June 4, 2003  ·  Lessig

We have gathered over 6,000 signatures on our petition in a single day. That is extraordinary progress.

Yet there are many who are frustrated that this doesn’t go far enough. Many on Slashdot, for example, demand that we “hold out” for something much more radical. That this would be a “compromise” and that we should never “compromise.”

We should never compromise. But we must take first steps. We are where we are because most people don’t believe in the public domain. Most people don’t even understand it. We live in a time when the public domain is more than 75 years old. Yet for most of our history, the public domain was no more than 30 years old. If ordinary people could see the creativity that would be inspired if the 1960s were in the public domain, they would understand again the importance of limiting the regulation that copyright law has become.

They will only understand it if we build it. They will only get it when they see the creativity it would inspire, and the knowledge it will spread. We need to show them why the public domain is important, by building it again.

The Public Domain Enhancement Act would do this. And when not 5,000, but 50,000 people join together to say that it should be our first step, Congress will take it up. Then the burden will be on the otherside to explain why this obvious change should not occur.

But if you think our petition is too tame � if you think it accepts too much of current law, and would be read to endorse the status quo � then sign this alternative. It makes clear that the current system is broken; it demands radical reforms. But as any reform we achieve can apply to future copyrights only, we still have to deal with the current law, and the control it imposes. It therefore also endorses this first step.

Let’s see which view of copyright law better reflects this democracy. Let’s see just how radical the democracy has become. But on either view, we should take first steps now. We should build support around obvious reforms. And we should force them to resist what seems sensible to everyone else.

The only thing that we should not do is sit back and do nothing, “holding out” for “radical reform” that will never come on its own.

If you want “radical reform,” than produce 500,000 signatures on this Reclaim Copyright Law petition. If you want a first step of reform, then help us get 50,000 signatures to Reclaim the Public Domain.

But either way, do something. Now.

Comments