May 22, 2005  ·  Lessig

I’ve just arrived in South Africa after speaking in Norway. I had been invited by Kopinor to participate in their 25th Anniversary. My speech was a classic reminder that audience is everything. I count it as a total failure. (More below)

{UPDATE: I apologize that this sounds (upon rereading and upon reading the comments) critical of Kopinor or the conference. That is not my meaning. I have disagreements, of course, but this is critical of me — of my “failing to connect” — with a community that is extraordinarily important to the future of these issues on the net. As I said in the talk, such societies are often better at dealing with the rights issues we confront in the US; working out where and how is the constructive challenge we face. My talk is available here. The other presenter in my panel is here. And the question and answer session is here. }

I had spent literally two days preparing this talk. The chance to talk in the context of a collecting society, in a tradition in which collectively managed rights are central, was extremely interesting. It reminded me of how far America is from Europe in this respect, and that there is much that we might learn from Europe.

I tried to map three separate “creative economies” that I think any free society has to account.

The familiar of these three is the “exclusive rights” economy (“ER economy”) in which property rights over speech control access to speech in order to create incentives to create.

A second is the “free of exclusive rights” economy (“FR economy”) — the economy of say Google, or the economy where people retell the stories from a movie. This economy depends upon not negotiating exclusive rights for it to function. But that doesn’t make it any less an economy.

The new part (in my thinking) was adding what I called the “collectively negotiated exclusive rights economy” (“CR economy”) — the family of collecting rights societies, of which Norway has many, though some that don’t quite fit the model I set.

My view is that a free society needs a healthy mix among these three economies; that we need rules to assure this healthy mix; and that we need to avoid extremism in any of the three, or the capture of any by the others.

The audience hated it. They hated me. My view was “naive” one speaker said. An American representing one of the rights societies was just about as rude as one could be. (The event was taped. I’ll post the tape when I find the link.)

When the questions were over, I responded in a fever induced exasperation: my talk was descriptive, and prescriptive. The descriptive part described three economies. None had disagreed with that description. So the disagreement must have been with the prescription — that it was important to maintain the balance among these three. The last questioner, and the only questioner to ask a question of my co-panelist, made this point well: where is the limit to where culture gets regulated? What part should remain free?

That was my question too. These societies are extremely pervasive. They work to find as many new places where revenue can be collected as possible. In principle, I have no objection. The “free” that I push is freedom, not price. And the great benefit of the CR economy is that it at least assures access.

But I was really stunned by the total lack of awareness that there is, or should be, a limit. My co-panelist, Ms. Tarja Koskinen-Olsson, called the “Queen of Collecting Societies” actually openly praised the “Permission Society” that they were building. Everyone was proud to report the rising fees they were collecting. There was nothing suggested anywhere about how a society should decide when enough is enough. It was as if I was at an IRS conference, where agents were extolling the virtues of increasing revenue, without anyone recognizing that just because taxes are good (which they are), it doesn’t follow that more taxes are better.

Koskinen-Olsson betrayed an important confusion that I failed to clarify. The “permission society” is not what the CR economy produces. It produces as society of compensation without control. A “permission society” would be the society produced by perfect extension of the property rights model to every corner of social life — so you had to negotiate with a rights holder for every particular use. The vice in that is not just the transaction costs (which would inevitably be high) but also the chill such a system would produce for those who would want to use creative work in ways that might be critical, or disfavored.

After the talk, I had a very interesting and revealing (and ultimately frustrating) conversation with someone from Canada. Her comments revealed to me part of what had been bothering me the whole day.

This event was populated by many from Africa. Again and again, people were celebrating the “cooperation” of the Africans with the copyright system. And of course, it is a good thing when Africans “cooperate,” just as it is a good thing when American’s “cooperate.” But there was a strand of the reasoning that pervaded the day that was at the core of the argument I had with this Canadian, and that is just wrong.

The thread began with a comment in the first speech. The speech was by a professor. He was celebrating the system where he was compensated every time someone copied one of his articles. I had criticized this. That criticism led to my being called “naive.” I said that while I had no problem at all with people paying to listen to music, or novels, we had to be extremely sensitive to the way price might block the spread of knowledge. And that for academic and scientific work, the best model for producing and spreading knowledge might not be one that meters each use. Professors should be paid. But let that be their compensation, and let the knowledge they produce spread widely.

