August 13, 2008  ·  Lessig

As if the decision upholding free licenses wasn’t enough for one day, a New York Supreme Court (the highest trial court in New York) has denied Yoko Ono an injunction to stop the distribution of a film that uses a clip of Lennon’s Imagine. Wonderfully, the Court explicitly refuses to follow the 6th Circuit’s “no de minimis” rule sound recordings, and holds that there is fair use under New York’s common law copyright regime. Read the more good news here.

August 4, 2008  ·  Lessig

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This is (I expect) the last book I’ll write in this field. Dedicated to Lyman Ray Patterson and Jack Valenti, it pushes three ideas — (1) that this war on our kids has got to stop, (2) that we need to celebrate (and support) the rebirth of a remix culture, and (3) that a new form of business (what I call the “hybrid”) will flourish as we better enable this remix creativity.

I wrote this book last year. Many of the themes were described in 18 minutes in my TED talk. I am very eager to have it out.

You can get notified when it is out on Amazon.

August 4, 2008  ·  Lessig

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Just returning from the iCommons Summit in Sapporo, Japan. The Free Beer project made a showing, with a locally brewed version. But this ad caught my eye: “Free Beer” for “500 yen.”

We’re now at the stage where (at least some) the RMS conception of “free” is clear enough so that even “free beer” is “free as in free speech” such that a price running with the free beer seems (again, to a select set no doubt) perfectly natural.

April 28, 2008  ·  Lessig

PFF has launched what they promise to be a “series of papers that will critique Free Culture and the Free Culture Movement.” Their first is a piece by Tom Sydnor II called “Tragedy and Farce: An Analysis of the Book FREE CULTURE.” Calling the book akin to “quasi-socialist utopianism,” the 17 page review is certain to be an interesting read. Someone should add this to the Anti-Lessig Reader.

April 27, 2008  ·  Lessig

Just after the writer’s (and writers’) strike ended, Matt Prager (who worked for 15 years in Hollywood as a writer and executive) sent me this fantastic essay about what was really at stake in the strike (guess…). Here’s the start:

The WGA strike to date has been more or less characterized as a strike over money; most press reports have dealt with negotiation demands like residuals and up-front compensation on internet streams and downloads, jurisdiction over reality and animation, and other such issues. However, the press reports have missed the central, underlying issue of this strike: copyright. This battle is not “poor laborer” versus “greedy company” – everyone in Hollywood is pretty greedy frankly. Rather, in the same way that fiction is the business of Hollywood, so is the entire underpinning of Hollywood built on an enormous fiction. But to understand the fiction, you first need to understand some facts.

Here’s the balance.

March 11, 2008  ·  Lessig

At the Stanford “Legal Futures” conference last weekend, I joined a panel with author Andrew Keen titled “The Future of Professional Media.” I hadn’t planned to be on a panel with Andrew, but the conference had a FOO structure, and when I left the night before, he was the only one on the panel. Being a good host, I signed up so he wouldn’t be alone (smile…).

As I’ve written here before, I’ve always been unsure about whether Keen is a know-nothing, or the greatest self-parodist of our time. For while his book, The Cult of the Amateur, is a tirade against “amateur culture” — ridiculing its sloppiness, errors, and lack of standards — the book itself is riddled with sloppy, basic errors that betray either an oblivious author or a publisher without standards. And thus the self-parody: demonstrating “professional” media can be as bad as the bad of the “amateur” media.

People who knew Keen, however, told me my self-parody theory was bunk. That Keen wasn’t a brilliant anything; that his book was simply sloppy. Yet his latest missive again makes me wonder — are we all just missing the extraordinary comic genius in this failed Internet entrepreneur?

Here’s the clue: My criticism of Keen’s book Saturday tracked the criticism above. I read a series of quotes from the book to support my claim that the book was full of simple, basic errors. Among the passages I quoted was this:

In a twisted kind of Alice in Wonderland, down-the-rabbit-hole logic, Silicon Valley visionaries such as Stanford law professor and Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig and cyberpunk William Gibson laud the appropriation of intellectual property.

