I get the sense that only a handful of folks out there are worried by the things that seem to alarm me. Maybe I’m just making stuff up. Maybe I’m seeing boogeymen in the closet, creepy crawlies under the bed. Maybe I’m just crying wolf…..
Well, John Bauman just posted his very real experience as a victim and frequent witness of artistic piracy. Read his post for an eye opening excursion into some troubled seas. The question for me isn’t so much how to arm ourselves with lawyers to combat these rouges. Its how we got here in the first place. And for that I’ll refer you back to Prometheus. We are the victims of Pirates because as simple consumers the public can’t distinguish between things lovingly and individually created by hand and things mass produced in a sweatshop. Not only that, but we have trained them not to care.
Read John’s post first, please, but this is what I had to say in response:
Dang! That is dreadful. Gives me the heeby jeebies!
It seems that this is a new ugly reality we may have to face, and my question is whether we will ever gain satisfaction from the pirates or if we need to put our efforts into the consumer end. In other words, I would like to know if we can educate the consumers about the difference between these handmade items and their knock offs. Can we get the audience to see that they are not the same merely because they LOOK THE SAME?
If the audience doesn’t know any better or doesn’t care, then of course they will see no real difference. If they are just consumers of shapes and colors, what do we expect?
One way out seems to be helping people to value handmade in and of itself. The things a potter makes him or herself have a value that is not translatable into shape or color. If people get this they also get the difference between our work and the work of pirates. And also the idea of supporting local industry. If people get this they also get the difference between our work and the knock offs.
If the consumer is only aware of what we do as a consumer good, how it ended up on the market is probably unimportant. The pirates will have every advantage. What we have to do is educate our audience that it isn’t just a product we are making, but a contribution of personal craftsmanship, artistic decision making, and sometimes local or regional industry. But as long as the folks buying our work are immune to our story of actively creating our work it will always be a hard sell. What we really need is to prove to them that being creative matters in their own lives. What we do creatively matters because what they do creatively matters. We show them that what we do as artists is interesting and important by demonstrating that creativity has a role in their own lives. They understand the role of creativity by being creative themselves. How else can they appreciate the difference in integrity between being an Artist and a Pirate?
If our audience is only a passive consumer of products and has no clue about the efforts and creativity required to make what we make, and if they have no reason to value these things, then OF COURSE they will shop at Walmart for pots.
To me it seems that the greatest difference we should be trying to make is to remind people that creativity matters, and that they can be sympathetic to our artistry because we all understood creativity once upon a time. Its only the naked greed of money grubbing capitalism that wants the audience in their strictly consumer role being spoon fed the latest model of innovation or the season’s latest fads. Is that in our ultimate interest? Don’t we want them to be more than mere consumers? Don’t we want them to understand the difference between what we do and what the pirates are engaged in? Don’t we want them to be engaged in creativity themselves?
In the end we stop the pirates not by hiring an armada of bigger gun lawyers, but by getting the public to take an active role in appreciating the work of individual creativity. The fewer people buy from pirates the less piracy is rewarded. The more the public care about our creativity the less we need fear pirates. The more they care about their own creativity the more the public will see value in the creativity of others. If we all stand up together they won’t be able to pick us off one by one….
What’s that old saw about united we stand, divided we fall? Am I just crying wolf?
What do YOU think?