Sorry it’s been so quiet around here lately; life gets in the way. I was writing a comment on a facebook link that my friend Brian Jacobs shared, and I realized it had turned into a blog post. So I decided to simply post it here.

Brian’s link was this video interview with Neil Gaiman:

I totally agree from a producer standpoint. Japanese manga/anime publishers had this attitude for many years (though I hear it’s changing now): we will allow fansubs (fan-produced translations) of our work because it’s free publicity. More people are being exposed to our content, and many of them are going to want to buy the authentic version (whether for better image/sound quality, original language, or whatever).

On the other hand, Neil Gaiman can afford to give away free books for a month. Those of us with smaller names have to be more strategic and creative.

Now, from a consumer standpoint, I value the artist’s work and want said artist to produce more. The best way to ensure that is to pay the artist. It’s a little more complicated when agents and publishers and government all have to get their piece, but the core is that I, as a consumer, want to pay the artist. This principle is held by most people, and that is why free (or pirated) products drive sales.

The flipside of the principle is that, since I value the artist’s work, I want others to value it. I want to share it. No one has a problem with this sharing if it involves a physical object, like a book. I have paid for the book, and it is, thus, my property. I can share it if I wish. The problem arises when I want to transfer the work by any other means. For example, if I legitimately acquire and then make a photocopy of the script for a Broadway show, that’s a problem. The content is not my property; the form is my property. The content, ultimately, belongs to its creator. [Wow, there could be a pretty deep theological discussion in here.]

But what if the creator has not made a way for me to legitimately acquire and share the content? Well, personally, I’d say I’m not at liberty to share that content, at least not beyond a certain point (“fair use” comes into play here). But there are people who, finding the content unavailable, will find a means to make it available. You want this physical book as an eBook? Just scan the pages, save them as a PDF, and open the file on an eReader. Sure, it’s poor quality, but it beats nothing, right? I disagree, but some people think this way.

So what’s the bottom line here? As a content creator, it’s my obligation to make sure my work gets out to consumers in any form they want. As a publisher, I’m responsible to both the creators and the consumers to make sure this happens (and I’ve actually not been doing very well on this front). And as a consumer, it’s my responsibility to let creators know what form I want, to promote them if I can, and to ensure that I always place the proper value on their work.