Creators in the Absence of Remuneration

From today’s NYTimes, a look at Cuba and underground dissemination of culture — without an Internet and without many of the financial guarantees deemed critical to artistic creativity: Amid Grip of Cuba, a Market for Culture

It is a dispersed, uncontrollable current in a nation that keeps a tight hand on the means of mass communication. At 8 o’clock each night, Cuba’s four state-run television channels all show the same news program. The government controls the radio and the Communist Party daily, Granma, and it decides what films to produce, what CD’s to put out and what movies to distribute.

But in the Playa section of Havana, a man rents pirated videos from his house. Up a rickety staircase in the Santo Suárez section is the hip-hop producer Pablo Herrera’s home-recording studio. An artist who calls himself Zeus keeps a hard drive at home with the “Godfather” trilogy and “The Lord of the Rings.” The CD’s in his sizeable collection all have the same blank silver faces. “I did not buy one of them,” he said.

While most of the goods that flow through this grassroots distribution network are benign, from the point of view of the Cuban government, some are not. […]

[…] “Some songs I sing at my concerts, hundreds of people sing them, but they’ve never been broadcast by TV or radio,” [Pedro Luis Ferrer] said. “This means society, when it comes to spreading the word, is not passive. It’s active.”

While effective, piracy is not especially lucrative for artists, and it is a mixed blessing for those whose work is given away. “I don’t feel like anyone is stealing from me,” said Mr. Ferrer. “It’s true I’m not receiving money for it, but sometimes even recording labels don’t pay you. At least I can feel freer.”

Related: If, of course, you have an Internet, you can get P2P in 15 Lines of Code