January 11, 2007  ·  Lessig

EFF’s Fred von Lohmann (the lawyer who won the Grokster case in the 9th Circuit) will be arguing EFF’s first Wiki case on Tuesday in New York. Details:

Tuesday, Jan 16 2007
2pm, federal district court, eastern district of ny (brooklyn)
225 Cadman Plaza East
Brooklyn, NY 11201

January 8, 2007  ·  Lessig

On 1/11 (or for you EU types, on 11/1) at 111 Minna, San Francisco, the fabulous EFF will celebrate its 16th Birthday. 16 is a weird birthday to celebrate (for either man or legal entity), but celebrating EFF is not in any way weird.

DJ Ripley and Kid Kameleon will be keeping the dancefloor hopping all night long. EFFers will also be on hand to briefly recap the year in digital rights, and we’ll be receiving a very generous birthday present from Scott Beale of Laughing Squid.

A $20 donation gets you in the door. No one will be turned away for lack of funds, and all proceeds go toward our work defending your digital freedom.

This fundraiser is open to the general public. 21+ only, cash bar.

Please RSVP to events (at ) eff.org or on Upcoming.org.

January 8, 2007  ·  Lessig

Wow. Post an entry Friday, spend a weekend with your family, and return Monday to a brilliantly populated Wiki — with a matrix added.

I’ve followed up on some of the comments in the extended entry below.

One general point: Again, these “distinctions” are not; they describe continua, not categories. Maybe there should be a scale on each access — from extreme RW to extreme RO, total “commercial” to total “sharing.” I’ll think about how best to tinker with that as I see more examples.

Thanks again for the examples — and please feel free to add more.

From the comments:

Tom suggests I “work up a range of dimensions.” As the introduction indicates, I totally agree, and will, as more examples fill the matrix.

Serge suggests technical documentation for Free Software is read only? I don’t get that: All of those manuals are licensed under the (copyleft) FDL, which guarantees the right to edit and modify.

Crosbie read my post as “creat[ing] a schism” and asks why I “would seek to exclude commerce from ‘sharing.’” But again, I’m not trying to “exclude” anything. I’m trying to describe what there is. And indeed, hybrids are precisely sites which practice commerce by encouraging sharing.

Surfer Dude didn’t like the matrix much (“by far the most inance crap youve produced to date”) (he’s obviously not familiar with much of my work), though apparently the inanity infected his brain, for a bit later, his examples were among my favorite. The bathroom stall example shows the continuity with real space; the Burger King example points to a whole class of examples — think about Securities disclosures.

JSTKatz: I agree with all three examples — and agree the third is ultimately extremely productive, though norms against taking porn seriously are seriously constraining.

timsamoff: Perfect example, yes, to demonstrate the value of the mix. It would be great to see how many of the people who give things we call sermons now have them available in a RW way.

Bill Bliss is trying to understand the core distinction. So am I. He suggests audience-generated vs site-generated content. That is also a useful distinction, but not quite the one I’m focusing on. I’m interested in the effective freedom people have with the content, whether site generated or not. Klir is a cool example, however. I do agree, however, that even core Comm/RO sites will use RW — as iTunes does. Another example — Amazon. Even without the reviews, gather data about who likes what creates enormous value back to the user.

Karen regrets libraries are RO. I don’t. I like the RO character of libraries. But I don’t think that’s all they should be.

Tim Hurley points to a perfect hybrid: Threadless.com. This is relatively little demanded of users. When more is demanded of users, are more “rights” required?

Ryan and Own want to complicate things: Maybe that’s necessary. I’ll think through that as I sort through the examples.

michael houghton points to forums as RW-Noncommercial. That’s certainly true, but there are some great examples of RW-commercial. I wrote about one in a review in the London Review of Books — Microsoft.

Dave’s DSL reports is a great example of the progress I want to track as well — sites beginning in one form and moving to another.

Jim Downey’s pointing to Project Gutenberg is the point in reverse. Gutenberg was here long before most of us. It was constrained by technology. But as technology has progressed, it has been able to expand the range of freedom its technology can offer. But in the nature of its work (public domain material) one is free to do with it as one wishes. LII is also a perfect example I should have thought of. In both cases, I don’t think donations make things commercial.

Andy Oram discussed O’Reilly’s work here — as always — signals the future. I hadn’t seen wikicontent before, but this is precisely the experiment I’m trying to understand. O’Reilly is signaling clearly a part committed to the public. I would hope (because then there would be much less of this) that it wouldn’t be necessary for a company to swear off of profits to be able to get community participation. But this is precisely the measure — how much must one give up to get the community to play.

Janet and Crosbie had a significant exchange about CC that is not directly on point. I’m going to defer a complete response. My partial response to Janet is this:

(1) I believe the termination of transfers tool is certainly about the commons: There is a huge amount of scientific and scholarly work locked up in old agreements that needs to be freed for the net. This will be a tool to help do that.

