Boost your profile or get paid for your art?

It’s interesting the way that powerful companies think that their might makes them irresistible to everyone. And while that may sometimes be the case, especially when it comes to other corporations with hungry marketing departments, it isn’t always. Sometimes artists and creative types would prefer to keep their clientele loyal and their work profitable rather than gaining mass exposure but no cash for their efforts.

The NYT carried a story this weekend that said that net-powerhouse Google spun an initiative where it invited loads of prominent artists to display their artwork on its new Chrome web browser, the catch being that they wouldn’t be paid for the privilege. The search giants were probably kind of shocked when some of these artists turned them down – but that’s exactly what they did.

With the whole Google Book Search thing hanging in the balance as authors and those responsible for author’s estates join forces with book publishers in questioning the project in court, it makes me wonder if Google thinks it’s above copyright laws.

And if it does it’s only indicative of one of the greatest and most potentially damaging aspects of the web – they way it democratises art yet makes it increasingly difficult for the creators of said art to control and make money from it.

Arguments about digital pirating refuse to die down, mainly because no major industry has worked out a failsafe way to deal with it yet. Hopefully the literary scene will come up with a more successful solution than the music industry did, seeing as musicians have the option of boosting tour ticket prices while authors really don’t.

It’s a strange argument, that between expanding your profile and protecting your investment. While plenty of people will tell you that exposure is everything and obscurity is the real death of the artist, so many writers and artists are gaining notoriety yet earning next to nothing. And if everyone has to work a day job, how will they produce the art we all enjoy?