The free culture movement and the pirate movement are two quite different things. The latter is fair game for ostracism by those who value Rule of Law. Free Culture, however, is not about expropriating things into the public domain but creating things that are born public domain, basically a (largely failed) effort to bring the (IMHO admirable) open source ethic to things other than software.
David Newhoff, in This is no time to be devaluing creators, seems to be trying to conflate the free culture movement with the tragically unfortunate trend of employers who want to pay people in “exposure” or “experience.” That phenomenon harms most if not all workers, creative class or not. The former would benefit more from better labor law protections than from better IP protections.
Another reason a middle level (or middle class) niche in cultural product is difficult to carve out is the “long tail” nature of audience share distribution. So it will probably always be the case that the nightclub acts vastly outnumber the rock stars, but also that the amateurs will always vastly outnumber the nightclub acts. Making assertion of IP rights the main strategy against the unpaid internship phenomenon looks from my outsider perspective like an attempt to guildify the creative professions by erecting entry barriers. I actually have nothing against this approach, as I’m pro-union. But should the high wall be between established professionals and semiprofessionals? Or between semiprofessionals and amateurs? Perhaps the creatives should go full trade unionist and adopt a formal apprentice/journeyperson/master hierarchy. I think paid apprenticeships are the only truly appropriate answer to unpaid internships.
Some say debt aversion is a bad thing. Maybe it is, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and all. I was born in the mid-1960s, but my parents were late bloomers, reproduction-wise, so I’m a demographic oddity for my age in being only one generation removed from the Great Depression.
My parents were also low-achieving enough that I qualified for a Pell Grant, and Work Study. Do those programs even still exist? Had I not qualified for non-repayable financial aid, I’m pretty sure that either I would not have gone to college (most likely) or limited myself to majors that were directly applicable/marketable at BS-level (accounting, nursing, engineering, etc.) As it is I majored in math, but with a very broad-based selection of electives. I also chose challenging courses over being grade motivated, which may be the main reason I have no degrees beyond the BS degree. As it turns out I’m even more of an underachiever than my parents, career-wise, so I can’t say with a straight face that I’ve given the taxpayers a return on their investment by breaking out of the 15% tax bracket.
Perhaps we were wrong, as a society, to challenge the conventional wisdom that learning for its own sake is a privilege of the leisure class. Perhaps it is good that the university as we know it is seeing its business model break down and its student body siphoned off by disruptive innovators. Academic careers have become a sort of refuge for people with attitudes that simply don’t fly in a corporate setting, so maybe it is best that a seizable majority of youths should be gently prodded in the direction of practical skills training instead of ivory tower nonsense.
Framing is of course important, but I cringe just a little when people use the free rider framing against “right to work” because free rider problems and “tragedy of the commons” arguments in general seem to find uses most often in cases for right of center causes. Same for appeals to contractually defined rights. I sometimes invoke contractarian ideas, but with the understanding that I regard contracts as a bug rather than a feature of the status quo. Show me a contract between a business and an individual that was not collectively negotiated (collectively bargained) and I’ll show you a very one-sided boilerplate. Basically, I don’t like that some employers insist on privacy-invasive practices such as unwarranted piss tests or credit checks, but to vote with my feet against the practice would mean limiting the number of openings for which I would be willing to apply, and I’m simply not established enough to be able to afford to be picky about that, so I just have to suck it up and sign a lot of application boilerplate that makes me puke. Some workplaces happen to be union shop (or “closed shop,” as the dishonest types who use dishonest terms like “right to work” prefer to call it). If you have a problem with that then, as the laissez-faire types like to say disparagingly whenever anyone brings up a genuine worker rights concern, “nobody’s holding a gun to your head.”
That being said, I do understand the importance of being able to argue your cases in terms of principles central to your opponents, as well as the difference between arguing before the water cooler and arguing before the Supreme Court.