November 24, 2003

Lessig at NYU [9:11 am]

[via A blog doesn't need a clever name] A blog entry, Lawrence Lessig on Free Culture, at NYU, describing Larry Lessig’s talk at NYU’s Colloquium in Law, Philosophy, and Political Theory (his paper/excerpt: Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity)

It doesn’t seem this way to many. The battles around copyright and the Internet seem remote to most. To the few who follow them, they seem mainly about a much simpler brace of questions — whether “piracy” will be permitted, and whether “property” will be protected. The war that has been waged against the technologies of the Internet — what Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) President Jack Valenti calls his “own terrorist war” — has been framed as a battle about the rule of law, and respect for property. To know which side to take in this war, most think that we need only decide whether we’re for property, or against it.

If those really were the choices, then I would be with Jack Valenti and the content industry. I too am a believer in property, and especially in the importance of what Mr. Valenti nicely calls “creative property.” I believe that “piracy” is wrong, and that the law, properly tuned, should punish “piracy,” whether on or off the Internet.

But those simple beliefs mask a much more fundamental question and much more dramatic change. My fear is that unless we come to see this change, the war to rid the world of Internet pirates will also rid our culture of values that have been integral to our tradition from the start.

[...] Yet the law’s response to the Internet, when tied to changes in the technology of the Internet itself, have massively increased the effective regulation of creativity in America. To build upon or critique the culture around us one must ask, Oliver Twist like, for permission first. Permission, of course, is often granted. But it is not often granted to the critical, or the independent. We have built a kind of cultural nobility; those within the noble class live easily; those outside it, don’t. But nobility of any form is alien to our tradition.

Derek points out that there’s more Lessig at the NYU site: Chapter 10: Property and Afterword. He also cites Larry’s blog entry, which is a shock only in that I’ve been unable to get through to it since it was Slashdotted yesterday.

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