Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Greying out the blog

Yeah, it's the SOPA and PIPA legislation.  On one hand, piracy--both domestic and international--is preventing writers, musicians, and other artists from making a living wage.

On the other hand, the federal government taking down your web site because someone else illegally uploads stuff to your site even though you have policies against it is not only messing with due process, but it can potentially have a freezing effect on First Amendment rights.

So this post is officially greying out (not blacking out) the blog today.   I have come to hate it when people steal my stuff and make money off me without my permission or sharing the profits with me.  I have come to hate that if I had to live on what I make from my writing, I'd be lucky to be living in a tent under a bridge (and that's after writing for major NYC publishers).  I have come to hate that people are willing to pay $5.00 for the experience of having a barista make a three-minute fancy cup of coffee that normally would cost 50 cents if they did it themselves, but want to experience for free the stories that have taken me almost a year each to write.

And that's saying a lot, because I love my lattes and am willing to shell out $5.00 plus tip for a nice fancy venti latte at Starbucks.  Especially because I know those baristas are often students who are trying to make it through to graduation.  Been there, done that.

But I also do not like that the federal government is incredibly clumsy about securing the rights I have over my property, so clumsy that they write legislation that can damage new and innovative ways of getting my stuff out there so that I and others can make a living wage.

There is a middle way. There is a way for online businesses like YouTube and Google and everyone else to make profits for themselves and still pay the content providers (writers, musicians, artists).

Here's an idea:  Every time someone uploads a copyrighted video to YouTube, if YouTube finds it, they charge the uploading subscriber 50 cents.  Then YouTube turns around and splits that amount with the copyright holder.  Anyone can upload whatever they want.  But they will be charged for uploading something with a copyright that belongs to someone else.

That's fair, isn't it?  50 cents isn't a lot for one person.  It's the price of a latte if you were to make it yourself.   If you think something you like is worth posting on YouTube, you can think about whether it's worth 50 cents to do it.  If it is, then you can rest easy in the idea that all those people who worked hard to make that video--writers, musicians, artists, cinematographers, the guy who sweeps the studio floor--all get paid to feed their families.  But if a video is good enough that millions of people think it's worth 50 cents each to upload it, then that will add up to enough money to help keep writers, musicians, artists, cinematographers, and the guy who sweeps the studio floor in a job.

We're in a bad economy. A heck of a lot of people don't have jobs.  Economists say that one big reason why we don't have jobs and are in such a big economic hole is that we don't create and produce enough products in our own country.  Not enough to export to other countries.

One of the very few things left that we in the United States do produce and export is music, writing, and art.  Ironically, very few of us in the U.S. want to pay for it or support it.  We don't want to buy the very thing that helps our economy get better. We want it for free.

That ebook you see on Amazon, written by an American?  That rightly and proudly should have a stamp on it that says "Made in the U.S.A."  You see that book in your local bookstore or that song written by a local musician on iTunes?  That book's been translated into different languages as an export, and that song's on a CD that's being exported to another country.  Someone not only wrote that book and performed that music, but a lot of other people printed that book and created the cover art, and produced that song and made it into a CD.  All done in the U.S.A.

It brings other countries' money into our country.  It pays our people.  Art, music, and books that Americans create keeps jobs in our country.  It's one of the very few things that still do.

Support free speech, but make sure to pay people for the work they do--and that includes paying people who create and help create art.  It means you, in the end, will have a better chance at keeping your own job as well.

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