May 25, 2005  ·  Lessig

To everyone who has written about my ghosts, thank you. I am always stunned by the warmth of this community (though of course, stunned sometimes by the opposite as well). I had promised myself I would not read the piece, but the comments have forced me to break that promise. John is an amazing writer, and the piece has a rawness that is hard, but perhaps appropriate. (E.g., I rarely swear, though you wouldn’t get that impression from the piece.). Three comments below, but first a plea: that we drop the H-word, and B-word from commentary about this. This is an important social issue because of how ordinary it is in fact; and we need it to be understood to be ordinary, so as to respond in ways that can check, and prevent it.

Update: hero, brave

{Update II: Please see this follow-up.

(more below)

(1) Even I have been surprised by the extraordinary number who have written to share their own experiences. Many had never acknowledged it before. Many are struggling with how. We all need a better way to record this, so we can remark progress in its passing away.

(2) I regret the way the piece characterizes my view of the school today. I am not in this case to destroy a school — especially not this one which I believe can do extraordinary good in a kid’s life. The quote that suggests the contrary reflected growing anger at the behavior of the lawyers on the other side in this case. It is perhaps the one clear Scalia-like bit to my character: I believe in taking responsibility, yet this school is being held hostage by a very different ideal. At the point I said what was quoted, my thought was essentially this: if this is really how these people think this issue should be dealt with, then perhaps they are not reformed in the way I had thought they were reformed.

(3) My biggest regret, however, is the place my parents have in the piece. I can’t know this with certainty, but I don’t feel the blame that John saw in my words. At the time when it mattered, none in my family knew. Should they have known? In the world of 1972, from 250 miles away, it was easy to miss.

May 23, 2005  ·  Lessig

So the Berkman Center is sponsoring its annual iLaw program in Cambridge, MA, June 22-24. The program is great fun, and you even get to live in the dorms! Registration is here. I’m hoping we move these programs overseas, exclusively. But I’m just (one of) the teachers. There are scholarships and group rates, so ask.

NOTE: Reservations for rooms are required. Dorm rooms are available but you must check in with Wendy Koslow at the Berkman Center about availability.

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.

May 22, 2005  ·  Lessig

My son has an imagination. At 20 months, he spent an hour playing a game in which his stuffed boxer (as in the dog) played with his plastic spider. The spider would ride the dog. The dog would sniff the spider. And all the time my son was split with laughter. (more in the extended entry below)

I don’t know whether he was supposed to have this sort of imagination before 20 months, or after. I don’t care. It’s the weird thing about watching a kid grow up that each new capacity is celebrated as if it had been in doubt. Of course, I had no doubt my kid would laugh at his dreams, as I had no doubt he would walk, or learn to say “daddy.” But the absence of doubt doesn’t make the experience any less extraordinary. Watching it happen is the amazing part. And hearing about it happening is pretty amazing as well.

Hearing about it, of course, is how I experienced it. My wife described it to me last week — me in Bulgaria, she about to go to bed in San Francisco, us talking as we increasingly do, on iChat. I didn’t see my kid enact his play with dog and spider because I’m on the road again, this time for just about a month — a month in which I will yearn for fast broadband in Australia, Germany, Bulgaria, Norway, and South Africa. A year ago I would have said I had no hobbies. Now my single hobby is making iSight movies — stringing together clips of images captured what iChatting, sometimes funny, sometimes beautiful just because of the pixilation.

I can’t adequately describe the depression of this sort of travel. I won’t pollute this blog by trying. Suffice it that I am away — as no doubt many are — way too much. In the last year and a half, I have spent 170 nights in a hotel; 300 thousand miles in the air. This year promises even more. Most of the travel is Creative Commons related, though a good deal is just me asked to speak to some conference, convention, or collection of souls.

