June 20, 2003  ·  Lessig

So loyal Dean supporters have been emailing me about Howard Dean’s Blog for America, and indeed, it is a great blog. Simple, minimalist, with access to real content, and a nice blog roll of the scores of Dean blogs out there — but for the absense of a Creative Commons license, it is brilliant.

As is much in the doctor’s campaign. There is a passion and a clarity to Dean’s message which mixes well with the passion and, um, ok, just passion of the web. An extraordinary number have volunteered for his campaign because of the web. And Tuesday’s MoveOn.org primary will demonstrate any power that this means might have.

The experts say Dean can’t win. I’m no expert, so what do I know. So far I’ve only met the one man Karl Rove seems most afraid of — Edwards. As I’ve blogged, I think a great deal of the Senator. Indeed, he is the first politician to inspire in a very long time.

Edwards’ campaign is run by a bunch of experts. They resist the fads of the net. They have a fancy website that feels like a 4th of July commercial. There is relatively little direct contact. There is very little of a bottom-up feel.

That’s all part of the strategy, they say, and again, who am I to question it. The plan is that Edwards should place in the first two primaries. But because he will have more money than anyone, he will sweep the next 20. So going slow, saving resources, etc., is the strategy. And he is sticking to the plan.

That may be right. But I would think what the campaign against President Bush needs is the passion and commitment that is spilling out everywhere on the web — mainly for candidates other than Edwards. How much could it cost to open a channel to enable this bottom-up rally? How bad would it really be to give Madison Avenue a rest?

It just seems weird to me: between the son of a mill worker, and the son of an investment banker, which would you expect to run the populist campaign, in style if not in substance?

If it were mine to call, I’d build a million from the bottom up, focusing on values that are common to us all — truth (as opposed to lies); right (as opposed to wrong).

But what do I know. I’ve never won anything wonderful, save the love of the mother of our (soon to be born) boy.

June 19, 2003  ·  Lessig

If you have not yet, you should consider contributing to the RIAA scapegoats. Jesse Jordan‘s story is particularly extraordinary. He built a search engine for RPI’s network — one of a half-dozen such engines running at the time. Three-fourths of the files in the directory were not music files. Yet he was sued by record companies, demanding hundreds of millions in damages.

When they discovered that he had saved $12,000, they gave him a classic Sopranos-like choice: Either defend yourself in court (which would cost his family over $200,000) or pay us $12,000. He handed over the $12,000.

He, and some of the other student defendants, have set-up donation booths. Whatever your view about these issues, you should consider contributing. Whether or not the RIAA is right about the law, there is something deeply wrong about using the law to squash the likes of Jesse. He was not running Napster; indeed, he did nothing more than hack an improvement to an already existing search technology that existed in RPI’s net. Yet as the RIAA lawyers knew, it would cost him more to fight this suit than to settle it. So his defense would never get a chance to show that the law is not yet as extreme as the RIAA lawyers would like it to be.

Our legal system gives companies like A&M Records the power to do this to people like Jesse. We each, individually, by donating to these students, can help remove some of the burdens of that flaw. We all, collectively, should do something to change that legal system to remove that flaw. Soon.

June 19, 2003  ·  Lessig

I wrote this piece for CIO Insight, arguing that companies ought to let customers spy on their customer service agents. But I wonder: When you get a recording while on hold that says, “Calls may be monitored to assure quality assurance,” doesn’t the passive voice already authorize you, the customer, to tape as well?

June 18, 2003  ·  Lessig

Senator Hatch has been swallowed by the extremists. (Though this might not be such a bad idea. Can we bomb the offices of stock brokers thought to be violating SEC regulations? Or bulldoze houses of citizens with unregistered guns? Or — yes, this is good — short the telephones of people who use indecent language?)

June 17, 2003  ·  Lessig

Matthew Rimmer has a careful and insightful piece about Eldred v. Ashcroft. He has some good criticism of the Eldred Act.

Or at least, in the best of all possible worlds it would be good criticism. He says we need more radical reform. He worries about the burden on creators. True, the registration system was broken — because a government agency ran it. That needs to be fixed if any rebirth of registration is to do any good.

But the point about the need for something more radical bothers me. Sure, absolutely, we need something more. But how are we going to get there? There is no substantial push by ordinary people for the public domain. (Of course, there are 13,000 extraordinary people who get this, but only when you multiply them by 1,000 will we have a movement.)

Why don’t ordinary people get it? Because few understand why the public domain is valuable. Why don’t more see why the public domain is valuable? Because today the public domain is over 75 years old. It is ancient history for us, irrelevant to much of ordinary culture.

If the public domain were as young as it was for most of our history (30 years old, max), then losing it would mean something to most people. If the work of the 1960s and 1970s could easily be built upon, then taking that work away would excite a revolution. But the (brilliant) strategy of the copyright extremists has been to slowly remove the public domain, by slowing extending copyright. (Remember Hal in 2001, as Dave turns off his brain?) They have succeeded in making it irrelevant to most. The question now is how to make it relevant again.

In my view, reclaiming it would make it relevant. Exploding the content within the public domain in a context where it can be built upon and spread (ie, now, with the internet) will make people see again why the public domain is important. And if they see that, then they will again defend it.

It is this first step that the Eldred Act would achieve. The revival of a registration requirement would move content into a public domain quickly. (You can see the point with this Cabinet Magazine graphic.) And only then might we expect a public to demand more.

There are many who have written brilliantly about what is right in this context. Rimmer’s piece is an addition to that. But the hard problem is how to make the right real. That is what this movement needs now.

June 16, 2003  ·  Lessig

As reported in Michael Geist’s great Internet Law News service:

>CANADA TO SCRAP COPYRIGHT EXTENSIONS ON UNPUBLISHED WORKS
>Decima’s Canadian New Media reports that the Canadian
>government plans to drop controversial provisions from a
>bill that would have extended the term of copyright for
>unpublished works by deceased authors. Dubbed the Lucy Maud
>Montgomery Copyright Term Extension Act, members of a
>committee considering the bill noted that they had been
>flooded with calls and emails of people concerned with the
>copyright extension.

Help us flood more members with calls and emails!