Robert Levine has written a surprisingly readable, fascinating deconstruction of the rapid breakdown of the music and entertainment industry business model that began in the late 90’s and continues. “Free Ride: How the Internet is Destroying the Culture Business and How the Culture Business can Fight Back” is a sign of life for copyright as thinking people are sorting out how to save it. He details how the rapid rise of piracy as the internet grew, along with downloading and file sharing of music and videos, killed a muilti-billion dollar industry and taught a generation that stealing was ok. He does not cover photography, but our world and methods of earning a living from the sweat of our labor, also was devastated by the fantastic and wonderful new digital technologies. Russell Brown of Adobe once said about Photoshop in the beginning that it would not kill photography, it would simply be a new tool. With a hammer you can build a house or tear it down, he said. And I agree. The tearing down phase of our happy world has gone on mostly unabated by young happy consumers of free everything. The bad karma Steve Job’s predicted for these youngster’s naive theft may be that there are no jobs waiting as they graduate with their photography degrees. It’s time to start rebuilding.
Understanding what happened is part of the process of rectifying the situation. I recommend this book highly to all photographers. I’m hoping he’ll add an addendum about photography in the next edition.