This trip is fairly representative. I went to Australia to deliver an Alfred Deakin Lecture on Innovation. While there, I also spoke at a “Future Summit,” and met with some Creative Commons activists. In Berlin, I gave a public lecture at the German Bundeszentrale f�r politische Bildung. I was also able to meet with some young German academics, and academics wanna-bes, as well as with the iCommons staff (which lives in Berlin). Bulgaria was the launch of Creative Commons-Bulgaria — three lectures in one day, a day of meetings with the lawyers who had ported the licenses, and with the press that was trying to understand them. Norway is a lecture which I will comment on in another post, and then a few days in South Africa to launch CC-SA, at what promises to be an extraordinary conference (“Commons Sense” which is the title I wanted for the book that became “The Future of Ideas”). I was meant to go to India but the logistics of the trip became too difficult and expensive, so I’ll return on Memorial Day, after almost 29 days on the road straight.

I enjoy these lectures; I believe in the cause. If you’ve seen me talk, you know I’ve developed a particular style. I’m a teacher: it is a style designed to explain. I am just beginning to feel like it works; just beginning to feel that I’m explaining my ideas in a way any intelligent sort could understand. It has taken a very long time, and my mind is filled with memories of the worst examples of me trying to explain. They haunt me like broken promises. They push me to make myself understandable. Each speech builds on the last. Each is changed by what happened in the last.

I’m not great at this. My ideas are still too confused; my arguments are still incomplete; I recognize every time I speak where I’ve not been understood; there is literally one time in the last 5 years when I went to bed feeling that I had done really well.

Yet though I’m not great, as I get better , there are interesting, sometimes frustrating, effects. First, people can’t really believe I’ve prepared the lecture they hear just for them. This, for example, happened in Melbourne. I am wildly too thin-skinned, so I make it a rule never to Technorat what people say about my lectures. But someone who worried that I didn’t doubt myself enough sent me this link to a comment about my “rhetoric” and “stump speeches.” The writer, decently, and with balance and perspective, criticized my failure to prepare a special talk for the Deakin lectures.

It was in fact a liberating criticism. First, in fact, I always change my talks. I am obsessed with the fear of repeating a talk. I therefore spend an unbelievable amount of time reworking what I have done to make it make more sense, or more sense of an audience. That was true in Melbourne, as it has been true everywhere. Of course, there are chunks I remix — usually the parts that work best. But if you followed me around for months at a time, you’d be less bored than if you followed, say, John Edwards, and not because I’m a better speaker than John Edwards (I certainly am not).

But second, the criticism made me realize how absurd it is for me to feel this obligation to say something new or different at each event. My life has been filled with absurd rules I’ve imposed upon myself, which later I can’t begin to understand. This now strikes me as another example of such an absurd rule. It’s not as if I speak to crowds of 10,000 at a time. I don’t give lectures on national television. It’s not as if the message I’m trying to convey is the subject of national advertising campaigns, or political movements. And so I don’t know why my talks have to be more original each time than, say, a candidate for political office. I have a set of views I’m trying to persuade people of. Why must I do that in different words?

(The best example of this stupidity is the first talk I did that got translated to Flash!. This was a keynote I gave at OSCON in 2002. I had prepared it for OSCON. When Leonard Lin prepared this version of it, I told myself I could never give the talk again. And so I haven’t. Not because this presentation of this message was particularly good. Not because I couldn’t improve it. But just because I was haunted by this rule — don’t repeat a talk — the origin of which I can’t now fathom.)

Berlin also produced its own interesting criticism. One of the questioners — a friendly, and supportive questioner — criticized me for the “strength” of my rhetoric. While he appreciated how “understandable” I had made the arguments, and he regretted that professors in his own country seemed focused exclusively on making their points incomprehensible, he worried that I presented the argument too strongly. “Too persuasively.” It was “rhetoric” he suggested. A woman sitting next to a friend called it “propaganda.”

This is a fascinating criticism, because it wasn’t motivated by disagreement as much as by a difference in cultural style. Peter Baldwin, from UCLA, gave a talk responding to mine. His was perfect from the perspective of this style — advancing a point, but then insisting he didn’t necessarily believe the point he was advancing; never quite committing, yet conveying a great deal of truth on the way. I regretted not getting a chance directly to discuss this point in the question session that followed. No doubt the reaction was partly a function of me, and partly a function of the audience. I was extremely keen to understand the latter. One person I asked afterwards said, “We’ve been seduced by rhetoric once. We don’t trust it anymore.” That was an astonishing thought, but again, I can’t quite resolve whether it reflected well the reasons for the reaction. There is much more to learn here than I had time to reckon.

