Digital Britain Minister Insists No One Is Creative If They Don't Earn Money

from the oh-really,-now? dept

Andrew Dubber does a nice job taking Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms to task for claiming that “If people can’t be paid for their creativity, they’re going to stop being creative.”

On the face of it, that’s an incredibly stupid thing to say, and is amazingly offensive to the vast majority of people in the world who are creative amateurs.

Note: I did not say “the vast amount of creative people in the world who are amateurs”, though this would also be true. Most people in the world do creative things for no money. The vast majority of music in the world is made for cultural reasons that are not economic. To suggest that the only reason to be creative is with the expectation of payment is utterly offensive.

Beyond stupidity
But it’s not just stupid and offensive — it’s corrupt. It’s so manifestly and obviously false that it could not possibly be the considered belief of a rational human being.

The alternative (and indeed, the only plausible conclusion) is that it’s a deliberate falsehood in order to support something that is utterly indefensible when examined with any intellectual honesty.

It’s the direct result of corporate lobbying, it’s entirely disingenuous, and it’s a bald-faced lie echoed to support the interests of powerful and moneyed multinational organisations.

He goes on to suggest that a statement like that, so revealing in how Timms views the world, should get Timms fired, as he’s basically admitting that he’s only there to protect corporate interests, rather than actual creativity.

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Comments on “Digital Britain Minister Insists No One Is Creative If They Don't Earn Money”

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Emo the Libertarian (profile) says:

Suprising how???

Sorry but as is clearly evident in Europe (for the most part), England (especially), and America (even more than England)… The politicians and thier toadies are here for one thing only, protect the corporate interests of their masters, or turn things into a socialist welfare state… None of them (as is supposed to be the case in this enlightented time) represent the people or the interest of the people just Power and MONEY…

And any comments as such that some of the dimwitted will swallow is good enough… thus the big push to censor and control the interweb, the facts come out and dont go away, which shines lights where “they” would rather people not look.

Hulser (profile) says:

Art precedes payments

“If people can’t be paid for their creativity, they’re going to stop being creative.”

Not that I can top the “Dubber Timms Drubbing”, but the other item that reveals Timms’ statement as utter falsehood is the simple fact that artwork was around long before people received formal payments. Cavemen didn’t have lawyers to ensure that the copyrights on their cavepaintings were protected. Humans create art because it’s part of what makes us human.

:) says:

Re: Re: Re: Art precedes payments

Cavemen paintings still exists today, they are called graffiti now though.

Excluding the little ones that love to draw on the inside walls of a house.

Graffiti has been around for ages from the caves to the modern day streets.

Funny though, today it is against the law to do it and people risk harsh punishment and still do it why? they don’t get paid why they do it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

True Joe, but it can be difficult to formulate a solid logical reply to a statement as blatantly wrong as this one, his premise is essentially:
“All humans are greedy selfish sociopaths. No one would ever do anything unless they profit directly from it.”

Its like trying to formulate a more elegant response to “the sky is green” than “look at the sky you idiot, its not green”

Joe says:

Re: Re: Re:

I didn’t say I disagreed with his conclusion. The British government appears to be making some very ill advised moves that seem bound to cause a lot of pain. I just didn’t care for his path to the conclusion. In truth, your method of extreme paraphrasing, is not really any better.

Nothing wrong with the good old, ‘here’s their quote, here’s my response’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Nothing wrong with the good old, ‘here’s their quote, here’s my response’.”

Even that valid method of discourse can sometimes be discounted as Fisking. Sometimes the only way to deal with obviously stupid remarks is to call them out on their blatant stupidity up front, rather than argue over the trivial details of why they are stupid. In this case, the point is being made that the stupidity is either due to ignorance, or they are feigning stupidity out of intentional malice. In either case, such stupidity entails a valid grounds for impeachment.

In this case instead of saying Timms is too stupid to live, it suffices to point out he is too stupid to govern.

Derek says:

Re: Wow

As someone who sometimes gets paid for being creative, I’ve had the same experience. In some cases, not being paid actually helps my creativity because it’s easier and more fun. Without the “cost” of being paid, I’m free to explore new directions and not have to follow a client’s “ok here’s what we want, now go be creative” expectations.

Society is so trapped in a money/profit 24/7/365 delusion that we can’t imagine anything different. I may give creative work away for free, because it advances something more important than my bank balance.

There’s no shortage of creativity out there. As a photographer I’m selling my time and my attention — sometimes that comes at a premium, other times I don’t want the complications of money attached.

Anonymous Coward says:


Someone should point them to all the sites out there with creative communities. I personally visit AllPoetry where thousands of people write songs, poems, stories, etc. all for free. Certainly they own a copyright on their work, but they write it and place it on the site for everyone to read for free.

Not to mention all the gaming mod sites. Thousands and thousands of very creative game levels for all sorts of games, made by fans, for fans.

I would venture to say that the majority of creative expression in the world is NOT done for money.

Henry Emrich (profile) says:

This is what happens when creativity is allowed to become a specialist “profession”, separate from the culture surrounding it (and making it possible.)

We’ve just gone through nearly a century where the model was:

1. A small elite of super-rich “celebrities” about whom you couldn’t help but know.

2. A much larger non-elite of artists/creative folks who wwere not motivated *exclusively* by the financial or “fame” attendant to #1 above.

3. A small sub-set of non-“Celebrities” who nonetheless aspired to/lusted after the “celebrity” lifestyle relentlessly pimped by the beneficiaries of #1 above.

4. The rest of the populace, who were relegated to the status of mere “consumers” — as opposed to PARTICIPANTS — in the culture which surrounded them.
The “consumer” was merely required to pay whatever the Elite could gouge price-wise, and passively accept any/all restrictions the Elite could manage to buy/bribe from their cronies — whether they took the form of ever-longer copy”right” terms, more draconian abrogations of “fair use”, etc.