Yet there was a general view at the conference that this was wrong. That we hurt developing nations, for example, if we give them knowledge for free. They should have to pay for the truths we create. It weakens them, the argument went, if they can just take what we have discovered. Better to encourage their industry of science than to destroy it by simply spreading the truths that science here has created.

This is really an astonishing argument, as it is as clearly wrong from the perspective of economics as an argument could be. Assuming the discoverer is compensated for the discovery, there is no reason to block the spread of knowledge just for the purpose of inducing industry in a developing nation.

If you doubt that, then what do you think about this idea: Let’s burn all science in the public domain. If developing nations are worse off getting our science for free, then we must be worse off getting the science of our forefathers for free. If the “subsidy” to developing nations hurts their economy, then so too should it hurt ours. So why don’t we see a big push by economists generally to ban the public domain, or tax it, so that the burdens of its free resources aren’t felt generally.

This is the thing to fear about the emergence of the CR mentality. I’m generally a supporter. I think we would be much richer economy if we had adopted a voluntary collective licensing system for p2p sharing, rather than sue every new p2p business. I also think artists would have been better paid. There are many ways to raise the money we need to fund the arts and science a culture needs. We should be experimenting with these different ways.

But the danger of the culture of CR economies is the inability to see the limits to their own approach. Like the extremist from an ER economy, and an extremist from the FR economy, the extremist from the CR economy sees what they’ve done as good, and assume more of a good thing is better.

It’s not. And it is demonstrably true that it’s not. And as is my way, I will now spend weeks of regret for so totally failing to find a way to make that completely pedestrian point clear.

  • Espen Andersen

    ftp://ftp.skolelinux.no/skolelinux/press/20050520-kopinor/lessig_20050520.mpeg is the recording. I was there with some EFN people and I enjoyed it, but I agree with what you are saying about some really not “getting it”.
    I will however inform you that Heidi W�llo approached a friend of mine and myself and told me about how she found your talk interesting and enjoyed that your beliefs weren’t so far off from hers as she would have believed.

    All in all at least some of us appreciated you being there, thank you.

  • Espen Andersen

    Oh, and the debate will show up in ftp://ftp.skolelinux.no/skolelinux/press/20050520-kopinor/ when it is ready.

  • http://atulchitnis.com Atul Chitnis

    You have my sympathies – facing a “hostile” (or rather – pre-programmed) audience that is opposed to your line of thinking (with the opposition based largely on ignorance) can be really painful.

    I have faced similar situations – including one in Mauritius where I gave what I thought was a rousing talk on the benefits of Open Source in the development of an understanding of complicated technologies, only to have the IT minister stand up and give a devastating talk on how important it was to protect all intellectual property from us Open Source pushers! And of course *he* got all the media coverage!

    It didn’t help that the minister was apparently sacked a few weeks later – with the cream of the land’s industry sitting in on that day, opinions were formed and carried away, and I personally felt like an idiot, held up as an example of everything the world should be protected from. :(

  • http://ghw.wordherders.net gzombie

    The idea that professors should get paid every time someone makes a copy of one of their articles is preposterous.

    Professors stand to benefit professionally and financially if their ideas (with attribution) are allowed to circulate as freely as possible.

    Furthermore, (putting aside the issue of private colleges and universities) why should state employees produce scholarship at taxpayer expense only to then turn around and charge taxpayers again to access that scholarship?

  • http://www.espen.com/weblog Espen Andersen

    Sorry to hear, as a Norwegian and an admirer, that you had a hard time – but anyone who tells truth to people who don’t stand to benefit from it will face denial. The professor who liked to get money from copying is really a disgrace to academics, but that model will disappear in a few years.

    If it is any consolation – my first “big” speaking gig was to an audience of British CIOs in 1995. The title of my talk was “The Future of the Mainframe”, and my conclusion was that the mainframe would gradually disappear, at least as a technology. The audience, all of whom owed their careers to mainframe computers, gave me the lowest score I have ever received. My boss, bless him, took one look at the score and said “Wow, you really must have done a great job!”.

    You just happened to tell a group of people who think they are taking over the world that there are alternatives to their model. Nobody likes to hear that, even if it will not put them out of business.

    See also http://www.espen.com/archives/2005/05/lessig_frustrat.html. (and yes, Espen Andersen is a fairly common name in Norway, there are at least two of us that read your blog.)

