The Market for Digital Art

by Crosbie Fitch | 28 April 2008, 11:58

A digital artist creates works of digital art. They do not create copies. People have got a heck of a lot of copyright deprogramming to go through if they persist in thinking of the creative process as an artist creating ‘the first copy’ and then ‘making and selling copies’. The ‘copy’ as a first class concept in our digital domain is disintegrating before our eyes and yet people stubbornly persist in thinking of digital art in terms of copies. We are rapidly moving toward a digital production process that produces digital art in only three phases:

1. Non-existent
2. Created (private/unpublished)
3. Published

There is no ‘copy’. There are no ‘copies’ to exchange or purchase. There is no market for ‘copies’. Except as a fundamental operation to computer scientists, even the term ‘copy’ will soon lose its original meaning and deteriorate into an archaic term for ‘private sharing’. For example:
“Do you have a copy of the artwork?” will become an old fogey’s way of saying “Are you privy to the artwork?”, and “Then would you please give me a copy?” will become an old fogey’s way of saying “Then would you please make me privy?”.

For published art the word ‘copy’ disappears even from old fogeys’ vocabularies, e.g. we’ll just hear them saying “What was the name of that piece? Who’s the artist?”. However, I suspect even those queries will be ever more rarely spoken given pervasive access to metadata for all media, e.g. “Who sang the second song I heard in the coffee bar yesterday morning?” will be a thought easily answered on one’s PDA (and the singer consequently micropatronised).

So, if you want to understand the future market for digital art then you have to stop trying to understand it in terms of a market for copies. There will be no market for copies. The market for copies has ended. The future market for digital art will involve exchanges between the artist and those who value their art (nothing to do with copies). Exchanges will occur between the three key phases I outlined above, i.e. payment to create art where it did not exist before, payment to become privy to art to which one is as yet not privy, and payment to publish private/unpublished art.

There is no copy.

This is a work of free culture. This article is based on my comments at Against Monopoly. Thanks to ‘Kid’ for prompting them.
It respects all artists equally: those whose work I build upon, myself, and those who build upon my work. I hope some day you’ll join us.

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