Friday, February 01, 2008

Lessig's Legacy: Only Halfway There

Today's San Francisco Chronicle has a story about Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, headlined "Digital visionary's new offline cause." See http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/02/01/MNNBUP4BB.DTL.

Lessig, who dreamed up the Copyright Commons and evangelized on behalf of "Free Culture," is turning his focus to the influence of money in politics.

For my money -- or should I say "for my free license"? -- Lessig, like many other "digital visionaries," has advanced only one half of a good idea. He waged a rhetorically pure battle against corporate hoarders of intellectual property. But he never quite came to terms with the reality that as long as IP continues to exist (and it always will), independent creators need to be empowered to assert them against big-money interests.

"Information wants to be free" is a fine shibboleth. A more subtle and accurate formulation, I think, is that new technology creates opportunities for information to be more free than before, and for cultural delivery platforms to be diversified and vitalized.

The second part of that equation seems to have escaped Lessig and his followers, who went the slogan route and contributed to the carcicaturing of freelance writers' assertions of their rights to a fair share of the revenues generated by the electronic database companies -- the subject of our class-action copyright objections. And without that second part, we're left with the line from the old song by the Who: "Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss."

1 Comments:

Blogger Prokofy said...

This is an interesting critique of Lessig. I share these concerns as a freelancer myself.

Lessig also came into Second Life, made the case for IP for users, but then left it all halfway and didn't help enforce it.

And over time, reading his works, following what he's been doing, I've come to believe that his intention was never to help the little guy protect his IP against the big guys. His intention is merely to decouple content from commerce, induce collectivization and sharing, and undermine property rights which he finds intellectually indefensible and a hobble on creativity. I find it a pretty technocommunist point of view, and his clerking for these "conservative judges" and all the other memes spouted about him don't undo the parallels to bolshevism for me.

You may not see it this way or go this far, but you may come to see what a hoax it all is.

I've raised the question about all of Creative Commons as a project, in fact:

http://bitly.com/1EV1eX

and I've worked at debunking some of Lessig's basic false claims:

http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2008/12/liberating-free-culture-2-tinie-causby.html

12:44 AM  

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