In yesterday's discussion and in Charles Leadbeater's discussion the day before, there was a lot of talk about the rights of amateurs, the "pro-am revolution" and other arguments about how amateur content and creativity was important. I described how in the blogging world, it's mostly the people who create content who "pay" in contrast to the professional content world where it is the creator who gets paid. I talked about how Creative Commons was really helpful for amateurs who were more passionate about having their works widely accessible than making money. This is not to say that Creative Commons isn't useful for other things of course.
There was a bit of slippage in the discussion in the afternoon when several people pointed out that maybe I was suggesting that amateurs shouldn't/couldn't become professionals. The point, if I understood it correctly, assumed that most amateurs wanted to be professionals and that somehow amateurs were proto-professionals or professional wannabes. At least some of them.
I think this is a mischaracterization and maybe a reason to dump the word "amateur". I think that in the case of many amateurs such as many bloggers, Wikipedians and most open source developers, the amateurs are happy being amateurs and don't feel that they are in any way inferior to their professional counterparts. Many of the heads of open source projects have a day job, but probably believe that they are superior to comparable professionals at Microsoft or other software companies. I doubt that many Wikipedians wish that they could get paid for what they do. There are very few people who prefer professional sex to amateur sex. (I think I got this example from Steve Weber's book.)
My sister pointed this out to me last week by IM as well. I think the answer lies in the mode of production. Money creates a power relationship between the payer and the payee. I think cases where the production is happening in some sort of enterprise or a "firm" where having a manager and having access to resources allows production to be more efficiently, financial relationships and "professionalism" seem to "feel OK." On the other hand, when working in what Yochai Benkler calls "commons-based peer-production," the "professionalism" is replaced by amateur passion as a primary driver.
I pointed out several times yesterday that I don't want to impinge on the rights of professionals, but I believe that monopolistic professional organizations such as rights collection agencies, the Hollywood lobbies and Microsoft are hurting the ability for amateur artists from participating by creating technology and legislation that focuses exclusively on protection instead of the sharing of creativity. I think it is the role of government to call into question the practices of these monopolies which are the unfortunately byproduct of an unchecked free market economy and prevent the passing of legislature that increases the power of these monopolies such as software patents and extension of copyright terms. Instead, they should be focusing on activities that make it more difficult for such monopolies to form such as focusing on open standards and open source and whenever possible, preventing proprietary standards from being funded by public funds.