Carpenters build things. They also repair things. For the fixed object or the use of the repaired one, you have to pay the carpenter. Accountants keep your books, or audit them, or they may compute your taxes. For a fee. It is much the same with plumbers, lawyers, computer consultants, or, for that matter, computer programmers. If you don't pay them, you do not get their goods and services. Sound familiar? That's the same deal you have with your employer. You demand to get paid for a day's work.

Artists put in a day's work, however, and people seem to think that the spiritual rewards should be enough. Music download and stock illustration houses want to make their money for distributing what the artists create, but few believe that the artists themselves have a claim to their compensation. That's the mentality out there in too much of the internet cuture.

Now suppose someone overheard you saying you love your work. Would you show up day after day if your employer used that statement to determine that you should no longer be paid? No? Of course not—you have bills to pay, kids to feed. You'd quit and find a job that pays.

So it will be with artists if the prevailing attitudes continue. You will still get songs and cartoons and illustrations and actors and writers, but they will be from hobbyists. Part-timers. The less talented, less disciplined, less skilled. Hacks and wannabes. Hungry for recognition they can't get elsewhere in their lives. Or the half-measure works of former pros that don't have the time or energy to give it their best shot.

That'll sure take the thrill out of opening a magazine or turning on the TV. And oldies radio will get old and older. Then distributers of "content" can kiss goodbye all those advertising dollars because there will be no fresh, quality content. And then the cheesemakers and auto dealers and all the other companies who have something to sell, not to mention millions of employees they maintain on the payrolls, will start to suffer because there will be no vehicle by which to advertise their products (or skilled artists to make good ads, for that matter). All because our society tried to create a virtual slave class of artists. Think I'm overexaggerating? Look at all the nations in this world who don't respect copyrights. And look at their economies. Coincidence?

The artist is a carny. He lets you ride on a carny ride. If you want to ride, you have to have a ticket. You have to buy a CD, or a movie ticket, or a book. Or pay a for a legally authorized download or subscription. Or you have to watch the commercials.

There is no free ride. If the ride isn't worth the ticket price to you, don't ride it. The carny will get the idea. And another carny will show you a better ride.

If you want to let someone else ride instead of you, that person needs a ticket, too. The old expression goes, if you want to dance, you have to pay the piper. That remains true, even in the New Economy. If you want your roof fixed, you have to pay the carpenter. If your boss wants you to work, you have to get paid, too.

Thank you for respecting copyrights. To learn more about some of the issues involved and the lives they touch at their very core, check out The Illustrators Partnership web site. And talk to your friends and coworkers about this seemingly invisible issue that is surprisingly important in your lives.