DRM technology and policy

bear bear at sonic.net
Thu Apr 24 19:30:54 EDT 2003

On 24 Apr 2003, Derek Atkins wrote:

>No, but when I know I'm better than those amateurs...  "you get
>what you pay for".

Yeah.  Microsoft just *knew* its products were better than
Linux too.

>So, when I'm doing work *I* get to choose whether I'm working for
>free or working for hire.  It's _my_ choice.  And if I choose
>to ask for payment for my work, you can choose to go elsewhere,
>or you can choose to pay me.

Absolutely.  And the access to people who *are* providing their
work free is one of the things I really love about the internet.
The monopoly of paid artists, formerly enforced through the
distribution channels, is finally something we can get around,
and hallelujah.

And of course, if you want to be paid, you are absolutely free to do
your damnedest to keep your stuff out of the free channels.  I'll
support your choices, but I'm not going to knock myself out to
create paid channels when my needs for art are met spectacularly
well through the free ones.

The web has been good for art.  It's provided a route around
censorship for strips like "doonesbury" when major city papers refused
to carry something controversial.  It's allowed comic book artists a
way around the Diamond Media stranglehold on their business.  It's put
artists like Nellie and the Drummers in touch with an audience when
what they had would never appeal to a broad enough market in any one
city to merit radio play.  It's put microtonal music that I could
never have gotten from major labels back in my stereo.  It's freed
comic strip artists, once confined to single-strip gags by their
syndicates, to get seriously creative.  They can publish according to
their own schedules and they can make plotlines as complicated as they
damn well want, and they can even deal with situations that syndicates
don't want to touch, like <gasp!> gay characters or rape survivors.
The sheer diversity of what's available now eclipses by a factor of
ten, or fifty, everything that commercial art has produced in the last
fifty years, and a lot of it is better quality.

That's mostly because the distribution channels can't be monopolized
on the web, they're available even to people who aren't making much
money, and I LIKE it this way!

The artists who are doing well on the internet aren't businesses who
"sell" their art and withhold it from people who don't pay.  They're
amateurs who put it out there for everybody and put a paypal button on
their site for people who like it enough to support them with tips.
They're comic strip artists who are selling mugs, buttons, tee-shirts,
and plush dolls of characters that were brought to life and made
desirable solely by their art.  They're bands who get club dates on
the strength of tracks that club owners have freely downloaded and
listened to.  They don't get paid in the multimillions of dollars, but
they're making enough to continue to do their art, and that's the
payment they care about.

Now, if you can come up with a channel where you can withhold your
stuff from people who don't pay you big money, that's fine with me.
But you're going to have to compete with these guys getting their
stuff out for free, or for really cheap, and frankly I don't think
the channel you want is going to make enough money for me to care
about building it.

So next time I listen to my "Live at the Slaughterhouse" album from
Nellie and the Drummers, I'll think of you.  Next time I buy my
girlfriend a Kiki the ferret plushie off of Fluggy Freelance, I'll
think of you.  Next time I tip R.K. Milholland a buck for another good
year of "Something Positive", I'll think of you.

It's a shame if you don't want to make your art in this new world, or
maybe it's a shame if you couldn't sucker anybody into making your
money-losing distribution channel that can't compete with the web for
you, but artists come and go, and art lives on. That's how it's always

Have a nice day.


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