labor supporting political blogs to the “NASA 8lickworkers,” a set of
over eighty-4ve thousand anonymous, untrained volunteers who
helped classify all the craters on maps of Mars.
Or take the <ublic ;ibrary of Science. This 6eb-based publishing
venture has protocols reminiscent of the scienti4c community as
described in chapter A. There I write that papers published in
scienti4c =ournals are called “contributions” for good reasonM “They
are in fact, gifts,” as one theorist says, gifts to a community whose
currency is the merit that a scientist acquires when her ideas are
accepted and passed along.
This gift ethic never extended, however, to the actual printing and
distribution of scienti4c =ournals. On the contrary, the cost of
subscribing to these =ournals has been a growing problem for many
libraries >the price of publications in science rose by about 2:K
percent during the 199Ks?. A one-year subscription to The American
Lournal of 9uman Geneticsnow costs over P1,KKK and a good science
library needs scores of such subscriptions. At current rates, poorly
endowed colleges and, more importantly, the poorer nations, literally
cannot a@ord to enter the scienti4c community, no matter its internal
ethic of generosity.
Internet publication has provided a solution. In 2KKK a group of
biomedical scientists, including Nobel laureate 9arold E. Narmus,
began urging scienti4c publishers to make all research available for
free distribution online. 6hen the publishers resisted, the group
simply worked around them and in 2KK3 launched a nonpro4t 6eb
publishing venture, the <ublic ;ibrary of Science. By now there are
six online =ournals ><;oS Biology, <;oS Medicine, <;oS Genetics, and
others?. These are not 6eb logs or chat rooms or sites where people
may post whatever they wishM they are well-edited, peer-reviewed
=ournals publishing original research, as with traditional =ournals. The
di@erence is that <;oS =ournals are “open access,” meaning that the
authors grant to all users “a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual
right of access” to their work. “Everything we publish is freely
available online throughout the world,” say the editors, “for you to
read, download, copy, distribute, and use >with attribution? any way
you wish. No permission required.”
The <ublic ;ibrary of Science has added “publishing as gift-
exchange” to the older idea of “research as gift-exchange.” Nor, I
might add, is gift-exchange at odds with commerce in this caseM the
editors allow commercial reuse of their =ournals’ content. In the
introduction to The Gift, I say that artworks exist in two economies,
though one is primaryM the same might be said of scienti4c
knowledge in the <ublic ;ibrary model: commerce is not excluded,
but it follows after contributions are madeM it does not come first.
To present my second example of a new noncommercial institution
I need to back up and describe a little-known piece of the history of
support for the arts. In modern times, young artists in need of help
have traditionally received support either from public co@ers or from
private fortunes. The question is, might there be a third path7 Might
not the art world itself hold wealth suCcient to support emerging
An interesting experiment in that line was initiated shortly after the
Second 6orld 6ar when musicians in the United States began to
worry that the popularity of long-playing records would cut into their
performance income. 6hat if every time the band goes to the
recording studio all they are doing is playing themselves out of half
of next year’s =obs7 Gesponsive to such concerns, the musicians’ union
worked out an innovative agreement with the recording companies
such that a small percentage of the sale of each recording would go
into a trust fund, the fund then being used to augment the income of
musicians playing live performances.
After half a century this institution, the Music <erformance 5und,
still exists. It distributes millions of dollars annually, and supports
thousands of concerts in the United States and 8anada. It’s the largest
sponsor of live, admission-free music in the world. In recent years it
has also developed a Scholarship 5und to help pay for the training of
6hat I like especially about the Music <erformance 5und is its
recycling feature, the wealth moving in a circle. That small
percentage of the commerce that goes into the Music <erformance
5und is a kind of self-tithing that the community has accepted so as
to support its members, and to support musical culture in general
>most of the performances are given for young people in schools?. As
a result, the recording industry is not purely extractiveM the business
side itself agrees to support the cultural ecology that nurtures
musicians in the first place.