But my purpose in writing this particular missive is not to report on my travels. Nor is it to respond to critics. It is instead to resolve, here, in public, something important about commitments and value.

I want to do this less. I need to do it less. I want to know my boy through his hugs, and tears, not through the smiles he gives me on an iSight camera. I want to relieve my extraordinary wife from the burden of single-parent parenting. I want a week when I don’t remove my shoes for kindly folks called the TSA. I want more nights when I don’t struggle to decide whether to spend $5 to drink a bottle of water.

And so I am resolving to do this less. Less. Not never again, but less — if I just add up my commitments already made, my life will still be insanely busy. (In my OSCON speech, I said I was giving up giving lectures. That was a misstatement. What I meant was I was giving them up while I prepared for the argument in the Eldred case. I hadn’t at that point resolved to retire).

But now I have resolved that I need energy elsewhere. This movement is important and critical. And you can’t begin to imagine the reward in watching it flourish around the world — especially in places like Bulgaria. A wide range of extraordinary souls are succeeding in getting others to understand. That is something I never would have predicted five years ago, and it is reason for this to go on.

Yet it needs to go own with others. Or with less of me. Or at least, less of me in person. I’m happy to help that change occur. I am severely restricting the invitations I will accept, and I am in the process of wrapping every presentation I have made in a form that can be shared. I hope to put them all at the site, OurMedia, in a context in which anyone can do with it what he or she wants. Remix it. Replay it. Criticize it. Synchronize the slides with the audio (where I’ve been able to locate the audio.) Port it to Flash! Or to some free software equivalent. Copy the message; ridicule the message. Whatever. I’m quite sure people could do better with this than I have. I am asking that they do. Take it and make it better. Or take it and twist it to make it worse. Free culture needs both. And it needs me less.

This is exhaustion, no doubt. I responded to that at first by resolving to be stronger. Then it was homesickness, plain and simple. Something I’ve not known for 30 years. But whatever it is, or will become, we each must draw lines that respects those things most important. And I want more time to explore with my kid the many possible toys for a boxer.

May 22, 2005  ·  Lessig

Matt’s angry about an article in Billboard that is being distributed by Reuters. The article deserves some context.

Last December, Billboard published a piece by its legal affairs editor, Susan Butler. The piece opened with a quote from Michael Sukin, “founding member of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers,” saying that Creative Commons had emerged as a “serious threat to the entertainment industry.” The piece then asserted:

The nonprofit organization–also known as Creative Commons–urges creators to give up their copyright protection–which lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years under U.S. law–by selling their copyrights to the commons for $1,according to its Web site. In return, the authors receive certain rights that they can use for either 14 or 28 years, or they can donate all rights to the pubic domain for everyone to use.

The “movement,” Sukin stated, had “spread like a virus” and “U.S. copyright income” could be at risk.

The hyperbole from Mr. Sukin — a lawyer — was funny. But what struck me in the article was the assertion by Butler that “Creative Commons urges creators to give up their copyright protection” in exchange for $1. I couldn’t begin to understand what she was talking about. Obviously, our licenses enable artists to choose to waive certain rights — while retaining others. (Remember: “Some Rights Reserved”). But they are licenses of a copyright; they couldn’t function if you had “give[n] up” copyright protection. The vast majority of creators adopting Creative Commons licenses keep commercial rights, while giving away noncommercial rights (2/3ds). It’s hard to see how waiving noncommercial rights would do anything to “U.S. copyright income.”

