June 18, 2009

No Belief in the “Tip Jar Economy” [10:21 am]

Use Their Work Free? Artists Say No to Google (pdf)

Mr. Taxali, an illustrator based in Toronto whose work has appeared in publications like Time, Newsweek and Fortune, received a call in April from a member of Google’s marketing department. According to Mr. Taxali, the Google representative explained that the project will let users customize Google Chrome pages with artist-designed “skins” in their borders.

“The first question I asked,” Mr. Taxali said in a recent interview, “is ‘What’s the fee?’”

Mr. Taxali said that when he was told Google would pay nothing, he declined.

In the ensuing weeks, a tide of indignation toward Google swelled among illustrators, who stay connected through Drawger, a Web site.

Ted Rall writes a letter to the Times today that is particularly scathing:

It’s offensive that a company that reports annual profits in the billions refuses to pay independent artists for their labor.

Sadly, the Web revolution has turned “information wants to be free” into a mantra. Whether it’s illustrators, cartoonists or musicians, working for free ought to have gone out with slavery. Congress ought to act to make it illegal for a profitable corporation to solicit work without paying for it.

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