the artist. Most of it comes from the audience.

"But I put XXX hours of work into it!" Most filmmakers get paid on the "front-end," for their time, and even with strict copyright and commercial distribution, make almost no royalties on the back-end. The audience isn't paid for their time at all.

I contributed about 7,800 hours to making Sita. That's a lot of time, and every hour I put into it made the film more valuable. I conservatively estimate the audience has contributed at least 300,000 hours to Sita, probably a lot more. Every hour they put into the film makes it more valuable. They've put a lot more hours into it than I have, and I haven't paid them a dime. Yet I enjoy attribution for the film, and all this value accrues to me! Sweet.

If you don't believe that the value comes from the audience, and is instead inherent to the work itself, then by all means please keep your work safely hidden, and don't publish it.

> "But I put XXX hours of

> "But I put XXX hours of work into it!" Most filmmakers get paid on the "front-end," for their time, and even with strict copyright and commercial distribution, make almost no royalties on the back-end. The audience isn't paid for their time at all."

Ms Paley, I'm starting to become more convinced that the free model you advocate may be one we should explore, but its the current economic situation driving that, not your arguments. Those you may want to rethink arguing or leaving out your arguments all together, as they hurt them rather than help. Most STUDIO FILMMAKERS are paid on the "front end". Since the majority of films are not created by studio's, but Independent Filmmakers, that statement says you may be sorely misinformed as to how indie filmmakers are paid. Please see reply above.

> "I've often wondered why "creators" (or corporations) get so upset when the public accesses their oh-so-valuable work, after they've made it public. If you can't stand people looking at it without your permission, why not keep it locked up in a vault somewhere? No one's forcing you to publish it; why do you insist on doing so, and then feeling like a victim?"

the sarcastic "oh-so-valuable work" comment can only mean you think feel their artwork is worthless. And this probably the fundamental reason why we'll always disagree. But even still, again you are mistaken in your argument, it is not that we can't stand people looking at our work without our permission, and feeling victimized as a result. Let me ask you this. If I tried to view an opera without paying for a ticket, I'd rightly be thrown out right? Just as the financier's of the opera expect me to buy a ticket to help pay for the production of the opera, to see the opera every time I want to see the same opera, Filmmakers expect it's audience to pay for a ticket (Theater ticket/DVD/download) to help pay for the films production, to view the film. We are simply asking that you PAY us to view it, to pay for the work and millions that we spend creating it, to view it!

Most Filmmakers aren't asking for copyrights for 80 years either, just a reasonable amount to time that would allow us to turn a profit from our labor, since And the Overwhelming Majority of films DO NOT make their money back with in the first two to three years, seven to ten years, isn't unreasonable and is probably a number we could live with. Most filmmakers don't care what you do with a DVD you paid for, as long as you paid for it. Make back-up copies, use it in your own work, whatever, as long as you paid for your DVD, they don't give a crap what you do with it. If you do use a filmmakers work in yours and you profit tremendously it would be nice if you did share it with him/her but the majority of us aren't going to come after you.

Lillian

P.S. Next time you need rights to music, send me an email lllngish@gmail.com, so far I've been quite successful at convincing music copyrights holders to licensing music to a film for a deferred payment contingent on the films sales. I still maybe able to do this for you, (for free). The amount they wanted to charge you is frickin ridiculous for an indie film. I just acquired music rights for three pieces of classical music by three of the most prestigious composers in music history for FAR FAR less about 6 grand deferred, for both Sync and mechanical. And I'm sure our films budget being live action was FAR bigger than yours.. That amount should have been a starting quote, not and ending quote.

""I contributed about 7,800

""I contributed about 7,800 hours to making Sita. That's a lot of time, and every hour I put into it made the film more valuable. I conservatively estimate the audience has contributed at least 300,000 hours to Sita, probably a lot more. Every hour they put into the film makes it more valuable. They've put a lot more hours into it than I have, and I haven't paid them a dime. Yet I enjoy attribution for the film, and all this value accrues to me! Sweet.

If you don't believe that the value comes from the audience, and is instead inherent to the work itself, then by all means please keep your work safely hidden, and don't publish it.""

