July 5, 2005 · Lessig
Just back from the launch of Creative Commons, Chile, which was in many ways a surprisingly moving few days.
Senator Fernando Flores was the first surprise. Flores was one of the youngest members of the Allende government. He was with Allende on Chile’s September 11th (1973), when Pinochet executed his (American supported) coup. Flores has since had an extraordinary career — prison, exiled to America, time as a scholar studying philosophy and computer science, fantastically successful career in business, exploiting the insights he drew from academics, and now as a Senator (and one time candidate for President). He’s well published and written well about.
I rehearse his career not to compete with Wikipedia, but to set up what was to me most significant about what he said: As he explained to the 400 or so IP-activists assembled at the conference, “Any solution will include America.”
“America.” I admire deeply those who surprise in their perspective. This was a surprise. One might think it very easy for one who had suffered in part because of America never to link “solution” and “America” again. Flores, however, is a wise and careful thinker. In the days after this talk, I got to hear him describe in some depth a conception of progress that depended upon just such wisdom. The right answer in these struggles will include America. It will embrace what is called “IP.” And it was clear to him, if more could acknowledge both, we would make more progress more quickly.
Flores was particularly concerned about how our “movement” would develop. He rightly fears its being captured by any extreme position. Though our allies include the extremes (remember this video from the launch of CC) (and as it is my job to disagree with Mr. Valenti: No, it was not my idea, nor is it my “compact,” but otherwise, exactly right), it is critical that we develop this platform in a way that can include the widest range of creators. All of us have lives independent of CC; some of those lives push political views that would scare others within CC. But it is important that we distinguish these roles, not as a compromise on what is most important, but as a way to emphasize the important fact that those who disagree fundamentally can at least agree about CC.
Flores was particularly concerned that the leaders of CC within Chile might not share this view. And if his fears proved correct, that would have made things very difficult. It was therefore with some concern that I attended the launch of CC in Santiago. But quickly, my concern melted, as the organizers framed the CC launch in terms I’m sure the Senator would have endorsed.
There were of course moments when strong views had the floor. That, I thought, was important to remind everyone that there were important issues at stake. But those views were balanced with an amazing mix of artists — musicians, dancers, film, and DJ — as well as leaders from museums and the academy — all of whom seemed to recognize well the importance of building understanding across a wide range of interests.
This was confirmed at a meeting after the launch. The core group – who had obviously devoted an immense amount of effort in launching CC, and more importantly, in spreading the code and practices they developed to others within Latin America – asked about our direction. I showed them the Barlow-Valenti video. They immediately asked for a copy to help them. they said, explain to others just how they conceived of their own work. The key for them, to borrow a phrase, was rough consensus and running code: consensus on how to proceed, running legal and technical code, to help others build the infrastructure necessary to support a wide range of free culture related projects, of which CC was just one part. And though Senator Flores could not attend this meeting, I trust he would have been reassured by both the commitment of everyone at the table, and the ideal: to get things done.
We at CC launched a small idea; these people have made it something very big. And as is rarely the case, they have launched its with appropriate humility, and a commitment to making it work well, and soon. Chile has become a new favorite.