This month, as I contemplate bills, I’ve also been reading a little around the resentment that many feel about providing their work for free. Its a resentment that plagues people who write for a living and one which I have a whole lot of sympathy with. Consequently this is an announcement that I’m no longer providing original content for other publishers free, and – in the same vein – I’ve decided to start making token payments for guest articles on Second Council House of Virgo.
The taboo around grumbling about content providers requesting articles without any expectation of paying the writers was broken by Nate in April this year. An experienced and respected journalist, the Atlantic had requested that they republish one of his articles in a shortened form, yet despite the work involved in such repurposing,offered no compensation for this labour. An apology quickly followed. Last month, the New York Times published a call to arms for internet slaves to denounce the emerging culture that writing is something provided for free.
I sympathise a great deal with this. Having attempted to make a living from writing over the past year, paid commissions are thin on the ground. I get a lot of requests to provide articles for online publications, particularly on the situation on Greece, however these requests are seldom accompanied by offers of compensation. I want people to know what is going on in Greece at the moment, and I’m aware that there is far more chance of getting the word out there on a popular platform rather than on my little blog. At the same time, it is very frustrating to have requests for articles come in from well funded organisations, with lengthy submissions guidelines attached with no offer of payment. This fits in with the whole culture of workfare and its posher cousin “the internship” whereby labour is increasingly seen as something which should be provided for free for the powerful and the poor should be grateful to have the opportunity to justify their miserable existance.
Black women seem to be particularly disadvantaged by this culture. I recently watched a twitter storm unfold where a mainstream feminist organisation had invited Black women to respond to an article by a well known white woman. Although the initial article was paid, the responses which were being solicited were not, only in the ensuing melee did the publication offer payment and even then at a rate far below that of the original article. The argument that the initial writer was well known and thus could command commercial rates, ignores the structural racism which sees white women being pushed to the fore in feminist discourse, and consequently becoming well known, and also the myriad of talented Black women writers who consistantly produce fresh and insightful writing.
Another example was the request from Biology Online to the Black scientist D.N. Lee, to write for their online publication, when she declined the offer to write for free, they asked her whether she was an “urban scientist or an urban whore“. The particularly gendered insult is worth looking at. It is expected that writers write for love, and in general we do, however writers also need to eat. The implication of “whoring” is that D. N. Lee isn’t providing the “free love” that she should to all who ask for it as a good little woman science writer should.
As a result of this, I’ve decided that I’m joining Tim Keider’s call, in sympathy, solidarity (and hunger) with the rest of the internet slaves. Consider this an announcement that I will no longer provide original content for other publications without compensation of some form, although people are still very free to republish material from this blog, with an acknowledgement and linkback. This does however put me in a bit of a quandry for I too am a publisher. On average around one post a month is a guest post. I am also skint. Skinter than a rabbit ready for the stewpot. I could refuse to take guest posts until I’m in a position to pay, but I love receiving them and always feel very flattered when people have offer an article to me for publication.
But I have a solution. I’ve recently discovered bitcoin and got my mits on a few satoshis. I’m really fascinated by the potential of bitcoin, the properties it holds, and the ways that it can alter the monetary system. I don’t see bitcoin as a solution to capitalism, but I’m coming round to the idea that it may transform the current problems and make them more amenable to the eventual eradication of capitalism. Consequently I’m offering 0.0001btc (approx €0.01, £0.01, $0.02) per article for all guest posts. I recognise that this is nothing more than a token, and in no way is intended to be adequate compensation, nor reflects the quality of articles people have submitted, but it serves the dual purpose of introducing bitcoin in a practical way to the radical community and establishing the principle that content provision is something that writers should be compensated for.
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to submit a guest post or commission an article.