You, ONE person, the same one person, put in 7,800 long hard hours creating Sita, NO, ONE audience member has matched that contribution. You are still the largest investor in your film, Period. Without your contribution/investment there would be no Sita for them to experience. Unless you took a public Sita poll and knew Sita would have an audience before you created her, then Sita came first, and the audience came to Sita. Therefore one has to conclude Sita had value before the audience viewed it!

Are you and your family so independently wealthy that you could do this all day everyday, and live off the attribution alone, or would you need to be paid for your work? If you could, I have a script I'd like to share with you.

"Therefore one has to

"Therefore one has to conclude Sita had value before the audience viewed it! "

Whether Sita had an artistic value before being viewed can be debated but it had NO monetary value. Monetary value is what people are willing to pay and if they don't know what the movie is like or have any idea who the film maker is then they won't pay anything for it. That is why big budget films have trailers and have critics like Roger Ebert review them, to hype the film so people will want to pay to see it the first time. If you can't do all that then let people see it free and the ones who like it will buy hard copies, or shirts and other merchandise. It is better for everyone to watch it free and 20% of them to then pay for it than to force people to pay to see if they like it. Also, freely circulating a movie is free advertising and indie movie makers should be all about that. How many of the people who have watched, liked, and will now pay for Sita would have ever even HEARD of it if Nina had kept the rights locked and not freely distributed it?

(Oh, and every unbiased study on the subject has concluded that free sharing has NO negative impact on sales and some even conclude that free sharing actually IMPROVES sales.)

--- Andrew

Re: Your argument is nonsensical.

Someone who picks your lock, enters your house, and takes things actually deprives you of those things. Now the thief has your TV, and you do not.

Someone who copies your film deprives no one of anything: you still have as many copies as you had before, as does everyone else. There is now a NEW copy in existence.

"Steal my bicycle and now I have no bicycle; copy my song and now we both have it."

For some reason you insist on regarding a rather recent government-granted monopoly on copying with a property right. It's not property (courts have been pretty consistent on his point), it's a statutory monopoly designed to support a particular business model -- at the expense of other business models, for example, those that depend on free circulation of information. The guy selling so-called "pirated" DVDs illegally on the corner? That's a business model too! At other times in history, it's been perfectly legal; right now it's not; and in the future it might be again. There is no reason his business model is any worse than the monopoly-based one. It's just a question of policy.

As for "stealing" vs "sharing": in stealing, one party has to actually lose the item that was stolen. If that doesn't happen, then it's not stealing, it's something else. "Illegal copying" would be a more accurate term.

If most artists made their livings from copyright royalties, your "rightful compensation" phrase might hold a little more weight. But the fact is, copyright does not provide the economic basis of creativity, as you surely know if you work in the arts. Copyright is for publishers -- that's who invented it, and they invented it to support a particular centralized-distribution business model.

Yes, if you can break DRM it is okay to do so. Maybe it's not legal, in some places, in which case I encourage you not to do it in those places. But there is no moral issue with instructing your computer to make copies of something, and there's no reason at all why some third party ought to have the right to tell you what you can and can't make copies of. (If there were a privacy issue here, as in the case of medical information or something, that would be different... But privacy is not an issue: we're talking about published works already in circulation. Artists who don't want their works in circulation shouldn't release them!)

"Nonsensical" is treating copyable goods (like digital data) as though they were physical goods (like bicycles). The physics of the situations are completely different. Property law is all about how we decide allocation and usage of physical goods, since they cannot be replicated at zero cost; to some degree the concept of property is also relevant for trademarked symbols and names, since those lose their value (to everyone, not just the holder) when they are replicated without restriction. That is, identity protection is a social good, which is why trademarks and copyrights are different things.

But works of art and information (that is, works that can be copyrighted) work the opposite way: they get more valuable (to everyone) the more they are shared (with proper attribution, of course -- no one is advocating plagiarism). Treating replicable works the same way we treat physical property would be nonsensical indeed...

Re: Your argument is nonsensical.

Umm, EXCUSE ME??? "If most artists made their livings from copyright royalties, your "rightful compensation" phrase might hold a little more weight."??? Copyright is for publishers -- that's who invented it, and they invented it to support a particular centralized-distribution business model.???