  • http://www.nffo.no Hans M. Graasvold

    I was there too, and I enjoyed the speech, as I’m sure the rest of the audience did as well. However, I think this debate will degenerate into somthing fairly unuseful, unless people realise that no one (not the Kopinor anniversary crowd, either) disagreees as to the need for a balance of “the three economies”, as prof. Lessig described them. However; it is crusial that the rights holders are made aware of the legal and practical consequenses of publishing their works under a CC license or similar; That they actually miss out on the opportunity to seek grants from the Kopinor funds. Also – and that was the mere point that the norwegian professor (who is not at all a disgrace to academics, but a most renowned professor in the field of media and communication) was trying to make; there IS an inherent danger if academic works are published for free, that the demand for pay-litterature decreases. Quality academic litterature actually does cost money to produce, and what happens if users come to excpect such knowledge to be free? So, what prof. Lessig felt as “hate”, may have been a feeling amongst the audience that he should have comtemplated a bit more on these specific matters.
    Anyway, my $0.02… (to Mr. Lessig, I’m the guy who sat next to you during lunch that friday)

  • http://www.tekstadventure.nl/branko/blog/ Branko Collin

    Wow, Larry, what a great modern retelling of Poe’s “The Mask of the Red Death”!

    The EU wants to move away from levies, BTW. As you point out, levies are not about permission, they are about lack of permission. Since there are now technical possibilities to restrict copying and other uses (DRM), the need for levy collection societies is rapidly decreasing. What you have witnessed are the last spasms of a dying breed.

  • http://www.tekstadventure.nl/branko/blog/ Branko Collin

    Quality academic litterature actually does cost money to produce, and what happens if users come to excpect such knowledge to be free?

    Oh, only the possibility of complete peer review, progress of science and mankind, scientists who have to descend from their ivory towers; these small insignificant nothings will come of free knowledge.

    In my country the cheque for “quality academic litterature” tends to get picked up by the tax payers. I hope you won’t mind if I feel that we should not pay twice for the same thing.

  • lessig

    Hans, no one doubts — nor does anyone need to be told — that good academic work needs resources to be produced. The point I was trying to make is that there are different “economies” for producing that good. The response that frustrate(s/d) me is a response that ignores the diversity of ways that we might produce the social good — academic research — and presumes that merely by saying “it costs money” it follows that charging for use is the best way to produce it. That doesn’t follow. That was/is my point.

    I also find bizarre this slogan repeated again and again in such contexts — that if something is “free” then people won’t value it. Who ever came up with such malarky? And does that person pay for friendship, sex, or love? Do we value toilet paper more than Einstein’s theories of relativity because we spend more on the former than the latter?

    Academics can get “paid” in many different ways. We should evaluate the benefits and costs of each way. One way they might get paid is through reputation for great work. Another way they might get paid is through copyright fees for copies of their articles. I can’t believe we’d actually get better academics through copyright fees than reputation. But even if one thought there was a slight advantage, the costs of charging fees to spread knowledge are extraordinarily high especially outside of the rich and comfortable world of places like the US and Norway. “I get rich” is not a justification; if anything, it’s a prediction of unhappiness to come.

  • http://www.asgeirnilsen.com Asgeir Nilsen

    I also attended Kopinor’s symposium, and I don’t think the entire audience were of the same opinion as the few who spoke after your talk. Don’t perceive the audience’s silence as a support to these comments. I for one really enjoyed the talk!

    It’s in no collecting society’s (financial) interest to increase the extent of free use, and I believe their wet dream is that each and every page on the Internet should be remunerated..! It’s sad that they seem unable to see the bigger picture, and a great loss for the rights holders they represent.

    If anyone were na�ve, Ms. Tarja Koskinen-Olsson statement that she was glad to live east of the Atlantic..! I do not believe the state of affairs is so much better in the legislation. My opinion is that the limitations of fair use hasn’t been tested to the same extent in European courts. In addition, I believe media corporations in Europe are more numerous and smaller than the corresponding U.S. corporations.

  • http://www.nffo.no Hans M. Graasvold

    Mr. Lessig, I cannot see that we disagree. There is certainly a need for different ways of enforcing copyright, and use of alternatives to collective licensing should not be ignored, but rather encouraged. At the same time, which is my humble point, we must also be careful not to ignore the consequenses of practicing these alternatives. When I state the obvious fact that good academic work need resources to be produced, I merely try to add some counterweight to the general ranting about how free access seemingly without exception serves the interests of “science and mankind”. Both King & Queen Collecting Societies, and the free culture movement would, in my opinion, be better off discussing the CONSEQUENSES of practicing the different economies, rather than trying to state that one is better than the other. Now, your speech served as an excellent introduction to such a discussion. I just wish that the audience – and maybe yourself – had picked up on it.