So I contacted Butler to ask her what she was talking about. We connected over email, and she said she’d check into it. She then pointed me to the Founders’ Copyright, which indeed does offer $1 in exchange for someone limiting a copyright to 14, or 28 years. I had frankly forgotten about the way the Founders’ Copyright functioned, mainly because nothing we do today has anything to do with that license, as Evan pointed out in his birthday wish for the still-born license. As far as I knew at that point, precisely 3 works have been licensed under this license (my own books). O’Reilly is processing more. But to describe the work of Creative Commons as this is either to listen to Mr. Sukin without checking the facts, or not to care about the facts. You could say, for example, that Billboard is a publication that publishes letters to the editor, and that would technically be true. But obviously, though technically true, it would be a totally false characterization of what Billboard is.

I therefore suggested the story should be corrected. It wasn’t. Instead, a month or so ago, we learned that the same writer had been assigned to write an “indepth” story about Creative Commons. I thought the idea a bit odd. I raised its oddness to the magazine. According to their standards of truth, what Susan Butler had published before was correct. They were confident that she would produce the same again.

That, of course, was my fear as well.

The Billboard piece is beautifully written — indeed, it has a cadence to it that is masterful. There’s a tide — in and out — of good, crested with criticism, all building to the part that got Matt so angry — as he put it, the suggestion that Creative Commons “kills people with AIDS.”

Yet it’s very interesting to map the structure of the argument. The piece has some quotes from me, and Hal Abelson in support. It quotes two people opposed. One of the two is Mr. Sukin again. The other is David Israelite, president of the National Music Publishers’ Association.

Israelite doesn’t actually say any about us. He’s worried about the people we hang around with. As he says,

“My concern is that many who support Creative Commons also support a point of view that would take away people’s choices about what to do with their own property.”

And later, Butler reports,

“Israelite says that often when people give away their own property under a Creative Commons license, ‘it is really an argument why others should be forced to give away their property.’”

I love it when people tell me what my argument “really” is. The whole premise of Creative Commons is that artists choose. We give licenses to creators. How exactly empowering creators is “really an argument why others should be forced to give away their property” is bizarre to me. By this reasoning, when Bill Gates give $20,000,000,000 to help poor people around the world, that’s an argument for socialism.

Sukin’s criticism is even more bizarre. Butler quotes him as saying “Lessig and his followers advocate a shorter copyright term.” The link this point has to Creative Commons is left obscure by the author. The RIAA believes it is appropriate to sue kids for downloading music. They’re supporters of Creative Commons. Does it follow that Creative Commons supports suing kids for downloading music? There are a wide range of supporters of Creative Commons, many of whom disagree about many matters fundamental. I should think that’s a virtue of Creative Commons, not a vice.

There is one part to the piece, however, that does bothered. Not the dramatic flair at the end (this is Hollywood, remember. What would a story be without a villain killing a victim with AIDS in the end). The extraordinary part to me was the following:

The brief, which proposed affirming the appellate decision against RIAA and MPAA members, described the Creative Commons as a group with an award-winning project endorsed by many, including ex-RIAA chief Rosen and former MPAA leader Jack Valenti. It also listed as supporters the artists whose music was on the Wired CD.

The piece then goes on to describe an apparent conversation that Butler had with Rosen, in which Rosen apparently objected to how she understood how her name was used. The reporter thus becomes actor, stirring up a controversy about whether the target of her piece has misbehaved.

Here’s the brief. As you’ll see when you read it, we mention Rosen and Valenti in the section titled “Interest of Amicus” — a part of an Amicus brief which explains who the organization filing the brief is. What we say is this:

“The project has been endorsed by former MPAA president Jack Valenti, and by former president of the RIAA Hilary Rosen.”

No where in the brief do we suggest that Rosen or Valenti supported the argument we make in the brief. What we assert is that they endorsed the “project” — which they have.

More extraordinary is the statement about the artists who were on the Wired CD. Again, here’s what Butler wrote:

“[The brief] also listed as supporters the artists whose music was on the Wired CD.”

Here’s what the brief says:

“As part of a feature about Creative Commons, Wired magazine has released a CD with 16 tracks licensed under a Creative Commons license by artists including, among others, the Beastie Boys, David Byrne, Gilberto Gil, Chuck D, and Le Tigre.”

Notice, the brief says nothing about the artists being “supporters” of Creative Commons. It simply lists who was on the CD. Butler’s statement — that we listed them “as supporters” — is just false.

