I have been having discussions about the future of writing and publishing since the future was 1990, and for about the last decade I've been tilting my head and asking quizzically of a lot of very good-hearted people, "Yes, free content is great, but how exactly will the artists and producers be paid?"
So, with apologies to all my wonderful friends from Toronto's Centre for Social Innovation, with whom I've had so many good-natured discussions about culture and the free-conomy, I just really need to link to this article:
The Future Won’t Be Free
In his op-ed for Newsweek, former "information wants to be free" advocate Andrew Zolli presents a remarkable mea culpa to culture and media:
Unfortunately, as we've seen since, for companies whose core product is content — like every newspaper and magazine you read, including this one — the idea that we Internet visionaries sold is a total load of crap.
... Following our lead, companies have now trained a generation of young people to never, ever, ever expect to pay for content on a laptop or desktop.
... In the long run, the first decade of the Web could come to be seen as a momentary aberration—an echo of '60s free culture when we all took the bad, digital acid. So, media companies, on behalf of all misdirected Internet visionaries, I'm sorry. We like you—we really do—and we don't want a world without you.
To be clear -- I love libraries, I love lending and sharing, I clearly love linking to free content and creating my own free content, and I love generosity of spirit. But I also value the professional work of the cultural sector, and have been too worried about it for too long. Here's hoping Zolli's brave and principled declaration signals a new tone of realism in this now old and somewhat tired conversation.
Thanks to IP lawyer Barry Sookman for the tip on this article.