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Free

If you’ve been following the revolutionary way that online giant Scribd.com has sought to change publishing, more than likely you’ve heard this on going drama about Wired’s editor-in-chief Chris Anderson’s new book, “Free”. A book that attempts to quantify the idea of free in the digital marketplace.

This week  Anderson’s book was released on Scribd for “free”. Though viewable only on the website, not for download, which predictably, has a lot of folks claiming that “Free” isn’t free enough.

To top that off, many authors, publishers and other concerned artists are up in arms, not only with the book and its premise, but also with Anderson’s liberal use of Wikipedia material and comments he’s made in public concerning his views on if/how and author should get paid for his/her work. (Hint: think free)

I’ve never heard him speak on the subject; I’ve only read the introduction to the book, and frankly, enjoyed it for its interesting take. Anderson shows how artists and consumers, in this case the cast of Monty Python and viewers of YouTube, can all benefit by the availability of free artistic materials. Since the cast members  were sick of poor quality, pirated videos popping up on YouTube they decided to combat that by providing to YouTube–for free–access to all their videos in their vault; sales for Monty Python box sets have shot up more than 100%.

I’m a big believer in free. i provide a lot of my own material on slouch for free, because i want people to be able access it, and hopefully, generate a viral buzz about it. The greater the buzz, the better pitch to the consumer to pay for future endeavors. However, the monetary angle of free is just one part of it.  An artistic work that generates money not only validates the work, but also the artist. A popular artist draws crowds and is allowed freedom for further artistic forays.  There is a fine line to walk there.  Consumers cannot feel entitled to access anyone’s work for free. You get what you pay for. If you don’t pay the artists,  eventually, the art will suck.

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