I'm writing a six-times-a-year column for Locus Magazine, the excellent trade magazine for the science fiction publishing industry. My first column, "Science Fiction is the Only Literature People Care Enough About to Steal on the Internet" has just gone live:
Before copyright, we had patronage: you could make art if the Pope or the king liked the sound of it. That produced some damned pretty ceilings and frescos, but it wasn't until control of art was given over to the market – by giving publishers a monopoly over the works they printed, starting with the Statute of Anne in 1710 – that we saw the explosion of creativity that investment-based art could create. Industrialists weren't great arbiters of who could and couldn't make art, but they were better than the Pope.
The Internet is enabling a further decentralization in who gets to make art, and like each of the technological shifts in cultural production, it's good for some artists and bad for others. The important question is: will it let more people participate in cultural production? Will it further decentralize decision-making for artists?
And for SF writers and fans, the further question is, "Will it be any good to our chosen medium?" Like I said, science fiction is the only literature people care enough about to steal on the Internet. It's the only literature that regularly shows up, scanned and run through optical character recognition software and lovingly hand-edited on darknet newsgroups, Russian websites, IRC channels and elsewhere (yes, there's also a brisk trade in comics and technical books, but I'm talking about prose fiction here – though this is clearly a sign of hope for our friends in tech publishing and funnybooks).