The Problem with Free Content

Everything on this blog is licensed as Creative Commons. The same goes for the goofy cartoon drawings I make and the videos I create. I want to see the ideas spread. I want to see people enjoy the things I do as a hobby. A part of it, honestly, is vanity. I want my work to be accessed and appreciated. Not only that, I often use Creative Commons photographs to make visual writing prompts or slides for presentations.

However, lately I've been thinking about the down side of free use. I noticed this when I saw people complaining about buying the premium plan for online software (something they would do easily with textbooks). I see it with apps all the time. "I shouldn't pay for apps. I'll wait for the good ones to be free at Starbucks." This despite the fact that the coffee milkshake they order is often twice the cost of the app they won't pay for.

My concern is that we've shifted toward a culture where people expect creative content to be free. Instead of seeing it as a gift, we now expect all creative content to be free. I'm not sure if it's the fact that creative content has grown more abstract. The vinyl record is now a compressed audio file. The software in a box is now an instantly downloadable box on a tablet or smart phone.

It's a culture that claims that a Beastie Boys song should be available for free if you're selling a product that gets girls into engineering. Books should be free to download as a PDF if it helps the teaching profession. Music should be available on YouTube with Creative Commons licenses to be used in podcasts and videos. Want to put together a presentation? We should have the right to use any image from a Google image search without messing with copyright. 
It's odd that we're in an age where we say "creativity matters" and yet we somehow believe culturally that creative capital shouldn't be respected. 

I can't think of another era when we have harped so often about the value of creativity while at the same time doing so little financially to support creative work. 

I get into the same mindset. I am quick to point out that a creative work is "free" and I forget that the "free" cost someone something in terms of time and money. It's free, not in the sense of being vapid, but free in terms of being a gift.