Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Literature

Fun.gov: How to Make Art Free without Starving the Artists

A few weeks back, pop star Taylor Swift pulled her songs off of Spotify on the grounds that free streaming services don’t compensate artists sufficiently for the value of their social contribution. You know who Taylor Swift is, right? If not, here’s a picture of her to help you out (and get more people to click on links to this piece–for some reason, people really like photos of young female celebrities):

Swift’s argument makes some sense–art certainly adds value to our lives and contributes to our society, and we can’t have art if we’re not willing to pay our artists. The trouble is that these days it’s very easy for people to avoid paying for art over the internet, and there’s no practical means by which laws would be enforced to ensure payment. Going forward, this is going to get exponentially worse, until the entertainment industry is left with a fraction of what it brings in today. Additionally, the age of streaming and downloading introduced a new principle that appeals to many young people–that all citizens, regardless of income, should be able to enjoy art equally in a free society. These two principles conflict. How can artists get paid for their art if their art belongs to society and individual consumers have the means to access the content for free with impunity? I’ve found a way to do it. I call it “Fun.gov”. If you’re a small government type, it’s going to rub you the wrong way at first, but hear me out. This could work.

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The Ender’s Game Boycott

There’s a new film coming out soon by the name of Ender’s Game. It’s based on the book by the same name written by Orson Scott Card. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I can’t tell you whether or not it’s a good adaptation, but when I was in 8th grade (I believe I was 14), we read the book in my English class. Out of all of the books I read in all of the various English classes I took when I was growing up, Ender’s Game was my favorite. I had the long-standing male complaint that too many of the books we read in class were too full of symbolism and metaphor. The characters in them were too often defined not by decisions or deeds, but by what I considered unnecessary narrative description. I still find today that the books I most enjoy are books in which characters show who they are with actions. But I digress–the reason I bring it up today is that Orson Scott Card is extremely opposed to homosexuality, and as a result many are planning to choose to boycott the new film.

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What is Art?

A few weeks back I was driving around in the states while listening to a discussion on NPR about whether or not food is a form of art. It made me ponder seriously one of the basic questions of aesthetic philosophy, often asked, but rarely answered seriously or comprehensively–what is art? This post details the outcome of a serious think about the topic.

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Aaron Swartz and Copyright Law

Recently, Aaron Swartz, a talented programmer involved in the creation RSS feeds and Reddit, committed suicide. Apparently this was in response to his being hounded by a federal prosecutor for the crime of violating copyright protections and sharing a large cache of academic articles access to which was controlled by JSTOR, an online academic library club of sorts. In the aftermath of the Swartz suicide, activists are demanding a significant curtailment of copyright law. Is this a reasonable policy? That’s my question for today.

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