For Love or Money: Vocationalism


Ivan Tsarevitch from Morevna Project

"Ivan Tsarevitch" from Morevna Project: I suppose you could call this "programmer art" since the artist is also one of the main developers of Synfig Studio (Konstantin Dmitriev | / CC-By-SA 3.0)

We need to change the words we use for serious free culture artists. I suggest "vocational": "a vocational work", "a vocational artist", "artists who show vocationalism in their work".

I thought about this as I was considering Nina Paley's story about trying to submit some of her own (very much "vocational" and also "professional") work to the Wikimedia Commons -- only to be disbelieved on the basis that her work was of too high a quality! This concept of "professional" versus "amateur" work has bothered me for a long time. Partly this may be because I often seem to be stuck in between: am I a professional writer or an amateur one? I get paid to write for Free Software Magazine, but I don't get paid very much, and I don't get paid at all to write for Question Copyright. But both tasks are very much a part of my vocation as a writer and as a free culture advocate. I expect to be judged on the same scale as any professional.

Another objection is that the stigma of "amateurishness" is sometimes assigned to free culture art. People speak snidely of "programmer art" (though of course, a few programmers are quite good artists, and vice-versa). I honestly believe that some artists hold back from freeing their work not because they are really worried about remuneration, but because they fear that releasing it for free will somehow cheapen the work (or them) by making it "unprofessional" or "amateur".

Of course, I'm bothered by that idea in itself. There's something a little dirty about the fact that we have so elevated commerce that we now implicitly place professional work (made for money) above amateur work (made for love). Surely there ought to be something a little more holy about work gifted to the world out of an artist's spiritual need than out of their need to pay the rent? (Not that paying the rent isn't important, but there ought to be some respect for the long perspective).


Nina Paley to present at OKCon 2011

Nina Paley, artist 

QCO Artist in Residence and Free Culture's favorite cartoonist, Nina Paley, will be presenting at this year's OKCon, the Open Knowledge Conference, in Berlin, Germany. Nina's talk will focus on her personal story of freeing her artwork and the resultant flourishing of her life and career. She will also devote time to talking about non-commercial restrictions in popular licenses that purport to be Free Culture.

The talk will take place on July 1st 2011 at 16:00 in the Main Track space. Click here for more information about Nina, her talk, and OKCon .


Why Piracy is Good and Copyright Sucks: An Excerpt From “Sell Your Own Damn Movie!”

Written by Lloyd Kaufman with Sara Antill. Lloyd Kaufman is founder of Troma Films. His most recent book, “Sell Your Own Damn Movie!” is now available in paperback. This article is cross-posted from IndieWIRE. --NP

Why Piracy is Good and Copyright Sucks: An Excerpt From “Sell Your Own Damn Movie!”
The cover of Lloyd Kaufman's recent book, "Sell Your Own Damn Movie!"

I met a Troma fan in Florida a few years ago who told me how he used to get eight Netflix DVDs at a time, keep them for a day or two while he downloaded them to his computer and then return them for eight more. Once he had the digital files, he would make copies for his friends, asking about $2 for the cost of the blank DVD and the effort.

One night, while extremely high, he had figured out that, based on the number of movies he had copied and the penalty for each one, if caught, he would owe the government about $2.5 million in fines and face the rest of his life in prison.

Now, for someone who had already sold himself to the government in the form of federal student loans for film school, the prospect of an extra $2.5 million was pretty frightening. He gave up the pirate DVD business and started selling weed instead, as there were fewer risks involved. That was how we met. Last I heard, he was in jail for selling drugs, but he’ll be out sooner than if he had been caught selling $2 DVDs of “I Know Who Killed Me” to his friends.

Thomas Jefferson would have been appalled at this story. And not just because I think he would have liked trashy Lindsay Lohan movies. But because Thomas Jefferson believed that all art should belong to the public. For him, public domain was a large, thriving democracy, while copyright was a fat king thousands of miles away eating puddings and meat pies.

Unfortunately, we have reversed this with current law. Now copyright is king, while public domain has been relegated to obscurity. Thomas Jefferson, who was against copyright and said himself, “Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property,” finally agreed to compromise and include the issue of patents (and, by interpretation, copyright law) in the Constitution:



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