Now you might think, well, cut her a break. She’s just a journalist writing for Billboard. But again and again, Butler reminded me that she had in fact been a practicing lawyer. Her editors indicated the same. So I don’t quite know how to understand a lawyer who can’t read an amicus brief — or for that matter, a lawyer who doesn’t know the difference between putting something “into the public domain” and licensing it. These could well just be mistakes, of course. But they are surprising from someone with the experience she has.

The fair criticism of the article is that we don’t do enough to warn people, or to push them to consult a lawyer first. That’s a good point, and we’re thinking about ways to enable referrals, and to do more than we already do to educate. Help here would be greatly appreciated.

It’s also true, as Butler says, that there’s a “blurring” between Creative Commons and the views of people like me (though my view of course is far from the view criticized by Israelite). I’d love — really really love — to find someone to replace me who might erase such a blur. I am not Creative Commons. It was not my idea. I am just devoting as much time as I can to push its message, and the tools it enables. I’d be very happy to find a way to spend less.

My favorite part of the article is the quote from Cary Sherman at the RIAA. God bless that man. As he is quoted,

“If a creator wants to dedicate his work to the world or wants to allow others to use it with the promise to credit the author, there has been no mechanism in place to provide public notice,” RIAA president Cary Sherman says. “The Commons approach would basically solve this problem.”

Exactly right. We’re giving artists free tools. What they do with them is their choice. There are many who believe, as Butler quotes Andy Fraser to say, that “[n]o one should let artists give up their rights.” “Let.” Read that word again: “let.”

In my view, it is the artists who have the rights. And no one should take the role of deciding what we “let” artists do. Neither should anyone interfere with artists doing what they think best. Of course, and again, education is key. No one should be tricked. No one should waive rights without understanding what their doing. But neither should anyone think themselves entitled to wage war against artists doing what artists choose. Or if they do want to wage such a war, then let’s at least be open about the paternalism in the position. If we’re not going to “let” artists select Creative Commons licenses, then are we going to “let” them sign recording deals? Because I promise you this: there are many many more artists who are upset with their recording deals than with the spread they’ve enabled using Creative Commons licenses.

Butler’s first article stated that Mr. Sukin is “lobbying” against Creative Commons. It’s time we have an open conversation, Mr. Sukin. I challenge you to the sort of duel decent people engage: a debate. Let’s let both sides be heard, and let’s then “let” the artists decide.

May 19, 2005  ·  Lessig

I got an email from Bruce Lehman, which was very big of him after I criticized him for his claim that I “seem[] to believe you can have a post-industrial economy without any copyrights.”

Anyway, Bruce’s email (and to be clear, it was sent not just to me, but to me as a “IIPI Supporter” (which has as much connection to the truth as his statement above)) was proud to announce a new section on the IIPI website called a “Discussion Forum.”

The discussion forum was inspired by the “debate surrounding the European Union�s (EU) proposed Directive on Computer Implemented Inventions (CII).” As Bruce writes, “It is important to remember that the patentability of computer implemented inventions, or lack there of, will have a profound effect on European industry and competitiveness.” Absolutely right, which is why is it so good that the IIPI has opened a discussion forum on their site so people can contribute to the “discussion” about IIPI’s strong support for this software patent initiative.

I encourage all to answer Bruce’s call: You can find the “CII Discussion Forum” here. And be sure to spread the word!

May 18, 2005  ·  Lessig

William Patry has a new blog on copyright, which has covered a range of interesting issue. He’s got an interesting link to the case Kathleen Sullivan recently won in the Supreme Court, Granholm v. Heald, finding that state limits on the sale of out of state wine violated the dormant commerce clause, the 21st Amendment notwithstanding. Patry suggests a link to database legislation, which seems to me a bit of a stretch (I think his view of database legislation is correct, but not sure it follows from Granholm.) He’s also got a very interesting review of the anti-bootlegging statute, informed by his experience on the Hill when these were passed.

