Economics are usually not on my hot topics list to write about or even think about, however recently I came across too many too good articles on the discrepancy between “free” and “open” content (find an incomplete list in the references at the bottom of this post) that make me want to join the conversation.
There was a time, ages ago, when everything was offline and if you want to read an article you buy a newspaper and if you want to listen to music you buy a cassette (or a CD if you are that cool). People were actually much poorer then than we are today and yet they were crazy enough to spend money on things like art or culture.
Not paying for art and information is a big problem in a world where everyone can post information and there is no one to curate it. Curation is something we need more than ever today and yet noone is ready to pay for it. Nevertheless, I fear this is just one symptom of our big big problem.
With the emergence of internet and its explosive development and implementation in our lives everything changed and yet nothing really changed. As we say in design, we just put lipstick on an elephant. Social media changed the way we communicate, the way we receive and spread information, but our physical environment didn’t even begin to accommodate that change. Content suddenly started flowing from everywhere in every quality, but legislation barely approached the issue of licencing it. It’s like the entire world lives a double life – the one online, where everything is free and open and the one “in the real world” where you still need to pay for your bread with money. Not to mention that these money are same kind your grandpa was earning back when there was no such thing as “clickbaits”. How come is it that things that are physical, produced in large quantities by machines cost money and things that take a large amount of time, effort and expertise by a human are free?
Manufacturers aren’t earning, because robots stole their jobs. Creatives don’t get paid for the articles, music or videos they create, because they aren’t sellouts…that would be a shame. A robot doesn’t get paid because it’s a robot. So then where does all money go? And where does money come from actually, if not from labour? How come is it that stock markets and banks get so well paid when there is no product from their work?
How long can this bubble go on before bursting?
From our experience as a civilisation we know that when a bubble bursts, it hurts. The bigger the splash, the bigger the damage. So while we brace ourselves for yet another hit, let’s prepare. Let’s talk about it and maybe, just maybe, let’s pay for something we value. Remember the time when taxpayers were funding work like the Fish slapping dance or the Silly Olympics? It seems bizzare today, but surprisingly, if something is of any value, it has a cost and this is something that will never change. If we don’t fund the things we consume, we will soon consume what we funded – warfare and crash of stock markets.
Hereby I turn to creators everywhere : I am ready to pay to see your work and respect and encourage subscription fees. Free content is evil. Money ain’t for nothing and chicks ain’t free. #freeischeap
“Let me break down how we’ve screwed creative people over” by Jon Westerberg
The Fish Slapping Dance Sketch by Monty Python, BBC, aired October 1972
Silly Olympics Sketch by Monty Python, BBC, aired May 1982