    And please (Asgeir), this is really not a discussion about what legislation is the best, or the limitations of the fair use doctrine, but how it is best practiced by the rights holders. The hammer is not the problem, it’s the person who uses it. Don’t we all agree that people must be allowed to use a hammer if they want to?

  • Ted Mitew

    “we hurt developing nations, for example, if we give them knowledge for free. They should have to pay for the truths we create. It weakens them, the argument went, if they can just take what we have discovered. Better to encourage their industry of science than to destroy it by simply spreading the truths that science here has created.”

    Professor Lessig, I admire your civilised reaction to what is in fact a deeply racist statement from a member of your audience. I for one would have been much more blunt with the person who came up with the argument from the quote above.

    Leaving aside the legal and, perhaps, epistemological side of the problem of knowledge, it is deeply racist to suggest that ‘we’ (as in ‘we, the white high priests of science’) should not give ‘them’ (as in ‘them, the savages’) ‘the truths we create’. How do the writings of Petrarch ‘hurt’ Mongolian development? How does Eulerian geometry ‘hurt’ the landless peasants in Brazil? Or, to flip the coin, how does ‘the truth of creating’ kebab ‘hurt’ Norwegian science professors?

    Or is it that the writings of Norwegian science professors are somehow more epistemologically in touch with reality and thus somehow inherently dangerous to poor savages living in the maze of intersubjectivity?

  • http://www.democracynow.org/ Tayssir John Gabbour

    Indeed, the US was once a developing nation, a “bold pirate of intellectual property,” as the New York Times called it. The article goes on to cite other “success stories” like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, which took off under a similar template.

    I hope someone please notifies us when the debate is finally posted on the net.

  • http://dignifiedevil.blogspot.com andrew

    qouting Ted:

    “we hurt developing nations, for example, if we give them knowledge for free. They should have to pay for the truths we create. It weakens them, the argument went, if they can just take what we have discovered. Better to encourage their industry of science than to destroy it by simply spreading the truths that science here has created.”

    Professor Lessig, I admire your civilised reaction to what is in fact a deeply racist statement from a member of your audience. I for one would have been much more blunt with the person who came up with the argument from the quote above.
    +++++++++++++

    One thing you (here refering to Lawrence) made apparent in Free Culture (at least the way I read it) was that developing economies frequently enter the market place by mimicry. I beleive the example revolved around the invention of cinema, Thomas Edison’s patents, and California’s lax copyright law, in which cinema exploded becuase film makers didn’t have to compensate edison or American’s refusal to honor British copyright law, or really any of several billion examples i.e. Asia’s technology companies, the wheel, the oven, etc. Just wanted to point out a unique little niche of mimmicry I found the other day. Here in Korea special forces is the latest pc room sensation (moc game even has a show built around it similar to their huge warcraft specials). The game basically is Tom Clancy’s Special Forces or Ranbow Six only made by a group in Beruit. Link here. It retells many of the missions the lebanese did during Israel’s invasions of Lebanon (googled it got 1978 and 1982). It’s interesting though in that it’s much bigger in Korea than the Clancy games, but has created a market for tactical shooters here i.e. the Clancy games that were pretty badly marketed here (special force like many popular korean games is a free download and then you pay a monthly subscription fee to play online and is advertised on TV) are suddenly available everywhere (especially rainbow six). Hence the copy is marketing the original at no expense to the original copyholder except distribution in Korea. It’s interesting to in the transformative nature of the game while Americans love WWII games (think of EA’s million selling WWII franchises) Special Force is stricly Muslim and while I can’t vouch for the games content (still never played it) it does make me think of genre. Is Special Force a violation of American copyright law becuase it so closely resembles the Clancy line of games or is it merely another product in a genre of tactial war games that spot our planet like flies?

  • http://ghw.wordherders.net gzombie

    Prof. Lessig writes, “Academics can get ‘paid’ in many different ways. We should evaluate the benefits and costs of each way. One way they might get paid is through reputation for great work.”

