June 30, 2006  ·  Lessig

At the iCommons iSummit in Rio, Revver demonstrated its technology. This company is a poster child for alternative ways to get creators paid. Videos are distributed under a CC license. At the end is an ad bug. When the video is played, the creators get paid. The creators of the video below (geniuses) have earned many many many thousands of dollars for this video. Watch, think, enjoy: (Innovation brought to you by the Neutral Net). (I’m experimenting with the feature of Revver that feeds revenue back to the syndicator. Anything I get will be donated to charity.) (And Michael is my new hero — thank you for the poster!)



June 30, 2006  ·  Lessig

Lots happening with Net Neutrality, most significantly that the Democrats seem to have decided that this is their issue. The extraordinary tie created in the Senate Commerce Committee (11-11) on party lines (plus the amazing Senator Snowe) seems to signal a decision by leaders of the party that this is a fight they want to lead. The slogan does have a nice right to it — “Republicans: They sold the environment to Exxon, and sold the war to Halliburton. Now they want to sell the Internet to at&t.” (yea, the new logo is no-caps. a kinder, gentler …)

In my view, this is good news and bad. Good for the Dems that they got it. Bad that the issue is now within the grips of party politics. I guess it was just a matter of time, given how much money the cable and telcos have put on the table.

Here’s John Kerry on the vote: (bravo, Senator):

Stopping the Big Giveaway — by John Kerry

Yesterday in the Senate Commerce Committee I warned that those of us who believe in net neutrality will block legislation that doesn’t get the job done.

It looks like that’s the fight we’re going to have.

The Commerce Committee voted on net neutrality and it failed on an 11-11 tie. This vote was a gift to cable and telephone companies, and a slap in the face of every Internet user and consumer. It will not stand.

I voted against this lousy bill for two reasons: because net neutrality and internet build-out are crucial to building a more modern and fair Information Society, and both were pushed aside by the Republicans.

Everyone says they don’t want the new world we’re living in to be marked by the digital divide — the term is so clich├ęd it’s turned to mush — but yesterday was a test of who is willing to ask corporate America to do anything to fix it, and the Commerce Committee failed miserably. Why are United States Senators afraid to say that companies should be expected to foster growth by building out their broadband networks to increase access?

Free and open access to the internet is something all Americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they’re born into or where they live. It is profoundly disappointing that the Senate is going let a handful of companies hold internet access hostage by legalizing the cherry-picking of cable service providers and new entrants. That is a dynamic that would leave some communities with inferior service, higher cable rates, and even the loss of service. Not to mention inadequate internet service — in the age of the information.

This bill was passed in committee over our objections. Now we need to fight to either fix it or kill it in the full Senate. Senator Wyden has already drawn a line in the sand — putting a “hold” on the bill, which prevents it from going forward for now. But there will be a day of reckoning on this legislation soon, make no mistake about it, and we need you to get engaged — pressure your Senators, follow the issue, demand net neutrality and build-out.

June 22, 2006  ·  Lessig

One clue to this Net Neutrality debate is to watch what kind of souls are on each side of the debate. The pro-NN contingent is filled with the people who actually built the Net — from Vint Cerf to Google to eBay — and those who profit from the competition enabled by the Net — e.g., Microsoft. The anti-NN contingent is filled with the entities that either never got the Net, or fought like hell to control it — telecom, and cable companies. (The one clear exception to this is Dave Farber, who has been described as the “Grandfather of the Net.” I’ve never understood either what that description could mean, nor have I understood how he gets from the premises in his argument to its conclusions. But to be fair, this is an exception to the rule I’m describing.)

Here’s the latest confirmation of this pattern. Tim Berners-Lee has blogged before about this issue. But here’s a video he’s now down to emphasize its importance.

June 21, 2006  ·  Lessig

Just got off the plane to Rio where we’re holding the second iCommons iSummit, so this is a bit delayed. But today, Microsoft has released a free Office plug-in that enables you to mark Office documents (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) with Creative Commons licenses. This has been in the works for a while, and is an extremely cool development. The plug-in will modify the FILE menu, adding an item “Creative Commons” and then when selected, link the user out to the CC site to select a license to be inserted into the license. The first document licensed with the tool is a speech by Brazil’s Culture Minister and supercool musician, Gilberto Gil, about tropicalism. (en) (pt).

Before I got on the plane yesterday, I was on some press calls about the announcement. Many were surprised CC and Microsoft would work together. Ever the naive law professor, that surprise surprises me. Office is a tool for creating. Giving the creator more control over that creativity is a way to make the Office platform more valuable to creators. And by incorporating CC licenses, more valuable to the public.

“But isn’t it strange for MSFT and Lessig to team-up?” I was asked. Well, I have yet gotten the team jersey, but no, it isn’t. Microsoft has been on the right side of a number of important issues — spectrum, net neutrality, identity — and I’m very glad they’re on the right side of this issue too. Giving creators the tools to mark their creativity with the freedoms they intend it to carry is a fantastically good thing to do.

“But it’s just for the Windows platform, isn’t it?” True enough. Now we need some enterprising sort to make a plug-in for Office on the Mac, as well as Garageband, OpenOffice, and many others. Let the competition begin.

June 20, 2006  ·  Lessig

So Gary Reback, who was one of the important initial actors pushing the government to focus on the Microsoft case, has been focusing on telecom mergers. He’s been pushing what’s called as a “Tunney Act” proceeding (on behalf of a group called “Alliance for Competition in Telecommunications”) to review phone mergers. (The Tunney Act used to be meaningless, but in 2004 was amended to give it teeth. Reback’s case is the first under the new act).

Apparent there are now allegations that SBC and Verizon forced the deals through DoJ when the designee for head of antitrust was on Senatorial hold for too activist an enforcement bent. DoJ cleared the deals and the hold was lifted. DoJ then ignored the amended Tunney Act and let the companies close the deals even before the judge did the Tunney Act review.

This is sleazy stuff, and it forms the real basis for being concerned about the games the network owners would play if free to play games. The really striking part of this (to me, a constitutionalist) is how the legislative branch keeps passing laws that the executive branch just ignores. And why ignore the laws? Corporate influence. That’s what this case reeks of.

The key briefs in the filing are here:

Memo in support of ACTel’s notion to be Amicus (see especially 7-15)

Supplemental brief (see especially 7, 11)

Gov’t Reply

ACTel’s reply

I can’t say anything about the ultimate merits here, though I do know Reback and respect him, and if had to bet, would bet with him. BUt the allegations here are exactly the stuff that motivates the Net Neutrality movement.

June 13, 2006  ·  Lessig

The Stanford Center for Internet and Society‘s Fair Use Project has filed a law suit against Stephen Joyce, who claims the right to control access to the papers and letters of James Joyce. The context of the suit is described well in this article appearing in the New Yorker by D. T. Max. The complaint in the case can be found here.

This is the first in what we expect will be a series of cases defending the boundaries of fair use. Stay tuned.