If Wishes Were Horses...

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Copyright, Wrongs, And How To Make A Living From The Internet

I don't know if you realise this but we all infringe on copyright every day. Every single, no-I'm-not-pulling-your-leg day. Go on, read the linked article at least three times. It's staggering. I mean, even looking at this post requires you to download it onto your PC, at least temporarily, so you can read the damn thing. In doing so, it made a copy of this file to store on your computer, but you didn't ask me if I'm okay with that, did you, you dirty thieving pirate, you?! Just kiddin'. But that's the problem. If you're mad keen on copyright, contact the PRS and pay for a licence before you sing Happy Birthday in public. Seriously, that's where we're at.

Okay, now that I've got your attention let's talk about this rationally. I've got 22 posts on this here blog and there's bog all I can do about it if someone decides to copy the whole thing wholesale and re-post it on their own website, then pretend it is their own. I suppose I can complain, but that's about it. An internet mob of Great Justice might descend upon the hapless plagiarist or it might not. They're well fickle, mobs.

The value of sharing

I can't afford to sue, so what are my options if someone else uses my work without my permission? This is why certain groups are trying to criminalise infringement, i.e. put people in prison for copying and sharing works that other people have created. That sounds weird and wrong to me. I mean, I've had this blog up for about three years, and in all that time I've had less than two thousand views. Honestly, if someone went and shared Mogrophobia or one of the Teacher posts I'd be all made up instead of chasing them for a share of their advert revenue. Why? Because that would drive traffic (i.e. readers) to this site to read my stuff instead of staying on that site reading theirs.

I've got one fan, most likely because she forgot to unsubscribe when I stopped posting here (real life got in the way). It stands to reason, then, that if I had more fans, they might want to support me in some way, shape or form. They might even want to give me money. So basically, if I want to make money, I need to find people who want to give me money, and given them a reason to hand it over.

The trouble with copyright

Copyright tends to get in the way of this; it automatically assumes that if you're reading or otherwise utilising something and not paying for it, you're a thieving little git. Copyright enthusiasts tell you that your work, including this post and the picture I made for it, are actual property in the way that a house or car is property and that using these things without your permission is theft. This sounds great until you realise the difference between infringement and theft.

You see, if someone takes my car and drives it away, I'm deprived of the use and value of my car while they've got it. If someone copies one of my pictures and pastes it on their own blog, they've not taken it away. I've still got the use and value of it. If I ask them for money for the picture and they pay me for it, I can still sell the picture to other people if I want to unless I've signed an agreement not to so the buyer only has the right to use the picture according to the licence, he doesn't own it. Now if someone copies the picture from his website, do they owe money to him or to me? Why, to me, of course! So in the case of copyright items, you can't really own them, you only licence them unless you buy the rights at the time. Now if I should forget that I sold you the rights to my picture, then stick it up on my portfolio, I'm the one who's guilty of infringement. Weird, eh? That's copyright for you. Infringement is basically not paying a licence fee to use the required item.

Alternative business models

See my pretty little .gif on the right, there? I received no remuneration for it and nothing but the sheer joy of creation made me want to take an hour or so out of my day to make it. One of the arguments pro-copyright people make is that copyright's purpose is to encourage creation. Okay, my .gif is not a masterpiece or anything, but the point is I didn't sit and sulk in my room until somebody paid me to make it. Creatives create because they want to, not for the money. Of course, we need to pay the rent, etc., but the idea that people should be FORCED to pay us just because we really, really want them to just seems wrong. So... do I hide my artwork and posts behind a paywall and demand money from yourselves, dear readers, or do I let you decide whether or not you want to buy me a coffee or click on my adverts, etc.,?

I suppose I could seek out sponsors and ask them to pay me to create posts and artwork, but then I'd be tied to a schedule and they'd want control over my work, deciding what I would or wouldn't post as Calver Keys and of course I'd have to mention their product in a promotional way every time, with links to their websites. At this point every creator realises this central truth: he who pays the piper calls the flippin' tune.

What copyright enthusiasts want is continued control of their creations even after they've been paid for. That's all kinds of wrong. They also want to double- and even triple- and quadruple-dip as and when required, i.e. all the time. PRS does this every time it collects licence fees from radio stations, then from businesses whose employees and customers listen to those same radio stations. This seems greedy and wrong to me. Now obviously it would be mega cool if I could sit at home all day writing blog posts for If Wishes Were Horses but the market says I can't, and by "the market" I mean my one and only fan doesn't want to pay to read my blog posts and that's fair enough. I truly believe that if I put up a paywall and demanded payment for access to my posts I would be laughed off the internet and deservedly so. And I'd lose my one fan who, as I've already pointed out, probably forgot to unsubscribe when I stopped posting here for two flippin' years.

So what can I do?

Well it's a no-brainer, really: get more fans. I'm not sure how to go about this but artistic integrity either needs to go flying out the window or I need to be so quirky that people can't stop talking about me and sharing my posts. Well since neither of those things would enable me to be myself perhaps I should just do what I want to do and if I become popular, great; and if I don't achieve world domination, that's okay too. I'm not sure if I want to be famous. I just want to have fun. Please feel free to share my stuff if you want to but please link here if you do. I could do with a leg up, traffic-wise. Ta.

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