    And it should be pointed out that a reputation for great work is likely to lead to a higher salary from one’s home institution (or a better paying job at another).

  • Vidar

    When I first heard Dr. Lessig was coming to Norway I was impressed. I had hoped the underlying reason for his invitation was a desire to explore and debate his ideas in an academic context. After Dr. Lessig had finished his talk, the people who commented were emphasizing the entertainment value of his talk, not the ideas he presented. Indeed, Dr. Lessig himself had break his talk down into managable bits in an attempt to get the discussion on the right track again. This never happened.

    The people at the Kopinor Symposium were very protective of their own views, although there were a few exceptions. When we finally managed to get Dr. Lessig to Norway, it was disappointing to see how little people wanted to challenge his ideas and their own. Hopefully there will be another opportunity….

  • David Tomlinson

    Professor Lessig, is consistantly making a mistake, in beliving the solution is always the middle ground.

    Rather than support Exclusive Rights, he assumes that the compromises made for physical property, should be applied to intellectual property.

    Moderation in all things is not a bad strategy, but it can often fail, if the pendulum has already swung to one extreme you end up with a moderate strategy, at the three quarter point rather than the middle.
    Another occasion when it fails to work, is when the model is wrong.

    The physical property model is just wrong for intangable materials. It doesn’t walk like a duck, or quack like a duck, so stop trying to force it to be a duck. Intangables are not physical, so stop trying to attach them to some atoms and claim they are physical.

    He now extends his moderation to the economy of ideas (note: not the economy of physical objects), and argues for a mixed economy.

    He identifies this as the Exclusive Rights (or permission) economy (ER), the Collective Rights (CR) Economy and the Free from Exclusive Rights (FR) Economy.

    He then chastises the extremists from each economy, and advocates a mixed market.

    He is then suprised when he encounters people from the CR economy and they can see no limit to the application of and extention to Collective Rights, Just as the Exclusive Rights people can see no limit to Exclusive Rights.

    Ref: 125 in this paper by Prof Lemley: http://ssrn.com/abstract=582602

    See Gordon Tullock, The Welfare Costs of Tariffs, Monopolies and Theft, 5 Western Econ. J. 224, 226, 232 (1967). Tullock’s classic analysis applies to efforts to capture an existing government benefit. The analysis would seem applicable to efforts to create a new right as well.
    In both cases, rent-seekers will be willing to spend up to their expected value of the rent (the money they will receive if successful, discounted by the probability of failure and any risk aversion) to try to acquire the rent.

    So if you create a right, people have an incentive to aquire and extend that right, and will expend resources to do so. Where as if an economy can operate without that right, then there is no possibility of aquiring the right.

    In fact, the physical limitations of live performance and restricting access automatically limit the rewards (to performer, venue owner etc), while providing sufficient incentives, and it is the public that aquires the benifit of low cost copying and distribution, just as it is the public who are picking up the cost of distribution and storage.

    This reduces the tendancy for a winner takes all model and gives more scope for a larger variety of more moderately renumerated performers.

    Exclusive rights, make any marginal gain from marketing justified, and reduce distribution as the intention is to maximalise profit form every transaction. The result is the public good is minimalised, and the private profit maximalised.

    When you have the wrong model, only the radical change to a more appropriate model will do, moderation is not the solution.

  • http://www.downes.ca Stephen Downes

    I don’t hink that the point you were trying to make is pedestrian. And while I doubt that your talk was a failure, I think that the point you were making was less obvious than you perceive.

    After all, it has its analogies in the world of the production of physical goods. There are three models here as well:

    - ER – you buy something, you pay for it

    - CR – the government buys things, compensates producers, and provides them to consumers for free

    - FR – you receive foreign aid

    One of the significant problems with a developing economy is that there isn’t a lot of money. This weakens the utility of CR, because the government doesn’t have enough money to compensate producers, and hence, you get an economy of poorly compensated and hence poorly produced goods. CR assumes a certain level of prior wealth, which for developing countries and for all practical purposes leaves the choice as between ER and FR.

    Now it is frequently argued that in developing countries, except in emergency situations, the net effect of foreign aid is to hinder development of a local economy. The dumping of free food on a nation, for example, prices food below the level of sustinance for local farmers, in effect killing the local farming industry. After the Tsunami, for example, it was common for governments to refuse certain types of aid for precisely this reason.