ARE YOU FOR REAL??? Like a real live person, or a robot?? I'm to disagree with you but the fact is that the majority of films in this country are not made by major studio's, nor distributed by major studio's. They are made by Independent filmmaker's who begged and borrowed to find money to create his Art. Do you have any idea how many INDEPENDENT Filmmakers submitted films to Toronto and Sundance in 08? According Sundance 8,000! I garrentee you that WELL OVER HALF were financed by the FILMMAKER himself! Have you not noticed how many films come out each year, that now credit the filmmaker as the producer, writer, and Director? Do you have any idea how many people work or provide services for deferred payment on an indie film? Or volunteer to work on indie-films hoping they'll turn a profit so they'll be hired to work on the next film? Without royalties from sales where the heck do you think the money to pay these deferments and loans comes from? Or make the next picture? You think distributor give the filmmaker what spent on the film? You absolutely could not be more wrong in your assumption! If copyrights were only created to protect the deep pockets of major publishers, then why in the heck is the Independent film and television Association, joining the MPAA to fight piracy?? That evil distributor advances a filmmaker only a very SMALL amount of what the distributor thinks the film will generate in sales. Today that is about 75 to 85,000 and that is it! Meaning that indie-filmmaker ABSOLUTELY relies on those distributors sales pull in at couple of MILLION in royalties to recover the rest of the MILLION or more to pay back his loan, PLUS make a profit so that he can feed his family AND produce another film! THEY ABSOLUTELY make a living from those royalties. Assuming they don't is very very sad misunderstanding of how an indie filmmaker is paid. Understand this the OVERWHELMING majority of independent filmmakers WILL NOT MAKE ENOUGH BACK TO PAY OFF THEIR LOANS OR INVESTORS, That is the facts!

Therefore the pirate on the corner selling an INDIE film, who likely copied his copy, and isn't sharing his profits with the indie filmmaker, his business model is theft! Because 9 times out of ten he is certainly depriving the filmmaker of the earnings from the product the filmmaker produced!

Example, Director William Malone, just made a film called Parasomnia, you can watch it for free at any movie link indexing website. Now, Malone use to make films and tv shows under the studio systen and networks. He got sick of being praised for his imagery but slammed for story things, that he had no control over. Masters of Horror gave him a taste of complete creative freedom/control over his one-hour film, and the results was a brilliant, beautiful work of Art for the series. The best of both seasons, as far as I'm concerned. Hence the reason I took the job on his latest picture. (I have not been paid yet!) After that, he decided he didn't want to go back to the studio's, he wanted keep his creative freedom. So he and two friends took out 2nd mortgages on their homes to make Parasomnia. The film is a very unique entry into the genre, an artistic blend of Beksinski's surrealist artwork, Automatons, blood, film score, classical music, and 60 garage bands. The reviews from all the online genre press that have seen it so far have all been excellent, with JoBlo even calling it "a fascinating and fiercely original work of art! and "brave and inspiring piece" Today if you add the numbers on the pirate and illegal streaming sites, the film has been downloaded and streamed over 70,000 times in the last three weeks, and this guy has NOT received one single dime for this film yet and is facing the bank taking his HOME, along with his friends homes!!! Think twice before you go around spouting this non-sense about filmmaker's not making a living on royalties. Every time a pirate profits from this man work, work which he hasn't even been paid for yet, and as who is about to lose his home, and does not share those profits, that is depriving him of his lively hood!

Re: Your argument is nonsensical.

There are a few things wrong with the concept that a "strong" copyright is need to protect the livelihood of artists.

1. First the purpose of copyright is not to create a "toll booth" for the artist to make gobs of money. It is meant to give the creator a LIMITED monopoly to foster the creation new content for the benefit of the public. Should I repeat the phrase, "benefit of the public".
2. Second, we are forgetting some simple economics. If you take a risk to market a product that you invested time and money in creating and it doesn't sell, to bad, you just experienced the free-market at work.
3. An overlooked aspect in the copyright debate is that copyright holders are actually STEALING from the public domain. How are they stealing from the public, the length of copyright has been growing, the items subject to copyright have expanded, and the concept of "fair-use" is being eroded. When a member of the public buys content, they have a property right in the use of that content, to take that property right away is stealing.
4. Recent studies on piracy indicate that piracy does not result in a loss of sales. As such the content creator is NOT being "damaged" by piracy. The innovative solution, for the content creator, would be to figure out how to make piracy work for your benefit.

