Pay the Writer

To suggest that products produce themselves, to suggest that the means of production work without workers, to suggest that we can animate the inherently inanimate, that we can automate quantity and achieve the highest quality—that suggestion is one of several reasons why some of the richest people are the poorest communicators. That suggestion is why some of the richest schools teach the most remedial courses. That suggestion is why many of our best writers, who combine a wealth of research with a rich prose style, cannot make a living as writers.

How, then, can we live without writers?

If you think we already live just fine, that we can live without writers because most of us do not read, that we need not read a company’s terms of service—whose terms we now serve as numbers within a vast digital prison, where we do penance for our crimes of speech—if you think we should not read Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection, think again.

The book is the product of a man, not a machine; a man whose name is Jacob Silverman, whose work no app can equal and no algorithm can exceed, whose most recent work is a reminder of what only men—and women—can do: write.

That Silverman continues to pay his dues, in spite of publishers who act as if they have no duty to pay him, as if it is OK not to pay the writer; that Silverman accepts these terms of service does not mean he finds these terms morally acceptable.

Publishers have no right to pay writers like Silverman little or nothing.

We owe our rights, after all, to great writers.

Pay the writer.

*I was not paid to write this piece, and I write many things for free, but better a site that wants to pay but has no money than a site with plenty of money that refuses to pay.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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