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Type. Writer. © John MacPherson
Type. Writer. © John MacPherson

Interesting post on Salon that caught my attention ‘Will Wheaton is right: Stop expecting artists to work for free – or worse. for “exposure”

Basically wealthy publisher Huffington Post asked the actor for permission to republish his 3500 word blog piece on their site, he asks what they pay, they say we don’t pay but “you’ll get exposure”.

“Unfortunately, we’re unable to financially compensate our bloggers at this time. Most bloggers find value in the unique platform and reach our site provides, but we completely understand if that makes blogging with us impossible.”

He refused. Went public on Twitter, somewhat angry at their attitude, and gets a lot of support, but also a fair amount of ‘criticism’ in the comments on Salon with remarks like

“Exposure in HuffPo is worth something to some and those people are wise to let HuffPo carry their pieces. But if it’s not worth something to you, say no. Where is the controversy here?”

and

“….It’s true that their business model is to secure content without paying for it (or more precisely, paying for it in free publicity). But there’s nothing wrong with that model as long as the content providers understand that and freely agree to those terms.”

My take? It’s not an either/or argument. Yes maybe it is worth allowing your work to be used for free sometimes, I do when I think it is worth it to me and the user. But, truth is you should be able to have your cake and eat it as a creative; the publishers who use your work are certainly having two slices of the large rich gateau.

If HuffPo REALLY REALLY wanted to ‘offer’ something  as recompense –  they could easily agree to take the same ‘gamble’ of “exposure” they offer as a carrot to contributors and offer this deal:

“Hey creative person – whose work we’d like to reprint, let us use your work for ‘free’ and we’ll split the advertising revenue with you 50/50. If we make very little from carrying your piece on our site then we both lose out. If we make a real killing in ad revenue, then we both win! What do you say?”

Even I’d take a punt on that offer.

The fact that they don’t, and won’t probably even consider that idea (maybe I’m wrong?), in my opinion makes them exploitative.

When financially secure companies whose worth is measured in the tens of millions of dollars seeks to extract creative’s work on the promise of nothing except the fresh air of publicity, they are exploiting their position. And I’m not buying the red herring argument that creatives at the start of their career need to consider working for free because of the exposure it will get them.

The reality, the harsh reality is that it’s precisely THAT time in their career when they need to be paid. Even modest trickles of income can make the difference between people making their creativity a career, or giving up.

And if they give up, we ALL lose. We need to invest in creativity for it to flourish.

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

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