Re: Your argument is nonsensical.

This is funny: "As a filmmaker I absolutely SHOULD have the "monopoly" to decide who can get access to my art, and where it ends up. "

Try telling that to the kids doing mash-ups on their computers. Maybe you would like to throw them all into a federal prison to protect your monopoly? Your line of thought will go extinct within the next 10 years... you and everyone like you are a dinosours.

Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.

Pablo Picasso

Yes content IS free, and labour costs money :-j

I think it will be inevitable that understandings of what exactly free culture is and how to use it to make money will have to build slowly.
Thanks Nina for a real "ideas in action" demonstration of free culture at work!

We have blogged about it on our open media site http://pool.org.au

http://www.pool.org.au/blog/pool_team/artists_earn_from_free_culture

Cheerio John

Re: Content is free?

"Digital technology is the universal solvent of intellectual property rights." -Tom Parmenter

Since I'm supposed to buy multiple copies in your world, am I disallowed remembering, describing or re-enacting scense without paying you? If my hard drive of memories is subject to policing, why not my head?

Polish translation of "Understanding Free Content"

Hi!

I allowed myself to translate "Understanding Free Content" into Polish and put it here:

http://luckyluke7777777.blogspot.com/2009/06/tumaczenie-nina-paley-zrozumiec-wolna.html

Thanks! Keep up the good work!

Luke7777777

_______

Luke7777777.blogspot.com
http://luke7777777.blogspot.com/
CATHOLICISM > LIBERTARIANISM > INFOANARCHY

LuckyLuke7777777.blogspot.com
http://luckyluke7777777.blogspot.com/
CULTURE, MEDIA & STUFF

Advertising

I really like your point about free enabling a far more reasoned, fair awareness of what you're offering, than traditional advertising.

I've struggled with advertising for a long time; artificially trying to induce want for something is really not a great thing, psychologically, or more broadly as a society.

The free model, while still imperfect, seems like a great step forward from advertising. I like this a good deal. I've recognised this for a long time in free software, but for some reason never made the connection to other copyable work.

Thanks!

On the mystery of value

Nina Paley has argued that the audience contributes to the value of a work of art. I made a similar argument in a book about music. First we have Nina's statement and then we have mine.

1) Nina Paley, from a comment somewhere up there:

"I contributed about 7,800 hours to making Sita. That's a lot of time, and every hour I put into it made the film more valuable. I conservatively estimate the audience has contributed at least 300,000 hours to Sita, probably a lot more. Every hour they put into the film makes it more valuable. They've put a lot more hours into it than I have, and I haven't paid them a dime. Yet I enjoy attribution for the film, and all this value accrues to me! Sweet.

"If you don't believe that the value comes from the audience, and is instead inherent to the work itself, then by all means please keep your work safely hidden, and don't publish it."

2) Me, from the last chapter of my book, Beethoven’s Anvil, where I talk about Louis Armstrong and a particular phrase he liked to quote; in particular, note the last sentence:

"The greatness of an individual musician such as Armstrong is a function, both of his power to forge compelling performances from the “raw” memes and of the existence of that meme pool. While Armstrong may have been ahead of his fellows, he couldn’t have been very far ahead of them, otherwise they could not have performed together. Beyond this, without a large population of music-lovers familiar with the same meme pool, Armstrong’s recordings would have had little effect. By the time he went to Chicago, a large population had been listening and dancing to rags and blues, show tunes, fox trots and Charlestons and marches, all with a hot pulse and raggy rhythms. Armstrong’s improvisations gave them a new wild pleasure, and their collective joy made him great."

-- Bill Benzon

nice quote

"While Armstrong may have been ahead of his fellows, he couldn’t have been very far ahead of them, otherwise they could not have performed together."

Nicely put, Bill.

Thanks opening / continuing a needed discussion

I am not sure that what you advocate would work well enough - but I know the current system doesn't work very well either! In any case, it's important to get people to question the purpose and effectiveness of copyright (and patents), and look for alternatives. The current corporate takeover (people need to re-examine the purpose and effectiveness of corporate charters too) has to my mind clearly gone too far, and there isn't enough "push-back". Your advocacy is important push-back, getting people to question the assumed legitimacy of current copyright practices (or even copyright at all).

