Friday, February 1, 2013

Should All Information Be Free?

Sometimes I think back to those days not so very long ago - before we had the “internets”. I remember the actress Anna Paquin from “The Piano” (who was just a girl at the time) on the TV telling us about this strange new thing called “the information super-highway” and how it would change our lives. And for better or worse, it certainly has. It has made a wealth of information instantly accessible. It has allowed me and countless other creative souls to have websites to show (and sell) our creations to the whole wide world. And it has enabled me and my husband to have an online business that offers micro-macrame books, kits, online classes and digital e-patterns.

But there is the inevitable downside too. A few years back I got an email from another micro-macrame author Annika DeGroot . She kindly advised me that my book “Micro-Macrame Jewelry, Tips and Techniques for Knotting with Beads” was being offered as a free download on various websites. This was a rude awakening for naive little me as I was not aware that this was happening, nor did I give anyone permission to give my book away for free! Many of these unscrupulous websites are based in other countries and ignore any copyright laws of the USA. I am not by any means the only author who has had her books illegally distributed, there are many.

So why does this matter? It’s obvious why it matters to me - as an author who earns much of my income from the sale of books (my intellectual property) I feel harmed if anyone steals my property and uses it for their own purposes. But it also wrongs the person who downloads the so-called “free” version because they inadvertently help this kind of thing to continue, often without being aware that they have done anything unethical.

With all the legitimately free videos and tutorials available on the internet, it’s not surprising that there is a tacit expectation that all information should be free. But think about it - what is the incentive for a working author or musician to create something of value and put it out there if they can’t expect to get any return from it? 

Free internet content is important and definitely a great service. I have benefited from it myself many times. But let’s just make sure that what we download is really meant to be free & continue to support our artists, authors, and musicians!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Donation Box

As those artists who have been around a while can attest, sooner or later you will be approached to donate a piece of your artwork to a charity for their fund raising auction. In years past, when I was participating in a lot of arts and crafts fairs I got loads of requests - it seemed like every other week at times. I must admit to having mixed feelings about the whole thing ranging from “Sure, I’d be happy to help the woman’s shelter or the animal shelter - they are definitely a worthy cause” to the less charitable “Not again! Why don’t they ask some rich people instead?”. 
As Joni Mitchell said in one song - “There’s a wide wide world of noble causes...” and it’s true that most of the groups that ask for donations truly are worthy causes. 
So what to do if you can’t donate to them all? My solution has been to choose one or two that I have a special feeling or connection to. One of my choices is my neighborhood library. I use their services all the time and in this era of budget cuts and austerity - they need help from the community to survive.
It does help that I’ve been producing art for many years and have accumulated a lot of pieces that haven’t been saleable for one reason or another but are still of value. So I’ve designated a special donation box in my studio where I put any jewelry that fits that description. Now when I get a request, I just go to the box and pull something out instead of having to rummage through my inventory. I find that it’s not only a good feeling to help support a good organization through my artwork but it’s really liberating to clear out some pieces that have been hanging around my studio far too long !