Francis Ford Coppola: Maybe the Downloaders Are Right

In a new interview, acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola takes a radical stance on issues of downloading, copyright, and art: Maybe the students downloading movies and music are right, he says. Maybe we artists shouldn't get paid.

Coppola, director of Apocalypse Now, the Godfather trilogy, and many more critically and commercially successful films, now largely makes his money from his wine business, granting him a financial independence that many directors seek but few ever find. He's also Nic Cage's uncle. And an unexpected ally of digital downloaders. Here's what he said to The 99 Percent:

We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it's only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n' roll singer being rich, that's not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I'm going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you'd be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, "Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money." Because there are ways around it.

It might be easy for Coppola, who has already found great success in and out of the Hollywood system, to take such a radical stance, but it's refreshing to see such a respected artist ask the hard questions nonetheless. Hopefully he gets seated next to that blowhard from Metallica at a dinner party sometime soon. [The 99 Percent via Kottke]