April 9, 2005

Lessig and Tweedy at the NYPL [6:55 am]

Exploring the Right to Share, Mix and Burn

The tickets for the event Thursday sold out in five minutes on the Internet, and on the evening itself the lines stretched down the block. The reverent young fans might as well have been holding cellphones aloft as totems of their fealty.

Then again, this was the New York Public Library, a place of very high ceilings and even higher cultural aspirations, so the rock concert vibe created some dissonance. Inside, things became clearer as two high priests of very different tribes came together to address the question of “Who Owns Culture?” - a discussion of digital file-sharing sponsored by Wired magazine, part of a library series called “Live From the NYPL.”

Both Jeff Tweedy, the leader of the fervently followed rock band Wilco, and Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University law professor who has opposed criminalizing file sharing, seemed to agree that just about anybody who owns a modem also owns - or at least has every right to download - culture products.

[...] Mr. Lessig, one of the philosopher kings of Internet law, and Mr. Tweedy, the crown prince of indie music, traded places more than a few times during the presentation, with Mr. Lessig, who has argued copyright cases before the United States Supreme Court, enthusiastic about the artistic possibilities the Web engenders, and Mr. Tweedy making sapient pronouncements on the theoretical underpinnings of ownership.

“Once you create something, it doesn’t exist in the consciousness of the creator,” Mr. Tweedy said, telling the audience that they had an investment in a song just by the act of listening. Later, at a dinner at Lever House, Mr. Tweedy suggested that downloading was an act of rightful “civil disobedience.”

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