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A new media manifesto: Set my content free

New media don’t necessarily exclude old media—but maybe, in some cases, they should.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your record collection as well as your iPod—but I’m wary of propping up a system that formerly made record companies fat on the proceeds of LPs, cassettes, and CDs you had to buy just because you liked a single song on the record.

Hard-copy books can be enjoyable to hold, read, and own—but we shouldn’t support a system that gives publishers and retailers the power authors and consumers should have to negotiate the terms and price under which an e-book is sold.

My hard-copy New Yorker subscription, which comes with free downloads of the tablet edition, shouldn’t cost more than a tablet-only subscription—such as is currently the case.

Creators should have the right to ask fair compensation for, and control over the uses of, their work—but they shouldn’t be allowed to slow innovation and devastate unlucky individuals via the current copyright system that lets copyright last too long, unduly restricts fair use, and levies outrageous penalties on the small minority of infringers who are caught.

It costs money to produce movies and TV shows, but there should be ways for consumers to pay that money other than by buying cable or renting DVDs.

It’s great when content can be distributed through a system that generates enough payment for creators to be compensated—but people who want to create content and distribute it without pay should be encouraged, not criticized.

As Becky Lang observes, “the last decade has been a revelation of what really motivates people to make music, as the traditional paths of finding success and fortune have faded away.” Some point out that new media are making it harder to make money at artistic production, and arguing that in that sense they are facilitating exploitation. The ones who are arguing that, though, are for the most part the top-tier creators who benefited most from the old regime. Consumers and DIY creators like Tumblr kids—people for whom the line between “consumer” and “creator” is rapidly blurring—think the new system works a lot better than the old one, and I agree.

I firmly believe that new media will make—are making—the future of art even better than the past. The sooner we embrace digital media and the free and open exchange of art and ideas, the better.

- Jay Gabler

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