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Value of creativity

In an op-ed in the New York Times, U2 singer Bono writes about music piracy and how young fledgling songwriters who can’t make money off of ticket and T-shirt sales are affected by it.

My first reaction when I read this was to think how eerily similar Metallica’s argument was a decade ago. In the summer of 2000, their drummer appeared at a congressional hearing, flanked by executives in the music industry, and effectively shut down Napster and the nascent file-sharing industry.

I found it appalling then that the RIAA and an aging musician could choke our new-found “internet freedom” because they were latching on to a outdated model of how the world should operate. I, along with many others my age, were sure that it was only a matter of time before free music became the norm and the RIAA and the rest of the music industry cowed to that reality.

Almost 10 years later, reading Bono’s article, I think I may have been wrong. While I like the idea that I can download the song I want without having to pay for a whole CD of other songs I may not want, my belief in the sustainability of “free” has faded.

For one, someone needs to pay to keep that creativity alive. Not everyone has an inheritance.

Two, the idea of getting something for free, whether it’s music, ebooks, software, or any other creation, without the express permission of the author, is just plain stealing, regardless of what spin we put on it. Now if the author gives it away for free, great. Maybe they’re hoping we’ll listen to the songs (or play that game) and if we like it, will buy it. Maybe they’re hoping we’ll pay to go to their concert or buy their training course for the software they open-sourced.

A happy medium could be a limitation on the length of copyright protection. I’ll pay for your music for a few years. If you want more money, create something else new. I don’t get paid for a project that I worked on last year. My company pays me for what I’m working on now. Many other professions work that way as well.

In the end, we have to accept that some things in the world are constantly changing. Business ideas shackled in a previous era may not apply today. And we all have to adapt to these changes. But some things stay the same. Innovation and creativity will always have value.

  1. January 4, 2010 at 6:18 am

    I agree with “innovation and creativity will always have value.” We know it when we see it and it has inherent value even if it isn’t something we want to listen to or hang on our wall or a place we want to work. However, who gets return on their innovations and creativity is not always so clear cut. You raise some great points.

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