May 27, 2003 · Lessig
There were many in the comments to the challenge who suggested there was nothing wrong with Starbucks exercising control over its own property. Of course that is right. And of course it is right that Starbucks should have the right to control people who are bothering people with their cameras, just as Starbucks has the right to control people who are bothering others with a radio. And of course it is right that Starbucks has the right even to be extremist about it — banning anyone who clicks even a picture of a friend, invoking mysterious claims about security or trade-secrets.
But if they exercise these rights to an extreme, then of course we have the right to criticize their extremism. We have the right to link their extremism to a growing phascism about photographs. (See the wonderful summary of your rights by Bert Krages.) For it is bizarre that we increasingly live in this world where every movement is captured by a camera, yet increasingly, ordinary people are not permitted to take pictures with cameras. This is yet another part of a growing obsession with control that seems to mark so much of this society. At a minimum, we have a right to take note of this control, and criticize it where we can.
That’s just what I wondered about when I read these stories about Starbucks’. I’m a terribly untrendy sort — I like Starbucks. But I couldn’t quite tell whether the extremism of these stories was an exception or a policy. And I guess I was relieved to read, and to find, at least some stores where the manager of a place that loves to imagine itself a public place was actually giving members of the public a freedom to feel like they are in public. I understand of course — as everyone should — that this “feeling” is just virtual. It can be withdrawn at anytime.