More to the point, I like the revealed fact that artists need not
always go begging to taxpayers or private patronsM the arts themselves
produce wealth and therefore, if we have the wit to organize the
needed institutions, the arts ought to be able to support the arts.H In
the United States, the Arts Endowing the Arts Act was, in fact, the
name given to a legislative proposal that—had it been realized—
would have nicely reproduced the structure of the Music <erformance
In 199E, U.S. Senator 8hristopher Dodd of 8onnecticut proposed a
cunning way to use the value of past intellectual property to support
artists and scholars working in the present. Dodd’s suggested
legislation would have added twenty years to the term of copyright
protection, and used the income from those extra years to underwrite
current creative work. At the time, American copyright protected an
individual’s work for his or her lifetime, plus 4fty yearsM corporations
with works “made for hire” >most 4lms, for example? held rights for
seventy-4ve years. Under the Dodd proposal, at the end of each of
these terms, the rights to an additional twenty years would have been
publicly auctioned, the proceeds going to build endowments for the
arts and humanities.
8opyright has always had a double function. It encourages
creativity and, because its term is limited, it brings creative work into
the public domain. It treats such work as a private good for a term,
and then as a public or common good in perpetuity. 6hat the Dodd
proposal would have done, in e@ect, is to add a middle term
between the private and public, a transition period during which
wealth generated by copyright would underwrite currently active
creative talent. Or, to put it another way, for a limited period we
would consider “the public” to be those men and women who are
currently dedicating their lives to the arts and humanities, those who
are most directly the aesthetic and intellectual heirs of the past, and
who will most directly be the benefactors of any future cultural
The logic of Senator Dodd’s proposal, then, replicates the logic of
creative life itself, in which the past feeds the present and the present
will before long contribute to artists not yet born. It is all the more
distressing then that in 1998, in another striking example of postI
cold war market triumphalism, the entertainment industry in the
United States managed to outOank Dodd and his allies and persuade
the United States 8ongress to substitute for Arts Endowing the Arts
their own 8opyright Term Extension Act, one that has added twenty
years >retroactivelyQ? to all copyright terms without any provision for
the public domain side of the old balance between private wealth
and common wealth. The 6alt Disney 8orporation lobbied heavily
for this lawM their early Mickey Mouse cartoons would have entered
the public domain in 2KK3. Thanks to the Mickey Mouse <rotection
Act, as it is now known, they are safe until 2K23.
This sorry bit of statutory theft notwithstanding, the art-wealth
recycling feature of both the Music Trust 5und and the Dodd proposal
has been on my mind for a long time, and I tend to mention it
whenever I am asked to speak to the question of how we are to
empower the gifted in a world dominated by market exchange. On
one such occasion, a 199: talk I gave in <rovidence, Ghode Island,
Archibald Gillies and Brendan Gill happened to be in the audience.
They were at the time the president and chairman, respectively, of
the Andy 6arhol 5oundation for the Nisual Arts, and it turned out
that the 6arhol 5oundation was =ust then looking around for new
funding models. I soon =oined them in a more sustained conversation
about what initiatives might be undertaken, especially given the
postIcold war loss of so much public funding for individuals in the
visual arts. The result, after two years of brainstorming and fund-
raising, was a new nonpro4t granting agency, the 8reative 8apital
5oundation, that since 1999 has been giving direct support to
individual artists in 4lm, video, literature, and the performing and
8reative 8apital di@ers from other arts organizations in several
respects. 5or one thing, we make a multiyear commitment to the
artists we support, extending and renewing grants where we can, and
providing advisory services and professional assistance along with
financial support. 6e ask that artists make a budget for their pro=ects,
one that includes fair value for their timeM we help them 4nd and
negotiate with galleriesM we suggest they insure their studios, and so
forth. One 8reative 8apital grantee, whose studio was destroyed
during the 9R11 attack on New Bork, had insured her space only
Secondly, in line with the hope that the arts might support the arts,
8reative 8apital grantees agree to share a small percentage of any net
pro4ts generated by their pro=ects with 8reative 8apital, which then
applies those funds toward new grants. In designing this give-back
portion of the program we had in mind not only the models I have
=ust described but also the ethic by which the producer and director
Loseph <app used to manage the <ublic Theater in New Bork.
