This is what I admire about Seth Godin. His unique ability to get to the heart of the question.
The question lies in the q & a after this really awesome episode at around the 22.45 mark. (The episode is a replay of this awesome talk. If you haven’t seen or heard it yet, do me (and yourself) a favour and do so.)
Hey Seth, it’s Ben from New York.
I was intrigued by the recent episode about copyright.
My question is … maybe more posing a paradox, because with copyright, there is this corporate ability for greed and control … at the same time for an individual producer or artist or maker of things, it does allow you survival.
And I do agree that the best way to change the culture and to share ideas is to make something you’ve made, widely available. At the same time the concept of copyright does allow you to say to somebody, “Hey, I made this! You’re giving it away for free!”
And in this digital age, where people expect to just click on something and have it, which is sort of like your bakery analogy, except people can now, because of the anonymity and the ease of the digital platforms, walk into a bakery, grab a loaf of bread and walk out, is how to allow ideas to spread in a wide and inexpensive or free way and still be able to make a living at it, without saying, here is a physical thing that you’re taking from me.
Please pay me for it.
And this is what I think, copyright allows an individual or an artist or an entrepreneur like myself to use as leverage so that our stuff like … you mentioned your audiobook being illegally uploaded to youtube … keeping that sort of thing from happening.
Anyway thanks so much for the book, the podcast, the blog. It’s been a great inspiration for me trying to find a way in this new age. Thanks.
You’re getting at something powerful with this question, which is back to Tim O’Reilly’s comment that the enemy is not piracy. It’s obscurity.
That if you are a nascent artist, designer, writer, video producer, musician, does it pay to give your stuff away?
to give it away? give it away? give it away?
Hoping, that one day you’ll get paid for your work.
So the copyright laws are sort of secondary here, in the sense that, it is voluntary on your part, that as someone who is publishing your own work in a digital format, which means it does not cost you anything to give away one more copy, the question is, when does it end?
Does it mean that everything that is digital, will sooner or later be free?
Well, we’ve seen twenty or thirty years of this unfolding, and here’s what I think we found.
One, Ideas that spread, win.
If your idea reaches more people, you do better than if it doesn’t, and it turns out that ideas that are free spread further and faster, than ideas that arent.
So radio, it was so powerful on radio, that the record labels paid money, payola, bribes, to the radio stations to play the songs for free, because they understood, that being a hit, being popular, was the way for an artist to make money going forward.
The thing is, that doesn’t pay the bills.
So how is it that someone who creates digital items is ever going to get paid?
Well, let me give you a couple of ways this could happen.
The first one is, the souvenir edition. The souvenir, concrete, limited edition of the thing you make, so that the true fan, the superfan will happily and eagerly pay for it.
We keep seeing this thing happening. It’s not going away.
People want to pay for something, others can’t have.
They want to pay for something that gives them status.
Number two is the idea that we can sell the specific.
So we can go to people and say, “Yea, if you want the traditional version of this song, or this digital artifact, that’s free. It’s in the world because it’s popular, but, if you want it to be specific to you, if you want us to play it live for you, that, that’s gonna cost money.”
And we certainly see that in the world of consulting.
So that you can give away a 300 page or 200 page or 20 word BIG idea, just give it away constantly, but if someone wants your specific advice, that, that’s going to cost money.
And the third way, that I’m going to propose that we can charge for the work we do, is that it can be now. That if you want it now, if you want it live, if you want it first, that costs money.
People will wait in line, because again they get status, from going first.
So it’s not really the answer to your question. I’m not proposing that copyright go away, but I do think that individual creators have a huge unfair advantage over institutions that need to pay big bills.
And that advantage is that we can give ideas away.
A blog post a day.
A podcast a week.
We can give them away, because the digital environment makes that a powerful way to spread our ideas, but then we can sell the other thing to people who want to pay for it.