Jaron Lanier's widely linked op-ed in the NYT is just not making any sense at all.
Traditionally, artists, writers and musicians have been at the mercy of publishers. It's wrong to think that the web changes this basic model. It simply offers an alternative. But why is the web becoming so popular that it is eating away at other traditional media? Precisely because the content is free.
Let's think about the real value of content. Content on its own really is worth nothing. Value comes from publishers and readers projecting their experiences, emotions and expectations onto the work. It comes from packaging these expectations into a distinct object - the convenience and aesthetic delight of combining content with form to make a true product. This is the case for all forms of media, no matter how high or low-tech they might be. If a book or album isn't marketed, it won't make money. If artists and writers want to make money from publishing, they need to focus on product development. Sure, they could seek out designers and publishers to develop a new way of selling content online, why not? But we're all in the same boat, trying to make money to survive this capitalist disastermangle. Anyone who becomes an artist is either doing it by choice, or has been driven by disposition. They will be doing it no matter what. There is no free lunch.
I don't know that rallying against the free content model in general is a good answer. It's like rallying against libraries. The flaw in Lanier's argument is in assuming technologists and designers have more decision making power than they actually do in comparison to the people who own and invest in the corporate internet.