The Non-Controversy: No, Wikipedia Authors Should Not Get Paid
from the manufacturing-controversy dept
Let’s say that I sold you a piece of land, and you then built a nice house on that land, and then you sold the property for a lot more money. Would anyone think that it was reasonable for me to then show up and demand a piece of the profits? Of course not. Yet when that scenario is tweaked just slightly into the digital realm and using $0 as the original price, suddenly people start getting things backwards. A few months back, for example, there was the situation with Billy Bragg complaining about the fact that musicians who chose to put their music on Bebo didn’t get any of the AOL buyout money. But that was perfectly reasonable, because the musicians made a fair trade initially: they gave their music, they got publicity. Asking for money after the fact is no different then me trying to renegotiate my land sale after you made the land more valuable and resold it.
Now we’re seeing yet another such case. Ethan Bauley writes in to point to an article suggesting that somehow Wikipedia authors are being ripped off because Bertelsmann is going to publish a paper version of Wikipedia for profit. But, again, it’s the same thing. People who contribute to Wikipedia clearly felt that giving their labor away for free was a fair transaction. Bertelsmann is now trying to make Wikipedia valuable to a different audience by putting it into book form. They’re taking on the risk of printing the book (building the house), and to have the various writers go back later and demand payment is equally as ridiculous. Luckily, it seems like most people recognize this — and many comments on the ReadWriteWeb article point this out. It’s just a few agitators, who apparently want to change the terms after the fact, who are having trouble getting this.