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Revenge of the Essayists

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
1 min read

I was wrong.

In my last post, I explained where the biggest companies were going with AI, on the backs of creators. But I assumed the biggest corporations in the world had legal teams that understood the basics of creators’ rights under the law.

But Microsoft proved me wrong this past week.

“I think that with respect to content that’s already on the open web, the social contract of that content since the ‘90s has been that it is fair use. Anyone can copy it, recreate with it, reproduce with it. That has been “freeware,” if you like. That’s been the understanding.” — Microsoft AI CEO Mustafa Suleyman

All the content scrapers (Google, Apple, Meta, and OpenAI) seem to agree. 

Being a creator online doesn’t seem to have much of a future when viewed through this lens, does it? Why post anything if a giant company is just going to take it and re-purpose it as their own?

This is where the essayist (or columnist) can show us a proven path to success.

An essay can be a sentence, a paragraph, a photo, a video, a stream, or…anything you want it to be. What makes it an essay is that it’s somehow tied to you: your tastes, your opinions, your experiences, and your reputation.

For scrapers, the less humanity involved, the more profit can be had — especially with advertisers who want to avoid controversy. Scrapers hate nuance and opinionated storytelling – the stuff that consumers actually love.

The essayist relies on a basic fact of humanity: people prefer to consume ideas from other people. This goes back to telling stories around the fire, hundreds of thousands of years ago. This will not change in your lifetime. It’s in our DNA.

People will seek out a trusted essayist — regardless of platform or format — to help them make sense of the world, as a fellow traveler. It’s the obvious long-term path for creators.

What are you doing to become an essayist?