May 17, 2005  ·  Lessig


I’ve been living in a state of total denial about this fact, but it’s time to confront it. Glenn Brown has left Creative Commons to take a job at Google (tftlt)(too famous to link to). This is fantastic news for Glenn. It is of course a big loss for us. Not unexpected — there’s only so far one can grow (and only so long one can sacrifice) in a nonprofit. But even if it has always been expected, we will all feel his absence for a long long time.

Glenn was CC’s second ED. Molly Shaffer Van Houweling incubated the project as a fellow at Stanford before she became a professor of law at Michigan. I was very proud to convince Glenn to replace Molly. Glenn was (is) young. He had just completed a clerkship after just completing law school. He had been a student of mine at Harvard. But despite being young, I knew from that time that he would be the ideal executive director to get Creative Commons launched.

He was first, and crucially, a lawyer. That was essential to an organization that gives away free licenses. But more importantly, he has a sense of message and design that I knew we crucially needed. He is a beautiful writer, a perfectionist in all things expressive, and he worked as hard as anyone could to focus and lead Creative Commons to spread our meme. He was the perfect antidote to an organization started by a bunch of professors, and he built extraordinary loyalty and devotion from everyone within our team. On his watch, the brand was born, and the licenses spread from zero to over 12,000,000. He more than any other single person made Creative Commons.

We miss him (though he still yells at me whenever I screw up (or whenever he notices)). And I am forever grateful for the extraordinary work this startup-CEO accomplished.

As described in the previous post, Neeru has taken charge of the Culture Commons project. Mia has taken over his role as GC. And I’m to be the one to build the loyalty and inspiration of the remaining CC team — though nothing I could ever do would come close to his amazing success.

To those living in, and building, the free world, please join me in thanking this extraordinary leader in whatever way you can.

May 17, 2005  ·  Lessig

As announced yesterday, we’ve had some significant (and almost all fantastic) changes at Creative Commons. (The exception is described in the next entry). Read more in the extended entry.

As the press release describes, we’ve launched Creative Commons, International (CCi). This is an outgrowth of the iCommons Project. The objective of iCommons was to port our licenses into as many jurisdictions as possible. There are over 70 jurisdictions in the process of doing this, and about a score have already launched.

But what we didn’t expect when we launched iCommons was that the community that was built to port the licenses would then want to do more. Once the geeky-lawyer part was finished, that is, there were artists, artists, educators, librarians, and many others who were keen to help build the movement beyond the licenses.

This need created an opportunity. And we were extremely lucky to be able to get Paula Le Dieu to lead the project to meet this need. Paula has been much of the inspiration and most of the sweat behind the BBC’s Creative Archive project. Once she got that project launched, she was eager to do the same internationally. CCi is a UK based nonprofit corporation. The chairman of its board is Joi Ito. And its focus will be to grow the communities around CC in every country around the world that we can.

iCommons will continue to do the first stage of the project — building the community to port the license. But once the licenses have been ported, and the country launched, iCommons will hand the project over to CCi.

More progress:

This change comes with two others as well, both precipitated by the news described in the next entry. Neeru Paharia has been the idea-man behind most of the coolest ideas that CC has had. She has become the executive directors of what we internally refer to as the Culture Commons (as distinct from the Science Commons, which launched earlier this year). Neeru’s job is to continue to develop projects that integrate our licenses into code and community. She’s got more ideas than there is time, so I’m extremely happy that she has taken the helm.

And finally, we have hired our first General Counsel, Mia Garlick. As our licenses grow, and the legal issues they raise increase, we finally hired a lawyer in house who can spend her day dealing with these issues. Mia is an Aussie (as is Paula). She had many years of practice in Australia. She was a graduate student at Stanford, and then practiced in the Valley for a couple more years. We were very lucky to be able to tempt her away from money and timesheets, to add a real lawyer to the mix at CC.

There will be more changes to come. We’re keen to find a great development director, and more web support in house. Our CEO, Mark Resch, after pulling our organization together and getting us to see how we had to grow, has moved on. I’m the temporary CEO (and Chairman). I’m hopeful Joi Ito will move to the Bay Area in the fall and take my place.

Stay tuned for more.