Disclaimers

I have no formal background in sociology, politics or economy. I’m not an artist either. I haven’t had to deal with people stealing my work. If I am wrong about some things, even nitpicks, I’d be happy to receive emails about them. Be nice.

The following is my own opinion. Proceed with care. I also ask more questions than I share my answers.

Should you buy art from a bad person ?

Introduction

This question is similar to “Is it okay to enjoy art made by a bad person ?”. My stance on this issue is simple, if the person is dead, then there’s no reason not to. I consider that art and artist are distinct, and the former is inspired by the latter. The work might reflect the artist, but I think that’s the point. Although some works may count as propaganda, I don’t think they should be completely outlawed. Having warning and labels should be sufficient to inform the consumer.

The problem

Now, what happens when the person is still alive ? Spending money on their work is (if we exagerrate and extrapolate) the same as enabling them for more bad deeds, or denying them the possibility to sustain themselves.

Maybe their bad deed is killing people, or promoting a cause that goes against your beliefs, or they are from a different political party, or they like cheese but not the color red. At what point does what the artist thinks becomes enough of a problem that you begin to consider that they shouldn’t get money ?

On the flipside, denying someone money is akin to sentencing them to misery. For example, denouncing someone in public pretty much kills their employability, which is their only source of income. And we know that public opinion forgets quickly but never really forgives. How much should society have influence on a person’s livelihood ?

A radical answer

One very simple but radical answer to these problems is to simply not interact with those works.

Deep inside me, I disagree with this sentiment, which is why I’m in such a predicament. I don’t think art should be a luxury.

I think it should be accessible to all, just like culture is. But then, some art forms are entertainment, like games, music, or books, paintings…

Copyright effectively puts current culture behind a paywall. Is that a good thing ? Maybe that would be fine if 70 year old works had the same quality (?) as modern ones, or if there was enough free cultural works to satisfy entertainment.

Maybe if we didn’t have to worry about sustaining ourselves, we could have more free art. The freedom to express ourselves. But currently, being successful at life means not making mistakes. Pursuing a career in art becomes a gamble.

The money aspect

So what if you still want to consume the work without enabling them and giving them money ? Your only choice might be piracy.

Piracy tangent

Sidenote : It goes without saying that, if you have the means and enjoy the art, you should pay for it.

Is the only main moral problem with piracy that you don’t give money to the authors ? The other is probably acquiring works that are not destined to be shared. Related question : How much do you weight the artist’s wishes compared to the user’s ? (see note at the end)

Back to the topic at hand…

Using money to punish

Is it okay to pirate things when the author is a bad person ? In terms of value, you get something (the work), and they don’t (no money). But if you did give them money you would get the work, and they would get money, but you would also lose because you spend money an indirectly financed bad things.

Morally, I don’t think it less bad if they have a lot of money anyways. Given our society at least. But it definitely matters less to them if it’s just extra cash. In which case, it’s not really fair to you.

If they have average income (or less), I personally think that you should support them finantially even if you disagree, out of decency.

If you consider that it is a choice to do art for a living, then denying them money might be acceptable.

Artisthood

Asking whether doing art for a living is a choice, is fundamentally touching upon whether one can choose the work they do.

To be a good artist, you probably need to practice fulltime.

Although, I’d love to have an answer, I can’t say if we are able to choose the work we want to do. I feel like we are stuck choosing between choices that we may or may not enjoy. You could end up doing what you love, or you could have to choose the lesser of two devils.

The others involved

By not paying, you not only punish the artist, but also all the others involved in the process of creating the product: publishing, marketing, etc… It’s not their fault that you disagree with the artist. It would indeed be unfair to them.

If only there was a way to choose where your money goes to…

Disagreements in society

When you think hard about it, the problem isn’t that they don’t deserve the money, because work is work, and it should be rewarded so that they can survive economically. The problem is that it’s the only way to make a statement about their opinions. And that’s because they have an audience, and a platform from their art. They are in a position of power, which is really unfair.

I don’t think you should be able to punish people just becayse they disagree with you. I believe society is supposed to protect everyone’s opinions (but not their right to oppress others with their opinions).

I think I’m lacking in knowledge of tools and systems that exist to voice your opinions. It doesn’t help that (social) media is a shout fest. And that it is also very easy to completely ignore politics.

Conclusion

I think my stance would be, ensure people get fed and fight tooth and nail to make your opinions heard.

That means giving them money even if they’re awful. If they disagree with you, prevent them from getting a megaphone because they made something beloved. I guess this goes by not giving them money (if it’s the only effective way).

Also, obviously, prevent them from doing bad things.

Notes

What I’ve said probably apply to normal products from companies with questionable practices.

Artist vs. consumer wishes

I consider that users have all right to do whatever they want in private.

If the artist want a work to dissapear from the face of the world, I think you should be able to keep it, but not share it…

Actually, I think you can share it privately with friends because it has become an experience that is part of you.

If it goes against artist wishes, don’t do it in public. But if it is of public interest, like knowledge…

Well either publish anonymously, or if everyone knows the source… Still publish it. Mostly because I really really hate losing information.

For example, I think deadnames of trans people should be accessible on Wikipedia if they did something significant under that designation, but it shouldn’t be too prominent.

What if they only made great things because they were a bad person ?

I, uh… I don’t know.