It's important that people understand the copyright is not an individual right like freedom of speech, but (in the US anyway) a limited special privilege granting the power of the state (enforcing monopoly) for the purpose of serving the best interests of the population - by fostering creativity and distribution of creative works. Copyright advocates should have the burden of proof in maintaining, much less expanding, this special treatment - needing to demonstrate from time to time that the monopoly should be continued because it IS indeed fostering the results that justify it, better than other methods. Your alternate viewpoints should be considered in the discussion.

But of course copyright legislation is about who has money for lobbyists and campaign donations, not about a balanced discussion of how best to foster creativity. For now, the most we can hope for in the short run is to puncture the smug certainty that copyright is obviously correct - create some cracks in the hermetic seals around the status quo. But all big cracks start as small ones.

Kind regards, Zeph

Re: Understanding Free Content

I would like to discuss this in a more broad perspective. The freebie-loving nature of humans makes free content inevitable. Let me give you a few examples, What would make questioncopyright.org skyrocket in traffic for a single post? Simply, free tools, freebies or a free source of services rendered in the post for readers to benefit from. If one replaces such post with an advertisement or a press release type of posts, most likely there will only be one type of people interested: "potential customers". And trust me they are not as many as free content seekers.

Another example is PDF books. A research has proven that most of internet users would rather read a free book if it was claimed to be sold elsewhere (the get-this-for-free-for-limited-time-only marketing style) rather than a direct free-to-download ebook. (This did not prevent Amazon from sitting on gazillions of dollars out of selling books though, wink wink).

Last example is that most web searcher try to find cracked content and software rather than search for the direct sales page for their target product. There will always be one site for the product, and thousands of cracking sites for the exact same product. Why? You get the idea.

Great article BTW.

Medo Joe.

Trading Systems.

Re: Understanding Free Content

"But who is going to sell a movie on a hard drive?"

Many digital films (for theaters) are already distributed on hard drives. A digital film longer than 90 minutes can take up over 170 gigabytes of space! I don't think that can fit on an SD card.

Re: Understanding Free Content

This says it perfectly. I think that having free information online is wonderful because it eliminates a lot of physical pollution in the sense of cases and so forth. It also makes it so that you can get exactly what you want or research something that you think you may need in your life.

 

Re: Understanding Free Content

My father wrote a book Culture vs. Copyright, where he examines free culture ideas in detail. There is in-depth analysis of both how culture itself works, as well as how free-culture economy supports authors, their audience, as well as intermediaries. The conclusions are very similar yo ones posted in this article.

The book is written in mixed ganre, and is fun to read. It's posted online, and is distributed (obviously) under license which allows commercial and non-commercial re-distribution.

 

Re: Understanding Free Content

I realize I'm late in joining this conversation, but the subject continues to be an issue and I really do want to understand your reasoning.

It appears that you are making the argument that only physical objects have intrinsic value. Are you completely opposed to the idea of "Intellectual" property? Do you believe that if someone produces some sort of work, then makes it available for viewing or listening that it automatically becomes, or should become, part of the public domain?

How are you defining value? Is there no distinction to be made between monetary, cultural or utilitarian values? Let’s say I dig a ditch. Ten people watch me swing the pick axe and go and tell their friends. A hundred of them come to check out my little trench. Does that add value to the ditch? How?  Is it worth more if I sign my name in the dirt or put up a plaque with my name on it?

Containers do not add to the intrinsic value of water. They are simply delivery systems. The power of water is already in the water. It has inherent value independent of your ability to access it. And no one had to labor to cause it to exist. And like water, content is not “in fact free”. It’s costing whoever is upstream working to make that content something to make it. When I pay my water bill each month, I’m paying not only for the delivery infrastructure, but for the water as well…two separate things, each with a value and an attending cost.

Why do you see culture and content as synonymous? How are you defining culture? Which culture are you referring to? In what way might your film contribute to the culture of some remote tribe of bush people in the Rain Forrest?