<app’s habit was to underwrite a great many theater productions
and take a small ownership stake in each. Those that succeeded
helped pay for those that came later. In the most famous example, A
8horus ;ine began at the <ublic Theater and then went to Broadway,
opening in the summer of 197A. It ran without interruption for
4fteen years, a commercial success that allowed <app to support the
work of less-established playwrights and companies. David Mamet,
Sam Shepard, Elizabeth Swados, the Mabou Mines theater group, and
dozens more received support during the years that <app managed
<otential pro4tability is not a criterion for funding awards at
8reative 8apitalM as with other arts funders, we ask our panels to look
for originality, risk-taking, mastery, and so forthM we respond
especially to pro=ects that transcend traditional disciplinary
boundaries. That said, the principle of sharing the wealth is essential
to the 8reative 8apital model. It makes explicit the assumption that
all who have succeeded as artists are indebted to those who came
before, and it o@ers a concrete way for accomplished practitioners to
give back to their communities, to assist others in attaining the
success they themselves have achieved.
8reative 8apital is a small experiment with much that we would
like to improve. In our 4rst eight years we awarded more than PA
million to 2E2 artist pro=ects, but we still lack an endowment that
would make us self-sustaining >our seed money necessarily came
from private philanthropy?. 6e would dearly love to give larger
grants, and more of themM we may well 4nd that the give-back
provision works well with some disciplines and not with othersM and
even if it works in a few cases, we may never find our 8horus ;ine.
5or now, however, the point is less about the particulars of this
case than about the search for practical responses to the general
problem posed by The Gift. Some responses will necessarily be 4tted
to their historical periodM the Music <erformance 5und belongs to a
time of powerful trade unions, and the heyday of public support for
art and science seems to belong to the cold war.
But surely there could also be responses that transcend their time.
The royal patronage that Sir Isaac Newton received may have fallen
out of favor, but other innovations from his day have survived. The
idea that colleges might have endowed professorships has not been
lost. Newton was the ;ucasian <rofessor of MathematicsM that position
was created in 1::3 by one 9enry ;ucas, and it endures to this day
>the theoretical physicist Stephen 9awking is its current occupant?.
The forums for scienti4c discourse that Newton knew have likewise
endured. In 1:72, Newton sent a long letter to 9enry Oldenburg of
the Goyal Society in ;ondon, an outline of his theory of light and
color. Oldenburg immediately printed the letter in the <hilosophical
Transactions of the Goyal Society. It was Newton’s 4rst scienti4c
publication. <hilosophical Transactions is the oldest scienti4c =ournal
in the English-speaking world, having now published for over 3EK
years. Oldenburg was its founding editor. 6hen he started it, it wasn’t
part of a scienti4c community, it created a scienti4c community, and
that community has endured.
;ucas and Oldenburg: these are good ancestors for the community
of scienceM their institutions survive and their names are remembered.
And for the community of artists7 Those who can be clear about
supporting the arts not as means to some other end but as ends in
themselves, those who can shape that support in response to the gift-
economy that lies at the heart of the practice, those who have the wit
and power and vision to build beyond their own day: for artists,
those will be the good ancestors of the generations of practitioners
that will follow when we are gone.
H An amusing echo of this debacle was heard many years later: in
19E8 one of the tour’s “surplus” paintings, Stuart Davis’s Still ;ife
with 5lowers, was bought for a high school in 8hicago by one of its
art teachers. The price was P:2.AK. In 2KK: the school sold the
painting at auction for P3.1 million.
H Actually, wit may not be the key ingredientM power helps. It was
the American 5ederation of Musicians that got the Music
<erformance 5und started as part of their collective bargaining with
the recording industry. The loss of union power is another chapter
of the recent saga of market triumphalism.
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York: Schocken, 1971.
Barnett, H. G. “The Nature of the Potlatch.” American
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Benveniste, Emile. Indo-European Language and Society.
Translated by Elizabeth Palmer. Coral Gables: University of
Miami Press, 1973.
Blau, Peter. Exchange and Power in Social Life. New York: Wiley,
Boas, Franz. “The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of
the Kwakiutl Indians.” U.S. National Museum, Annual Report,
1894–1895. Washington, 1897, pp. 311–738.
Drucker, Philip. Cultures of the North Pacific. Scranton, Pa.:
Chandler Publishing Co., 1965.
Fox, Renée C, and Swazey, Judith P. The Courage to Fail: A Social
View of Organ Transplants and Dialysis. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1974.
Goody, Jack, and Tambiah, S. J. Bridewealth and Dowry. London:
Cambridge University Press, 1973.
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Translated by Francis P. Magoun, Jr., and Alexander H. Krappe.
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