November 25, 2006  ·  Lessig













So we’ve just passed the half-way mark on the CC fundraising campaign, and I’ve cleaned out my inbox of people to thank for their contribution (too many $3.50 contributions, to which I’ve not been personally responding as I assume these are Flickr contest entries, and one $10k contribution this morning, to which I responded very well). So feel free to fill the inbox again.

Just as last year, we have a continuing obligation to demonstrate public support to the IRS. And also to me. So let this campaign invade the Christmas season. And fear not — we’ve not sold so many t-shirts that they won’t still be cool.

Give and give again.

November 25, 2006  ·  Lessig

I may spend too much time thinking about this, but how is it one reverses the hatred of a people after war? WWII was no doubt very different. But interestingly, Germans talk about this a lot — about the brilliance in the American strategy after the war to rebuild (what we weirdly call) “friendship” between the German and American people.

That strategy had a government component (2% of the GDP spent on the Marshall Plan) and a private component. The private component came largely through the delivery of “CARE Packages.” As described on CARE’s website, these packages were originally surplus food packs initially prepared to support a US invasion of Japan. Americans were invited to send these packages to victims of the War. Eventually, over 100,000,000 packages were sent by Americans over the next two decades, first in Europe, then throughout the world.

A German friend this afternoon was recounting this story to me — he too is obsessed with how to reduce Iraqi anger. But the part he emphasized that I had missed originally was how significant it was to Germans to know that these packages were sent by ordinary Americans. It wasn’t the government sending government aid; it was American volunteers taking time to personalize an act of giving.

CARE has given up the CARE Package. So too has it moved far from the individual-driven model of giving that marked its birth. But I wonder how current victims of war would react to a repeat of 1945-giving. A related idea has been taken up by a 10-year old from New Jersey. But what if every city in America selected sister cities throughout Afghanistan and Iraq, and individual volunteers from the US repeated what our parents and grandparents did 60 years ago?

November 21, 2006  ·  Lessig

I love examples where ontology is necessarily trumped by epistemology. The Richards case is one of those.

On Letterman, Richards says he’s not a racist. Is that possibly true?

Well sure. He’s a brilliant stream of consciousness comic. That requires constantly putting your head into the heads of the audience, and tweaking it. He blows his top, and then begins to watch himself and the scene through the eyes of the audience. He sees them see him and his targets — two African Americans. He then gives voice to what at least some in the audience are likely — he believes — to believe: all the racist stuff. And then he sees that no one would see him as expressing anything except his own ideas, and he’s trapped. He shuts down, and leaves the stage.

All possibly true. But totally impossible to credit. Even if true, no way for us to know it’s true. Look for examples like this. There are millions.

November 21, 2006  ·  Lessig

(But first, yes, I am so sorry about the aol-crap player. I posted the last post as I was rushing out, and didn’t realize the proprietary junk till I got home to show my wife on her computer. It is one of the very great things about the real video services out there — YouTube, etc. — that they embarrass the creaking 20th century giants (AOL, e.g.) by showing them that you can run a video service that any computer can run, without the insanely badly-coded platform specific proprietary stuff that marked video 1.0. )

Yesterday was a real transparent society day in my house.

My kid’s been sick, and was really wound up. So as a deal to get him to take his medicine, I promised him we’d look for Donald Duck on the web (yea, I know, but he loves Disney. And anyway, have you watched Bambi recently? No major media company could release content like that today. It’s brilliant: the single evil element in the film? Man. It would be FOX-ed out of existence were it released today.)

I had just shown my wife the Michael Richards clip. And my son and I then tripped on a Donald Duck video. It was 7 minutes of Donald Duck as a Nazi. Someone had uploaded to YouTube (god bless that company) an off the air recording of this war time Donald Duck cartoon that of course you could never buy today from the current copyright owners. Update: I was totally wrong (and unfairly so) about this. As pointed out in the comments, this cartoon is available here.

Then, before bed, I wandered a bit more through the Michael Richards story, and found this insane thread at CNN of comments by people about the Richards event. Unvarnished America, teaching me more about my country in 5 minutes than 40 hours of TV would ever teach anyone.

And then finally, the announcement by FOX that it was pulling the OJ Simpson book/show.

So add it up:

Elements of the 21st Century/Transparent Society: Richards tape, Donald Duck revealed, CNN thread — in each case, access to something that the 20th Century would have filtered out for appropriateness. My evidence for that?

Elements of the 20th Century/proprietary (in two senses of the word) society: FOX pulls the inappropriate OJ stuff.

I’m not pushing to one side or the other here. Just notice how these fit together.

November 20, 2006  ·  Lessig

There are few moments that crystallize as well just how the 21st Century could be different: Watch (if you have the stomach for it) Michael Richards, aka “Kramer” from “Seinfeld” lose it in a career-destroying way. It’s time to re-read David Brin’s fantastic book, The Transparent Society, for it has a salience today that would have been missed when it was published.

November 19, 2006  ·  Lessig

Milton Friedman was a hero of mine when I was growing up. I devoured his (non-technical) work as a teen, and watched his “Free to Choose” every time I could (the days before Tivo).

No doubt the highpoint of the Eldred v. Ashcroft case was when I learned Friedman would sign our “Economists’ Brief“: As it was reported to me, when asked, he responded: “Only if the world ‘no brainer’ appears in it somewhere.” A reasonable man, he signed even though we couldn’t fit that word in.

His integrity to principle will be missed.

November 17, 2006  ·  Lessig

This is easily the coolest technology I’ve seen in years: Go to the Creative Commons search page. Click on the OWL Music Search tab. (Depending upon the browser, you might need to run a fake search to get it to come alive — we’re working on this, but just type anything in the search bar). You’ll then see OWL’s Music Search interface. Drop an MP3 on OWL. It will analyze it and show you similar sounding Creative Commons licensed music. You select the part of the song you want to match; it finds the closest match it can find.

Glyn Moody agrees.

(Note, this is version .3, so enjoy to get the concept clear. )

November 16, 2006  ·  Lessig

A bit ago I wrote (here and here) about a difference between true and fake sharing, pointing out that YouTube, rightful darling of the Internet moment, was a fake sharer. I hadn’t realized then just how seriously they took this limit: Read here as TechCrunch describes the notice and takedown they received for some code that allows you to save a YouTube video to your machine.

You might wonder how it could be a problem to save a YouTube video to your machine, when it isn’t a problem to save a television show to your VCR? Welcome to the terror of the Terms of Service world: Whether or not it is a violation of copyright law (which it isn’t, though the lawyers for YouTube seem to assert to the contrary), the view of many is that “fair use” rights can be promised away just as your first born male son can be promised away (wait, except he can’t).

Anyway, without risking more red-baiting, let me simply opine: For a company that was built upon the unauthorized spread of other peoples’ copyrighted work to threaten legal action against someone simply enabling people to save that work to his machine deserves at least special mention in a book by Alan Dershowitz.