Wendell Pierce, a veteran of David Simon's The Wire, plays trombonist Antoine Batiste on Simon's new HBO series, Treme. Simon has just started blogging. But he won't write for free.
I’m a writer, and while I’m overpaid to write television at present, the truth is that the prose world from which I crawled — newsprint and books — is beset by a new economic model in which the value of content is being reduced in direct proportion to the availability of free stuff on the web. In short, for newspapers and book publishers, it has lately been an e-race to the bottom, and I have no desire to contribute to that new economy by writing for free in any format. Not that what is posted here has much prolonged value — or in the case of previously published prose, hasn’t soured some beyond its expiration — but the principle, in which I genuinely believe, holds: Writers everywhere do this to make a living, and some are doing fine work and barely getting by for their labor. Anything that says content should be free makes it hard for all writers, everywhere. If at any point in the future, this site offers more than a compendium of old prose work and the odd comment or two on recent events — if it grows in purpose or improves in execution — I might try to toss up a small monthly charge in support of one of the 501c3 charities listed in the Worthy Causes section. And yes, I know that doing so will lose a good many readers; but to me, anyway, the principle matters. A free internet is wonderful for democratized, unresearched commentary, and it works well as a library of sorts for content that no longer requires a defense of its copyright. But journalism, literature, film, music — these endeavors need people operating at the highest professional level and they need to make a living wage. Copyright matters. Content costs.
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Former U.S. Sen. and new Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd speaks at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, March 29, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
You could say that it's the great business question of our era. Certainly it is in California. Why can't Silicon Valley, seat of the tech industry, and Hollywood, capital of the entertainment business, join forces and create a juggernaut of technotainment that will establish the Golden State as the most important place on Earth for innovation and global media?
In theory, it should be a no-brainer. But in practice it's a case of colliding business models. Big Content has built up its ownership of media over the course of a century. It's not going to share the goodies without claiming its cut.
Big Tech, on the other hand, wants all that content to be free, free, free. Chris Anderson pretty well laid it all out, in detail horrifying to Hollywood, in 2009, in his aptly titled book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price." Why? Because the ability to fragment and share content is a critical piece of Silicon Valley's overall business model. Users need to be able to do this by the millions if not billions, so that various Web companies and appmakers can sell ads against the — wait for it — free labor of those users.