    That leaves ER as the only means for a developing nation to generate any level of internal wealth, and so, it is not surprising that this was the option favoured.

    I don’t think it’s a straightforward thing to argue against this line of reasoning. Starting from the basic presumptions that (a) professors want to make a good living, and (b) their governments don’t have enough money to pay them well, it seems a bit much to expect them to cheerfully contribute their production for free, nor either to welcome the importation of free and competitive product from wealthy nations.

    My response has two parts.

    The first part is that the argument thus far has been told from the point of view of the producer. This something I commonly encounter when speaking to university audiences. Producer audiences take producer perspectives. But the primary beneficiaries of non-ER forms of distribution are consumers. So I try to be clear that my intent is to address the needs of consumers. And that CR and even FR are of great benefit to consumers, so much so that they become almost inevitable, and that the road producers need to travel with me is an exploration of how to preserve the interests of producers in a consumer oriented economy.

    It is at this point I advocate for something like a CR model. And while I agree that governments of developing nations cannot afford to pay for CR distribution, I argue that it is clear that more wealthy nations can pay this amount, and that therefore the direction we should take is to ensure that producers in developing nations are able to share in the paymen ts made by wealthy nations to producers.

    This, indeed, addresses the same problem with FR. If foreign aid were composed of aid purchased from local economies by rich nations and distributed to the poor, it would have no negative impact on the local economy; indeed, by stimulating demand an d an infusion of capital into the local economy, it would have a positive effect.

    Had I been in a similar situation – and with benefit of your experience (for I confess I would have taken a line very much like the one you did) I would argue for FR and CR economies on the basis of their potential to generate payments for production of goods for which there is no local demand (because of cost, not need), and where local distribution isw thereby enabled. In other words, you get to sell your product to an export market and keep it locally.

    Interestingly, though, in order for this to happen, the greatest changes need to take place, not in developing nations, but in developed nations. A characteristic of many foreign aid programs is that the materials purchased to provide foreign aid are purchased from the donor country. It is necessary, in order to ensure a worldwide distribution of revenue, to spread these pruchases around, to ensure that content creators in less wealthy nations are paid through programs funded by wealthy nations.

    I have no illusion that this short ourline is a complete answer. But it does give me a frame for any remarks I would ever make in such a context. I would not say something along the lines of, “Here’s what you should do…” Rather, I would say, “Here’s what I think my country should do, and the steps I am taking at hoime to ensure that this happens.” I suspect that if I told such an audience I am trying to develop a market for their production, I would receive a much warmer reception.

    But, of course, this – like all predictions – is subject to empirical verification.

  • http://developer.skolelinux.no/~herman/ Herman Robak

    The rest of the video recordings online now

    The recording of the questions and answers session is now available here: ftp://ftp.skolelinux.no/skolelinux/press/20050520-kopinor/lessig_koskinen_qa.mpeg. And Ms. Tarja Koskinen-Olsson’s talk is here: ftp://ftp.skolelinux.no/skolelinux/press/20050520-kopinor/Tarja_Koskinen-Olsson.mpeg.

  • Brian

    While I’m still not exactly clear in my own mind where I stand on this issue, one particular facet of this conversation tends to reflect the wrong color of light for me. It’s the use of science as any sort of example when discussing information exchange.

    It seems to me that science is very much a special case when it comes to these structures. Science thrives on free information exchange — in fact, it only really WORKS when the methods and the research are as transparent as possible. Otherwise you end up with endless reinventings of various wheels and forkings of theories that should have been headed off early through simple, widespread peer review. This is why the standardized adoption of TeX in the physics/math communities is so useful — it allows for nearly effortless communication.

    Art, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily improved by exposure to other art. Hearing a song you wrote will not automatically have anything to do with a song I write, even if we use the same instruments and subject matter. There’s no such thing as musical Darwinism, where only the very best songs and artists survive (though if someone made an American Idol Deathmatch, I know I’d watch).

    The person who argued “[t]hat we hurt developing nations, for example, if we give them knowledge for free,” is running the same road, in the opposite direction. According to him, by simply spreading science around, we short-circuit the development of nations. What the argument misses is that very little is gained through wrong science. You’ve got Ptolemy, you’ve got Keppler. Both give you reasons for why the planets move like they do. But as far as progress goes, it’s just plain better to get the right answer sooner, rather than wasting time trying to figure out the exact period of the celestial epicycles. Smart is smart, and from a scientific perspective, it’s better to let the smart people work on answering the right questions.