(2) There is a very difficult (maybe unanswerable) debate about whether encouraging and facilitating some contribution to the commons on balance weakens or strengthens the commons. There are easy cases on both sides: If a parallel strategy (noncommercial and commercial) encourages music that otherwise couldn’t be contributed to the commons in any way, that’s a good thing. If a parallel strategy encourages an academic to distribute articles he would have published in a pure open access way now in a commercial way, that’s a bad thing. But I think the strategy should be to make arguments to creators, not to force structures into place that remove the choices of creators. And the critical point (and I should save this for a fuller post because this is too easy to misunderstand) is that people in the free culture and free software movements have got to recognize that not all creators live in an economy that gives them the choice to simply give everything they make away for free. It’s easy to say to an American law professor that all his or her articles should be licensed CC-BY. But it would be absurd to reason from the fact that that is easy to the conclusion it is easy to say to all photographers that all their work should be licensed CC-BY.

Nihongogakusei: What a great site. Hadn’t seen it. Thanks.

Dustin Kick: .Mac is also an example I hadn’t thought of. Thanks as well.

January 5, 2007  ·  Lessig


So I’m looking for some examples of sites or companies that fit this particular way of carving up the world. This matrix builds upon stuff I’ve been talking about. But to be clear, let me begin by defining the categories:

RO v. RW environments

This is a distinction between the primary use intended for creative work that the site makes available. It answers the question: “What can you do with the content on this site?”

RO means the primary use intended is “read only” — the content is offered for the purpose of consumption; there’s no invitation to add content back, or to modify the content offered.

RW means the primary use intended is “read/write” — the content is offered in a way that invites others to add or modify the content that is offered. RW sites can be more or less RW: some invite contributions to the site without permitting modification of content offered.

Commercial v. Sharing environments

This is distinction between the objectives of the site. It is a fuzzy distinction, but the core difference is this:

Commercial sites aim primarily to make money. They are usually run by commercial enterprises, and they measure their success in financial terms.

Sharing sites are not aimed primarily at making money. It’s not that creators and users of these sites are communists. It’s just that creators and users of these sites do things other than (try to) make money at least part of the day. Think of the Wall Street mogul who teaches Sunday School (and there are these).

Maybe the best way to feel the distinction between a sharing and commercial site is to imagine the role of money in each: There’s nothing weird about the owner of a commercial site offering her employees more money in exchange for more work. There would be something very weird in our Wall Street mogul trying to opt out of Sunday School one week by offering each of the kids $50. Money is normal in one context; it is out of place in the other.

It’s fairly easy to build a list of examples of each of these four categories. I’ve done that here.

But what I’m particularly interested in is the combination of these two distinctions — the matrix above. I’d be grateful for more examples to fit within each of these four boxes. I’ve built a stub for that list here.

Now obviously, this is social space, not logical space, so the matrix does not describe everything. And indeed, the most interesting category I’m keen to explore are hybrids between commercial and sharing sites — plainly commercial organizations that try to exploit (in the best sense of that term) a sharing economy. The key to success with the hybrid is to exploit without poisoning the sharing community. Linux is the most familiar example of this: Sharing economy motives push many, perhaps most, to contribute; but plainly commercial entities (RedHat, IBM) are trying to exploit that sharing economy.

I’ve got a stub to collect examples of hybrids here, with a bit more explanation about what they are.

Importantly: My aim here is descriptive, not normative. It is to see a wide range of examples to begin puzzling through what makes the most successful within each work. For these purposes, the only evil is force or fraud, and none of the four kinds I’ve mapped need rely upon either. So please direct the flame wars about good and bad elsewhere.

January 3, 2007  ·  Lessig

So Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the African American who is also the first Muslim elected to Congress, has decided to use a Quran owed by Thomas Jefferson for his swearing in — reminding Virginia, and I hope the nation, of the real American values that stand behind our Constitution. I’m eager to hear Congressman Goode’s views of President Jefferson.

January 2, 2007  ·  Lessig


Details to follow later today, but when you add our offline campaign to the online campaign (and assuming we solidify some pledges made in the final week), we will have bested our goal of $300,000 by some $200,000 — raising over $500,000 in total. Stay tuned for some interesting surprises (and feel free to give some more in the meantime.)

January 2, 2007  ·  Lessig


So after a cool couple years run, my column is leaving Wired. This is the last regular read. (Appropriately enough, given the topic, the title is totally misleading. But I didn’t write the titles, and it will be fun to see all those who only read the title responding to this: “I blew it on Microsoft”). More on the general state of my reorganization as soon as this site gets its intended reorganization. That’s been in the works for months, with the help of a (plainly overworked) volunteer. But I’m really hopeful to have something to present soon.

But meanwhile, check out Wired Science Wednesday evening. It got a great review on Bloomberg, and the very best at Wired is behind it.

January 1, 2007  ·  Lessig

Last year it was Microsoft that put us over in our online campaign to raise support for CC. This year, at 5 AM Berlin time (and hence, 8 PM San Francisco time), it was Aaron Swartz who broke the thermometer. Stay tuned for some very cool news about the offline campaign. We should have totals early this week. And thanks to everyone who made this a success.