Good on Rupert Murdoch. Those are four words I never thought I'd type. But nonetheless, he and his son James are to be congratulated for their decision to start charging on-line readers of The Times. It's a risky move for News International, but it's a brave one. In asking on-line readers to pay, just as readers of the newspaper must, they risk the wrath of the internet generation, who have grown obese through gorging themselves on the product of the great myth of the noughties - that everything on the internet is and more to the point, should be, free.
Let's get this straight. The internet is a wonderful thing and has emancipated millions of people through opening up information on an almost unimaginable scale. But the damaging corollary of this emancipation has been the belief amongst users that the only role they have is to consume content, not pay for it. This pernicious trend has had profound implications for other forms of entertainment. First music, and now film. Ordinary people, not merely youngsters, have assumed that it is perfectly acceptable to obtain copyrighted material by illegally copying it on-line. What I hope that the News International decision may do is strike a blow for creative people, wherever they exist. Be they up and coming rock bands who struggle to sell their music due to illegal file sharing, or film-makers whose work is ripped off shortly after it leaves the editing suite.
You wouldn't expect to be able to steal perfect copies of a painter's artwork. You don't have a right to free newspapers in newsagents. All creative art or journalism has to be made by real people, doing real jobs. We do not live an a Star Trek-style utopia where everyone just pursues his or her creative dreams. We live in the real world in which people need to make money from their intellectual property and their creative talent, just as readily as a plumber needs to make money out of his or her plumbing skills, or a doctor their medical training. We need to rebalance the on-line world so that it provides appropriate revenue streams for those who create the content. In this world, you don't get anything for nothing. It is time the internet generation accepted this truism.
More on this later.