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!