Giving It Away for Free

The video below is an awesome, NSFW rant about amateurs vs. professionals and getting paid for the creative work that you do. If you aren’t familiar with Harlan Ellison and his work (and you damn well should be) he is a famously abrasive, argumentative, talented speculative fiction writer. He’s also done a lot of scriptwriting, including the iconic Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever. His Wikipedia entry states:

Ellison has won the Hugo Award eight and a half times; the Nebula Award four times, along with a Grandmaster Nebula Award (basically a lifetime achievement award); the Bram Stoker Award, presented by the Horror Writers Association, five times (including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996); the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America twice; the World Fantasy Award twice (the second time for Lifetime achievement); and the Georges Méliès fantasy film award twice. As of 2011, Ellison is the only author to have won the Nebula Award three times for the short story. A fourth Nebula was awarded in the novella category.

That’s a hell of a CV.

The video below made me laugh, but it also got me thinking that he’s actually right. We have a generation of content creators who spend a massive amount of time creating free writing, art, games and video. Hours, months, years worth of content that you slave over and are thrilled if someone reads it and leaves a comment, or passes it on. Sure, we’d all love to be paid…who wouldn’t? But we do it anyway, out of our passion and our creative fire.

How many game blogs, book blogs, or any other otaku blogs do you read? They can be professionally written, with hours spent on each post, checking facts, gathering stats and screenshots, editing your video, and it’s all done for the love of what we’re writing about. We provide free content for large companies who will never pay for it, never so much as send you a freebie copy of a game or give you a free sub for your work.

So, with all of this incredibly good free content out there, it probably does become harder and harder to actually get paid for your craft. I love the idea of a free and open net where people contribute wonderful things just for the love of it. It just sours a bit when you think about corporations profiting from it. And what’s more, they begin to expect it, as though offering you a larger platform trumps actual cash-in-hand. And this is where the whole system starts to break down.

In any event, watch the video. It’s an absolutely classic rant.


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