March 27, 2006 · Lessig
I’m just leaving Japan after a day long conference sponsored in part by the Japanese National Institute of Informatics. The morning session was sponsored by Creative Commons Japan and consisted of six presentations by people using Creative Commons licenses, or in a couple cases, doing things that depend upon CC-like freedom.
Japan is one of my favorite places in the world, and I love any excuse to be here. But I had a strange deja vu as I listened to the stories of what people are doing here.
In the late 1990s, I travelled a bunch to South America to talk about cyberspace. In conference after conference, I listened to South Americans describe how they were waiting for the government to enact rules so they could begin to develop business in cyberspace. That reaction puzzled me, an American. As I explained to those who would listen, in America, business wasn’t waiting for the government to “clarify” rules. It was simply building business in cyberspace without any support from government.
Yet as I listened to the Japanese describe the stuff they were doing with content in cyberspace, I realized we (America) had become South America. One presentation in particular described an extraordinary database the NII had constructed to discover relevance in linked databases, and drive traffic across a database of texts. I was astonished by the demonstration, and thought to myself that we could never build something like this in the U.S., at least until cases like the Google Book Search case was resolved.
And bingo — the moment of recognition. We are now, as the South Americans in the 1990s, waiting for the government to clarify the rules. Investment is too uncertain; the liability too unclear. We thus wait, and fall further behind nations such as Japan, where the IP (as in copyright) bar is not so keen to stifle IP (as in the goose that …).
(Oh, and re broadband: NTT is now well on its way to rolling fiber to the home. Cost per home — between $30-50/m, for 100 megabits/s).