Wednesday, May 4, 2011
You may or may not have heard about the Huffington Post lawsuit. As I understand it, now that the Post has been sold for a big bag of money, all sorts of bloggers who have been contributing their words to the Post for free are saying, "Hey! Gimme!" Vanessa, aka Bonkers About Perfume, mentioned this some time ago, pointing to this article when she commented on my earlier blog rant post. But I'm a little slow.
The lawsuit seems to have started a web-wide discussion of the concept of blogging, or otherwise creatively contributing, for free. And I've picked a side: As far as I'm concerned, the problem isn't that some people are creating for free, but instead the expectation that amateur creative activity should be paid. At all.
Many people are arguing that the Post situation wasn't Wrong because the people who blogged for the Post did benefit financially, if not directly. They got exposure, they enhanced their reputation, they got hits on their websites, blah blah blah, and all of that led to money one way or another. And Wired had an article about "free" and how free product can result in money in various sideways ways. And an article on another site compared free blogging to open source software, and again mentioned other financial benefits resulting from contributing to open source projects--the facts that some companies are making money from it, and programmers are improving their reputation and careers.
And I say that, again, that's not the point. It's not about getting money directly, or indirectly, or now, or later, or through a paycheck, an ad click or a career enhancement. It is, I say, not about money. At all.
Now, I'm mis-stating the position of those articles a little bit. Some did touch on this idea, the idea that there can be motivations for creation that are unrelated to money. But every one that I've read so far, even the open source article, seems to glance sideways at this idea, nervously, and to rush back to the comforting "Look! Look! Later on there might be money!" argument. So far, only an article by Arianna Huffington herself (who can't really be considered a disinterested party) seems to dwell, at any length, on the purely nonprofit motivations. While also talking about the financial benefits to the writers, she talks about people wanting to "connect, share their passions, and have their opinions heard."
Well, yeah. Was that so hard? It's not about the money.
And, no, I'm not saying that someone who ends up making some money, a tiny bit or a lot, is bad, or less creative, or betraying their muse. I'm just saying that money is not the point. I'm saying that blogging without any hope or intention of making a single penny is a worthwhile pursuit, one that doesn't call for explanations or mumbles of, "...well, I thought it might be good for my career..." Creating without a paycheck does not make you a fool or a sucker. It does not require an excuse.
Image: By LosHawlos. Wikimedia Commons.