The Future of Ideas is now Free


General Culture

Over the most recent holiday break, I did a lot of thinking about this blog and about where I can/might take things. I wish I could say that when I started out blogging I had a master plan, which included reaching thousands of people interested in photography all over the world, but that’s simply not the case. But not having such a plan, in fact not having any plan, meant that this blog has grown organically (a weird word to use for something that only exists as bits and bytes) and that I had to figure out on the fly what I would like to do.

I am very happy about the fact that so many people think this blog is worthwhile looking at regularly, but I am also equally happy about the fact that the blog is free. I am a firm believer in free art and/or culture. Needless to say, one would like to add lots of qualifiers to such a statement - after all, artists (just like bloggers or writers for magazines or book publishers) have to make a living, so they have to be able to generate some kind of income - but beyond that necessity I don’t think that art should be primarily based on money at all!

Over the past few years, we have witnessed the slow, but steady transformation of art and culture, as the internet has resulted in changes that allowed people to do things that they were unable to do before. We’ve seen free blogs, say, and we’ve seen piracy of music and/or movies. I think what everybody will have to realize is that none of this is going to go away. The genie is out of the bottle, and it now up to us to decide what we will do with it and how to tackle it.

For photographers, this development has resulted in being able to show their work to a much larger audience, but, on the other side, especially commercial photographers have become vulnerable to copyright violations (just as an aside, this is not a new problem, though: A while back, a friend of mine found that a very well-known musician had scanned images from one of his books and used them on the covers of CDs without asking my friend for permission).

Lawrence Lessig has been very actively thinking about all these issues for a long time - so it’s really better for me to leave the discussion of the details up to him. He made his last book, Free Culture available as a pdf file, for people to download, while it was also possible to simply buy the actual book (which I did). His new book, The Future of Ideas is now available in the same fashion (the new book I have not read, yet - just in case you’re wondering).

As a final note to all of this, I think it’s also worthwhile to remind people of how the band Radiohead initially distributed their new album. They made it available on the web, so people could download it and then pay however much they wanted for it. As far as I know, the album is now only available as a CD or via the usual electronic download sites.

PS: If you want to comment I do appreciate your thoughts on this. But please refrain from making copyright (or Creative Commons) the central issue, since that is not the main point of what I am writing about.