The Copyright Balance, Ctd

by Patrick Appel

Adam Ozimek's contribution to the debate:

In this country artists who create very popular art have tended to get very rich from it, ergo we have come to see this as the “fair” outcome.

People seem much less concerned that the payment to roadworkers be in proportion to the benefit that society gets from that roads they created, and that the payments continue to flow long past when the work is done. The same is true of the designers of those roads.

Why should we be disproportionately concerned about artists ability to capture economic rents? Why should we be concerned about the ratio of producer to consumer surplus in the arts and not for other workers? Wouldn’t we be better off in a world full of middle class artists but more art?

Adam's parallel goes a little far. Road workers are guaranteed pay for their work. Most creative efforts require upfront capital and the artist only gets paid once the work is completed – if it proves popular. Almost all the artists I know (and I know many) are struggling to keep in the black and would love to live a middle-class lifestyle. Being an artist is like playing slots. A few people strike it big. Most are just are feeding the machine nickels.

I've nothing but respect for artists – for a number of years I endeavored to be a visual artist. The painting above is my latest work. I know first-hand how the prospect of fame and riches can keep you going, but I support fairly lax copyright laws because I think the free exchange of information leads to a more meritocratic art world than the current system of gatekeepers.