The *real* danger posed by the Internet, Creative commons, remix culture, etc. — is that in an environment of ubiquitous creativity (“User-generated content”, remixes, mashups, etc.) the specious distinction between “professional” artists and “amateurs” doesn’t make any sense, and the only way they can retain such a specious dichotomy is by defining it all in terms of whether you get “paid” or not. (Can’t really claim that “professional” musicians draw *all* of their income from music, either, since they sell T-shirts and fan memorabilia and such.)

Interestingly, with the advent of micro-payment or any of the other business-models Masnick and others have been highlighting, it will become *much* easier to “get paid” for participating in culture — with all that such mass participation implies. (The “new paradigm” won’t really *have* the “big megaphone”-type celebrities, so the mindless levels of opulence — the “celebrity lifestyle” — probably won’t be possible.

But, personally, If 100 artists can manage to get 20,000/yr. where 1 “mega-star” got 2 million — I’d consider the culture *and* creators — to be far “richer”.

Awaiting TAM’s predictable defense of the “celebrity lifestyle”, or denunciation of “remix culture” as uncreative, or some other specious nonsense…

(Maybe we’ll be lucky, and find out he spilled his “morning coffee” on his computer….)

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The *real* danger posed by the Internet, Creative commons, remix culture, etc. — is that in an environment of ubiquitous creativity (“User-generated content”, remixes, mashups, etc.) the specious distinction between “professional” artists and “amateurs” doesn’t make any sense, and the only way they can retain such a specious dichotomy is by defining it all in terms of whether you get “paid” or not.

I agree with everything else you’re saying, but that really is how the words “professional” and “amateur” are defined. Maybe it’s increasingly hard to tell the difference between the two groups, but that is just what the words mean.

Henry Emrich (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Just what the words mean”.

Who created the catagories, and decided that they should be mutually exclusive?

In other words, is your quibble “descriptive” (in that you’re discussing how the majority of people use the two words) or “prescriptive”, in that you believe that the two mutually-exclusive categories *designated* by such words, have some sort of empirical merit?

It’s “hard to tell the difference” between the two, because ultimately there *is* no difference. Under the old (dying) RIAA-style corporate paradigm, the *sole* source of revenue for even so-called “professional” musicians was never *solely* the music. Everything from T-shirts and memorabilia, to product endorsements represented a “stream of income”.

So the claim that the status of “professional” ever required that one’s “profession” was *ever* the sole revenue-stream, has always been specious.

Funny, with all the negative connotations that the corporate megaliths/their apologists tie to the idea of “patronage” (whatever form it takes), at base, their business-model was *all* about acting as their contractees “patrons” — and taking the lion’s share of any potential financial returns.

My point was, that if the mark of a “professional” is that one’s *sole* source of income be related to a single activity — or class of activities — then there have *never* been “professionals”, of any kind.

There may have been *primary* areas of relative specialization, but to the extent that, for example, Doctors dealt in real-estate, or any other income-generating actitvity (even “on the side”), it neccesarily follows that the practice of medicine was *never* their SOLE source of income.

So why do *some* musicians/authors scoff at the notion that multiple streams of income should be unneccesary for *them*? Is it because their present patrons (the multi-national corporate media megaliths) have spent decades training them to implicitly *or explicitly* view themselves as an “elite” group? I’m pretty sure that has *something* to do with it.

Simon says:

A widely held view in Europe

Consider this

“Copyright is the basis for creativity. It is one of the cornerstones of Europe’s cultural heritage, and of a culturally diverse and economically vibrant creative content sector.”

So began the European Commission’s latest contribution to the debate about online content.


Dubber (profile) says:

In defence of my 'vitriol'...

…I was REALLY pissed off. 🙂

I’m sure I could construct a measured and thoughtful argument against the position in a calm and reasonable article, but for now, a rant on my personal blog served to be therapeutic.

Was not really trying to make a convincing argument. Was just trying to say “I’m very, very angry”.

Want clear and thoughtful reflection on what’s happening in digital culture? Read Techdirt. Want to know what I’m doing, what I find interesting and how I’m feeling? Read my blog. Different texts and contexts for different purposes.

Mike (user link) says:

Things other than copyright!

While Mandy deserves to be ridiculed for any attempt at imposing three strikes, which is the real issue in hand, folk do think about protecting their ideas before putting anything online, it’s part of the creative process.

Many would argue the following ‘snag’ list is more important to our connectivity and creativity than the copyright issue. These include;

1) The internets naming and addressing remains a kludge,
2) The lack of transparency in Broadband package parameters – peak hour bandwidth allocations (30kbps), quality of data transport all need to be transparent.
3) Re-writing of UK Communications law which today is focused on preserving the telephone service and its costs into perpetuity.
4) Cost recovery regime for ISP based on achieving a 16 fold increase in peak hour bandwidth availability, not call termination fees.
5) An end to the anachronism of fixed and mobile – all connectivity is a cable with a radio at the end.
6) To use the radio spectrum to increase the bit commons, not something to be sold to the highest bidder who can then ration its use as per the current plan.

While your slagging Timms off for some poor sentence construction we are missing the chance to outline a better shopping list.

Charles says:

amateur arts

It’s obvious that he was talking about professional creatives, who are often horrendously underpaid. Don’t get me wrong, the millions of amateurs have a great time, and good for them – but for those of us trying to make a living from the professional creative arts, he is absolutely right.
Come, on, be sensible now. Our country is justly proud of, say, The Royal Ballet Company, which attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world to marvel at their expertise. It’s not the same as Strip The Willow in the village hall is it …

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