August 25, 2006

A hidden penalty in there somewhere  

suttonhoo is here expressing reservations about Creative Commons. In particular, she's concerned that as an amateur she's taking food off the plate of a pro photographer somewhere.

I'm of two minds about this issue, as I hinted in a comment to this post. I appreciate good photography, I appreciate the fine arts in general, I appreciate professional opinions (synthetic journalism?), I appreciate (!) popular music. To the extent that free content reduces the supply of the best of these things by making them harder to sustain as vocations, I am sorry. I'm probably too much of an aesthetic snob to abandon the idea that there is great work out there, and that it takes real time and talent to produce.

But I also see a tremendous value in having the vast majority of that professional world go away. It's not inconceivable now to think about everyone in the entire world having the opportunity to photograph, write, create music, and publish all of it. Surely this possibility for unlimited human expression is more important than the interests of a few professionals whose services aren't valuable enough to really differentiate them in the first place. There will still be professionals; their numbers will just be limited to what the market can support (and yes, there will still be a market) or how much a government is willing to subsidize.

I also find it interesting that there are different cultural responses to different modes of expression on this point; I mentioned pop music before because I seriously doubt that suttonhoo would be conflicted if she were a singer releasing pop songs on her blog for free. What if I posted a novel in this space tomorrow? Nobody would worry about the harm it might inflict on Jonathan Safron Foer's next offering. Maybe the difference is that novels and pop songs are in and of themselves expression, while stock photography is more of a trade, one that often supports other more explicitly creative work. I guess my point is that other trades can support that kind of creativity, as they do for me and apparently for suttonhoo. To be sure, this is an economic point; but I also see it as empowering the vast majority of us, who have historically resided outside that creative elite.

suttonhoo  {August 25, 2006}

love how you've turned over this stone for closer examination -- my post this morning was only glancing (and not entirely well-formed) -- if I were *terribly* conflicted (and had an ounce of character ;) I wouldn't have consented to that release.

I think one of the coolest things about Flickr is how it has created a playground for creativity -- the social component alone draws out and encourages folks to do work that they might not have done in isolation.

I do have a few more thoughts about this -- about where that ill-at-ease feeling that prompted my morning post came from -- but after drafting a few paragraphs here I realized that it's probably more appropriate to write up another post than to clog up your comments. ;) coming soon.

suttonhoo  {August 25, 2006}

here ya go:

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