    So let’s separate this out. If we’re talking about licensing art or other creations that have virtue by their very existence, then this structure of CR, ER, FR makes sense. If we’re talking about new science, whose has virtue solely by being more right than other theories, then discussions of permissions, licensing, and the like seem to be a little off topic.

  • Helge R�nning

    Dear Lawrence Lessig,

    First of all thank for coming to Oslo and for sharing your ideas with us. As I said in my comment to your speech I admire your work. I find it interesting and relevant, even if I do not agree with everything you say.
    Let me also say that I am sorry if my comment about you being naive was misunderstood. What I meant was that your American perspective seemed a bit to the side of the situation in a small European country, with a different tradition of authors’ rights, than the American one.

    I do think that academic debate is among other things about not agreeing.

    I also think that you have misinterpreted the reactions of the audience in Oslo. Many like myself found much of what you said relevant, including the points you make about corporate power over copyrighted material. But let me just repeat some of my points in connection with the debate as this seems also to have been misunderstood by some of the people from the EFN.

    1. I do think it is important to be aware of the difference between the Anglo/American copyright traditition and the European “droit d’auteur” tradition. Many of us are concerned about maintaing our moral rights to our works, not least in regard to the tendency that now exists by universities to acquire the rights to your teaching materials and then using them out of context. This is also relevant in relation to artistic works, which may be used in a way that is contrary to the message they originally contain. Let us illustrate by the following: a song by a leftwing songwriter is being repackaged and used by the neo-nazi movement. This to me would constitute an infringement on the original composer’s moral rights, and should not be condoned.

    2. I referred to the situation here in Norway and elsewhere where research funding increasingly only go to big integrated projects, and where it is very difficult for individual researchers to get funding for smaller projects. In such a situation the fund set up by the Norwegian Non-Fiction writers financed by remuneration paid for copying of copyrighted non-fiction and scholarly material serves as a source for funding for the creation of new works of research and general literature. Consequently licensing in this situation contributes to new creation.

    3. I also agree with you, as we discussed after the discussion, that the tendency to prevent researchers and professors from disseminating their work because patents and copyright have been taken over by the universities and reserach institutions is wrong and constitutes an infringement on academic freedom, and it is something that I work hard to prevent happening here in Norway.

    4. I have nothing against letting some of my work be put on the web. But I want to decide myself when this should be done.

    5. I also warned against certain publishing contracts that exist among American, British, and multinational publishers (e.g. Elsevier) that I call “cosmos and vacuum” cleaner contracts because they demand that you sign away all rights. I want to keep my portofolio of rights and decide what to with them myself f.e. letting them by used on creative commons, something that would be impossible if you have signed one of this all ecompassing contracts.

    6. Neither have I anything against scientific material being licensed to be used in developing countries. But I am skeptical to a system that undermines copyright in developing countries, because it would serve more than anything to undermine the small and struggling publishing industry in these countries.

    7. And this is also a point in relation to the situation in Norway. Academic publishing in Norway is in a difficult situation partly because of the development of course packs and copying both analogue and digital, one way of securing the future of Norwegian academic publishing is to see that the real use of published material is being licensed in such a way that authors and publishers get a fair remuneration in order for them to continue to publish in Norway.

    And finally I think that we who try to combine a belief in the right of authors with a system that provide fair remuneration, but also think that there are areas that should be reserved for fair use as well being used in connection with initiatives such as creative commons, based on the system of authors’s rights should continue this important discussion. And I certainly did not find your visit a failure to connect.

    All the best

    Helge R�nning

  • http://www.aaronsw.com/ Aaron Swartz

    Next week on the Free Trade Zone! From the right…

    HANNITY: Africans are cooperating with our new oxygen rationing policy by holding their breath when the US requests it. But some liberals want to destroy African society by making them dependent on US-subsidized oxygen by getting rid of the hold-your-breath requirement. Will these do-gooder liberals get away with it?

    And from the left…

    LESSIG: Well, you see, I’m not against cooperation, of course, but I think we have to investigate the various models of different markets with their varied permission struc–

    HANNITY: Time’s up!

    That’s next week, on the Free Trade Zone. Only on FOX!

  • http://kirbymeister.deviantart.com KirbyMeister

    You know, the world has always been an FR economy until just 4 centuries ago.

    Food for thought.