Unlike most of the other commenter’s, I'm not a film maker. I'm a songwriter & music producer. And I publish my own works. I am hardly “Big Media”. I am one solitary person whose copyrights have been a valuable resource. I don't expect to be paid simply because I put in XXX amount of hours to complete a project, but if someone likes the end result enough to want to possess a copy of it, in whatever form that might take, why shouldn't I be allowed to put a price tag on it? They are free to decide whether or not they want it enough to pay what I’m asking, just like they would a bucket, a chair or a can of tennis balls. And how would I sign a download?

Music theory is “information”. Recording techniques are “information”. The works I create are not. They are the result of my having devoted my time, energy, money, and effort, all of which are finite resources, to see a thing through to completion.  That makes them a product. Just because my work can be digitized and infinitely reproduced without depriving me of the original rendering doesn't relegate that work to the realm of ideas or information.

I'm having an especially difficult time wrapping my head around the idea that an audience should be paid for…well, being an audience. If an artist is doing their job successfully, the audience is compensated in any number of ways. They might be inspired, excited, moved, become better informed, gain new insights or points of view, or just simply be entertained for a little while. Each of those results has value. That’s what I get in return for watching a film, attending a reading or exhibition, or listening to music.

  

Re: Understanding Free Content

Hi Anon. Of course, I can't speak for Nina, but I hope I can help you find a better perspective on the subject.

"It appears that you are making the argument that only physical objects have intrinsic value."

When holding a book and reading what is not on screen, were the valuable things that Nina mentioned physical, or based on what was physical? What makes us value physical objects more than non-physical objects is subjective, as value is determined subjectively.

"A hundred of them come to check out my little trench. Does that add value to the ditch? How?  Is it worth more if I sign my name in the dirt or put up a plaque with my name on it?"

Of course not. Value does not get added to a work by people just looking at it. You could make a sideshow involving pineapples and hammers, but if people won't like it, they won't see it as valuable. The only way value for your ditch digging can go up is if you are somehow impressing somebody. I would say you must do things in a very unusual way if you got one hundred people to watch you dig a ditch!

"Why do you see culture and content as synonymous?"

I identify with your skepticism here. Both culture and content of these can exist as information, a metaphysical construct. "Content" is what we call things that describe something else, which can include culture. However, culture can also help establish a means to generate content. They may not be synonomous, but they can be interdependent concepts.

"I'm having an especially difficult time wrapping my head around the idea that an audience should be paid for…well, being an audience."

If an audience takes time out of their lives to promote something seriously (which would involve freely manufacturing something), it isn't unfair for them to request compensation for their labor. Now, if they were profiting from an artist's work via plagarism, then we'd have a problem.

"Music theory is “information”. Recording techniques are “information”. The works I create are not."

Sorry, but yes, your work may very well be information. Products and information have merged, meaning I can now send people movies, comics, games and other things to people as if it were a message (or via a kind of "speech", if you will). Although you can certainly treat information like a product, that does not necessarily mean it magically loses the properties that also make it information. Now, if you made a big hulkin' machine, then I would not call that a product-information hybrid.

Information exists as obervable properties in physical arrangements. The properties and their "meaning" are defined by intelligent observers. As far as reality cares, this text is just a bunch of stuff. However, the arrangement of the electrons in this webserver forms all sorts of things to finally end up representing language that you understand, and maybe even value.

If you bust your butt making music, and your music is on your computer, it physically exists as a hardware state. The arrangements are interpreted by us as melody (we tell computers to interpret it that way too!), and we like that stuff. What you have to remember is that your music really is information. Share it! We might want to give you money to make more.

"If someone likes the end result enough to want to possess a copy of it, in whatever form that might take, why shouldn't I be allowed to put a price tag on it?"

I won't say you should not. I think you have all the right in the world to ask for compensation. But, in a capitalist economy, trade is free. This means people do not have to pay you. Since it is now possible to get products both freely and for free, the only reason anyone would pay for your work is if you convince them the trade is worth it. You have to make that happen in a world that may very well come to embrace free distribution.

"Containers do not add to the intrinsic value of water."

This contradicts your statement about how your labor adds to the value of your work. Thing is, you are also a container. Not a dumb machine, mind you, but you are something that stores and operates on information. In fact, you are a member of the species that built computers, which are tools that seem to reflect our understanding of the world. If your products can exist as information, and your labor makes them more valuable AND you are a container, then yes, containers DO add to the instristic value of the "water". If you disagree, can you explain why you are not a kind of container?