Free Everything!

About one thing there can be no debate: once and for all, digital media have unambiguously declared that content is and should be free. Free to consume, not necessarily produce.

Don’t think so? For those of you reading this, send me ten bucks. If you’ve “shared” it, send me five and have each of your “share” recipients send me five.

When might I expect to receive your money?

The answer reminds one of the famous New Yorker cartoon. A man is shown cradling a telephone and responding to a caller’s request for an appointment with him. “No,” the man says, “Thursday is not good. How about never? Is never good for you?”

Cementing the assertion above about free-to-consumer content, is the recent Circuit Court’s decision certifying the legality of Google’s book scanning project.

The Court’s decision – sure to be appealed – indicates that scanning is protected by Fair Use. And Google’s position is that rather than hurting sales or infringing on author rights, the scanning project may, instead, stimulate interest in the scanned books.

This is the face of twenty-first century altruism and philanthropy.

The court isn’t denying the ownership of invention of ideas. Authors, composers and the rest retain that, as certified and protected by copyright.

Instead, the court is defining the boundaries permissible for authors, composers and the like to exploit their proprietary interests.

And, on the other side, the point at which readers, listeners and the like can consume without compensating the “product’s” inventor.

Worriers argue the court’s decision will have a chilling effect. Why, they suggest, would anyone go to the trouble to create when everyone else can help themselves to the creator’s “product” without cost?

True? At least some assert the “itch” to create is what motivates the behavior (the creation). Money or other forms of compensation are incidental.

True? If so, then why have some states enacted “resale laws” governing the secondary market for art? Such laws “protect” artists who are compensated for profits earned by the original (first) purchasers of the art.

My purchase today of a canvas painted by an unknown artist can result in the artist profiting should I re-sell the painting at some later time at a price above the initial purchase cost.

Now who needs aspirin?

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