Those who know me personally know that I’m not one to speak against file sharing. I don’t buy into the claims by some sell-out musical groups, who will remain nameless, that they’ll go broke because you downloaded a song from a website. I don’t disagree that some of the rules around content, especially in the digital age, are archaic and a bit over-bearing. I don’t even disagree that there are establishments that stifle exposure to and for creative talent for the sake of something easily packaged and marketed.
There are times when file-sharing can be harmful to artists.
Consider the musician uploading their music to a pay-for-download service.
Consider the artist uploading their artwork to a pay-for-download/pay-for-rights service.
Consider the self-published author uploading their work to a pay-for-download/print-on-demand service.
Independent artists, whether they’re musicians, visual artists, or writers, don’t get paid ahead for their work. There are no five and six-figure contracts providing them pay for their work. They don’t even have three and four-figure contracts. They have no contract, just an agreement with a service who will make their content available and give them a percentage.
So when you upload their work to a service where it can be downloaded free, guess who sees nothing for it.
That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t share work.
Cool: You read a book and share it with your friend, who if he wants a copy of his own goes and buys it on demand from the author.
Not Cool: You read a book and upload it to a site where anyone can download it free of charge.
The difference? In the first scenario, for each copy of the book distributed by your sharing, the author gets paid. In the second scenario, the author only gets paid for your download and no one else’s.
For artists who handle their own distribution, who get paid per item in distribution, we depend on people being honest and not giving our stuff away for free. So when you get that song from the independent artist, that picture from the visual artist, or that book from the self-published author, and really like it and want to share it with your friends and the world… please consider carefully how and what you share. If we don’t get paid for each copy of our work that gets distributed, it makes it less likely that we’ll be able to continue the creation of the work you liked enough to share in the first place.