Makers and takers

These days, the Internet is divided between the makers and the takers. That is a bit loaded and a bit simplistic, but hear me out.

I have felt this way from the beginning of the web era. Let’s start in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1996. My dear friend Justin and I had a loud argument in a restaurant in Harvard Square. My sister remembers not really comprehending the source of such passion…and being completely mortified.

What could produce such passion? We had a disagreement about whether the Oxford English Dictionary should charge for access to their definitions online. In simple terms, I said, or shouted, “Yes!” He responded with a firm, “No.”

Making a living

The point I wish I had been able to make is this, “How can a content creator continue to make content (ya know…make a living?) if people don’t pay for the fruit of the labor?” Somehow, early in the Web era, we came to the conclusion that the medium is what matters and the content should be free. The medium, the Internet, has existed in some ways since 50s. The protocols that make the Web possible have been around since the seventies. And in the 90s, the browser added images, videos and sounds. Makers take advantage of this infrastructure to shape beautiful content. The truth is the medium is just one of many available to makers. The challenge is that the medium makes it dead easy to ‘take’ and reproduce content without compensating the maker.  And the culture of the Web era has made this behavior acceptable.

Taker culture

Takers feel like they should have access to this content without contributing to the living of the maker. It is likely they feel this way because it was the norm early in the web era to give content away in order to entice visitors. Bad precedent. It set up a culture that condoned taking, not paying for content. It is a part of the culture that is changing, thankfully. The walled gardens of the web like iTunes, Kindle, and other pay-as-you-go sites and services have made it easier for music, book and movie makers protect and earn from their content.  It has made users more accustomed to paying. It has also helped make the saying “You get what you pay for” true online as much as in the real world.

And by the way, I am not saying my buddy Justin is a taker. His argument, from what I remember, was in the Lawrence Lessig (see video, below) camp: Some kinds of content should be open for common use, and not for profit. These days, this is also part of my point of view. Why? That is a post for another day…

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Categories: Entertainment, Future of work

Author:Denise C Duncan

At CrownPeak, I think about how to make it easier to use our products by sharing our expertise and creating community. As a drummer, I keep it together so my 10 piece band can ride any idea out.

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