Writers draw water from a shared ocean

As a writer, programmer, and maker of things, I keep myself abreast of the various developments in copyright law, and the evolving media landscape. The past decade has been a mix of amazing progress (powerful cheap/free creative tools that remove the barriers to entry), and horrifying regression (the abuse of copyright to support outmoded businesses at the cost of culture).

Today I found this quote from comic book writer/artist Dylan Horrocks:

When we’re honest, most writers will admit that our work is not entirely ours. We don’t invent our stories out of nothing. The truth is, we make them out of what’s come before and what surrounds us every day: the world we live in, people we know, stories we’ve read and images we’ve seen. We swim in a deep ocean of culture, and in a very real sense, everything we make is made from that vast, shared sea. We are part of it, just as we are part of the world in which we live. If we treat that ecosystem as nothing more than raw materials to be torn up, exploited and sold in the marketplace, then sooner or later the whole system will fall apart. And if we draw water from the shared ocean — as all writers do — we must also learn to give something back. The relationship between a writer and their work is vitally important and must be respected. But we must also respect the countless other relationships that form around our stories and ideas: those who read them, share them and respond by making something new.

Owning Culture via Techdirt

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged links and/or articles,  (I usually just put the links in my del.icio.us feed) but I thought that this was particularly noteworthy, because it fairly accurately articulates my own feelings about writing, art, and culture in general.


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