Joe had a good post this week about Chuck Cook self-publishing some information and photos he had gathered about Brasserie Dupont - and then putting being a click-through payment button offering access for $4.99. It is at the upper right at Chuck's blog if you want to go check it out. Joe suggested "[o]f course, you could always download the material and start emailing it around and sharing it on the Internet for free. If you're a douchebag." For me, this smacked of something I could not put my finger on. I had some odd reactions to this which I thought deserved a reasonably reasonable exploration:
→ I am all for making a buck off beer information. I run ads all over this site and they bring in money. Not enough frankly. Not because these post are dribbles of pure gold but because I can. I am offered the ads and do not go out and search for them. I trust they are worth what I am offered.
→ On the one hand, I had a photo ripped off by BeerAdvocate - not even a very good one, just a rare-ish bottle. I was still ticked and am ticked when I see DRAFT magazine doing the same recently.
→ On the other, I think I have noticed in the past that Chuck sometimes uses watermarks on his images which, if my recollection is true, bugs the hell out of me. But I don't know why. I am not a open source "free beer" phony baloney, was quoted about that - and went on and on. Yet there is something in any topical writing that is about sharing amongst the hopefully widening circle - something beer writing is laden with. A watermark hisses with "my pretty, my pretty".
→ When I see someone calling themselves "the world's top beer writer", a "leading exponent". "one of the world's foremost authorities" or otherwise draw their own conclusions about their place it gives me a fur ball that I just can't gak up. Note: Chuck does not do this on his site. He only notes his actual experience and does not award himself any gold star in summation.
What is wrong with me? I have moaned about there not being money in beer writing for years... best part of a decade if I checked. Maybe if the article were put up to auction and its value assessed would the marketplace of ideas be at play. Maybe if there was a process of reporting back, evidence that (as I wish) he gets 2,000 downloads and makes a pretty penny. But just placing a tag on something and for that tag to instantly become the ethical standard? I just don't get that.