My friend Cory Doctorow gave a speech in DC recently on the subject of copyright and democracy. The whole talk is great, and well worth listening to I won’t bore you by trying to encapsulate it here. But during the question and answer period, Cory answered a couple questions, one about how he plans to make a living selling books when they’re all digital, and one about how the stock photography industry might respond to the Internet and the challenge it presents to their business model. Have a listen to his answers:

I thought his response was great, and might be useful to illustrators too. I talk to a lot of illustrators and artists about how the Internet is changing our industry. Our business model relies on our power to sell licenses to make copies of our work only now, just about everyone has a machine designed to make copies, linked into a global network of other machines with the same ability. Copying isn’t as hard as it once was, so selling that right to copy isn’t as easy either. How should we respond?

As Cory points out, we could sue people. Or we could try to invent some technology that would make copying more difficult. Both approaches have been tried by the recording industry, with horrific results that were bad for fans, bad for the industry, and did nothing to get artists paid. And the so-called “3 strikes” provisions cropping up around the world policies that would cut people off from the Internet after 3 alleged infringements are even worse, a draconian solution that would undermine the basis of a free and open democratic society.

I like that Cory doesn’t propose an easy answer to this problem. But he does suggest that it won’t come by burying our heads in the sand, pretending that new technology hasn’t already shifted the terrain and re-written the rules. I think the solution won’t come from lawyers or corporations or governments. It will come from people who can use the power of their imaginations to envision solutions others can’t see. And that’s why I think illustrators have an important role to play. We solves problems and think creatively as a normal part of our working lives. It’s time we turned our talent towards a solution that earns us money without damaging our society.