Creativity isn’t free

A column by Zack Harold, features editor of the Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Last week, I took my laptop to Taylor Books on Capitol Street to get caught up on some writing.

I holed up at a table near the “Local Interest” section and put my nose to the screen.

As is often my problem, I became more interested in what was happening around me than the words on my screen.

My eyes were trying to focus, but my ears decided to listen to the conversation of some twentysomethings in the “World History” section.

The woman expressed interest in some book — I couldn’t see which one — but then complained to her male companion she did not have enough money to buy it.

Nevermind, she said. She would just download it for free on the Internet.

My heart sank a little bit.

I have done my share of illegal downloading. Like many older Millenials, I spent hours as a teenager perusing peer-to-peer downloading services Napster and Kazaa.

It paid off, in a way. I discovered lots of songs and artists I might not have found otherwise. Napster introduced me to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Buffalo Springfield and John Coltrane.

I knew it was technically “stealing,” but I felt little guilt. It seemed like a victimless crime.

I changed my mind when I started working at a newspaper.

It comes down to this: how much is creativity worth to you?

That young lady in the World History section did not purchase that book, so the author did not get paid.

One book purchase probably doesn’t matter much. But those few dollars would have helped the writer keep pursuing their art.

The same goes for all those mp3s I downloaded in my early teens.

 The artists did not get paid. Even if the musicians only made a few cents on the purchase of a CD, I still cost them money to keep pursuing their music.

If I had valued their creativity more, I might have thought twice about downloading.

Now, about a decade later, I make a living with my words.

It’s not fine literature by any means, but it’s a creative act. My colleagues and I work very hard to bring you a fresh Daily Mail every day.

We were acknowledged for that work last Sunday at the West Virginia Press Association Awards. The Daily Mail received a stack of plaques as well as our tenth consecutive “General Excellence” award.

Awards are nice, but the best reward is the opportunity to keep putting out newspapers day after day.

And there’s only one person to thank for that. You, the readers.

By subscribing to the newspaper, subscribing to our website or buying our product from a newsstand, you are saying you value this product…

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