Freedom isn’t free

I blimmin’ love the internet and what I most love about it is that’s free. Well obviously apart from the cost of the broadband and the phone line and having a computer to access it on. It is actually free to use in the library, but they’re pretty restrictive on what you can go on. Trust me.

The web itself is a bit like a library, except it’s the greatest library in the world, with every book ever written, plus every song, every film and every photo too. And it’s all pretty much freely available, unless you happen to live somewhere like China, with it’s state-controlled content access. And with Google recently pulling out of the country, it looks like the internet will become even more restricted.

There’s been rumblings in the blog-o-sphere (I love that phrase) in the UK recently over the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, a raft of reforms which it’s feared will be the first step to reducing our freedom to share online. The proposed introduction of a clumsy three strike rule for piracy offenders has been condemned as the government bowing to media corporation pressure.

We all expect everything online to be free and, unfortunately, that cannot remain the case. I don’t care whether illegal downloads costs Sony a million quid, but I am worried that there is an expectation for everyone to give away there work for free. Just as Murdoch is trying to make people pay for certain specific news online, so some artist’s feel that they should be charging people to view their work.

Illustrator and wit-merchant Kevin McCormac wrote very openly on his own site about the touchy subject of access to artist’s work online. His conundrum is that whilst he enjoys creating online comics, he gets no return on his time, other than positive feedback. I recommend taking the time to read through the comments on this article.

Hardcore internet crusaders will take the stance that the web’s founding principles are based on freedom of information for all. On the flip-side, why should artists be expected to make all their work available online for free, open to copying by unscrupulous types? Even assuming that people only want to look at your work to see how awesome you are, you can’t be expected to keep producing stuff with no recompense.

Adam Sacks, also tackled this issue, slightly more flippantly. Writing about his comic, Salmon Doubt on his blog, he rejoiced; “It’s not all bad though.  This finally gives me a way to monetize Salmon Doubts.  Lawsuits!”

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