I asked Keen if he had ever read anything I had written. He said he had. I asked him to name one instance where I had ever “laud[ed] the appropriation of intellectual property.” He sat silently. I pressed. He had no answer. He could name no instance of my “laud[ing] the appropriation of intellectual property” because that’s not my schtick. Indeed, as I repeatedly insisted in Free Culture (see pages 10, 18, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 139, 255), what others call “piracy” I was emphatically not writing to defend. Indeed, I criticized it as “wrong.”

Now whether mine is a sensible view or not, or a view consistent with the Free Culture Movement or not, is an argument had on this page many times. But the Keen-relevant point is that my claim was a claim about a fact. He alleges I “laud the appropriation of intellectual property.” I claim I do not. That’s a true/false claim. And so in the tradition of the professional truth-seeker, so threatened, Keen believes, by the wisdom-of-the-crowds Internet, one would think that the disagreement would be resolved by someone actually reading something, or at least providing some citation. No doubt it was unfair to call Keen out on stage. He didn’t come with his notes. Why would I expect him to be able to identify anything in my work at all? But after the conference, perhaps. Maybe then Keen could defend the assertion that I flatly denied.

And indeed, he now has — but the interesting (self-parody point) is how.

In a blog post, Keen again charges me with lauding the appropriation of intellectual property. But what’s the source for his renewed charge? Did Keen go back to the books? Or back to his notes? Does he offer a quote, or a passage to exemplify this defining feature of my work?

No. The truth of this matter for Keen is resolved by asking a bunch of people at the conference whether in fact I “laud the appropriation of intellectual property.” They said I did. And that resolves it for Keen.

That’s right: the truth comes from the wisdom of the crowd. These unnamed sources confirm it for Keen. And that’s all the confirmation he needs. No need to actually read anything. The crowds have spoken. And now this “professional” trusts the crowds.

I have no doubt that many believe I “laud the appropriation of intellectual property.” That’s in part because people like Keen say I do, and on balance because most people (sensibly) have better things to do than to struggle through the turgid prose of an academic.

But the relevant point here is this: any author who aspired to the high standards that Keen is so keen to laud would suss the truth of this matter the old fashioned way — by reading a book (or two). Were Keen to do that, he’d see that most of the wry humor in his blog post misses the mark because I don’t in fact hold the views that he holds me up to (I have nothing against professional media content; I love Hollywood movies; and I have never doubted the significance of professional media: my praise of amateurs is not a criticism of the professional). What his writing instead demonstrates is something only the most cynical would believe — that the aim of this “professional” writer (and his publisher) has little to do with the truth, much more to do with selling books.

Good luck in that, Andrew.

February 11, 2008  ·  Lessig

As announced at public.resource.org, CC and public.resource.org have announced the first release of material to support our free law project. After raising a large chunk of change from great and generous sorts like David Boies, John Gilmore, the Omidyar Network and the Elbaz Foundation, we’ve purchased a database of a substantial part of all federal cases. Carl’s team has now made all the data available in a beautiful, xml format for developers to take and use however they want. The however they want part is what’s assured by the CCØ mark on all cases — no rights, including attribution rights, are asserted over these data at all. Free law available for anyone to build search engines, or collections, or whatever else they want.

This is just the first step in this joint venture that CC and public.resource.org have launched. Stay tuned for more public acts of manumission, soon. Thanks especially to Carl for making this happen, and the generous support of the funders for making this happen in a different sense.

January 28, 2008  ·  Lessig

So this Thursday, January 31, at 1:00pm, at Memorial Auditorium on the Stanford Campus (directions) (map), I will be giving my last lecture about “Free Culture.” The event is a bit staged (literally), as it is being sponsored by an entity making a film about these issues, and they want the lecture to use in the film. But the venue is beautiful, and I will also use the opportunity to map out one plan for addressing the problem of “corruption” (as I’ve described it) in politics. I’ve now finished a draft of the talk; for those who have seen me speak before, it is new (almost completely new — maybe 1% are must have slides from the past). For those who haven’t seen me speak before, it will be a nice map of where this debate has been, and where I think I want to go. Any questions about logistics, send an email here.

November 14, 2007  ·  Lessig

Free resources hero Carl Malamud is responsible for another coup: As announced on the public.resource.org site, he has negotiated a deal to buy a chunk of federal case reports and make them available totally freely — expressly public domain (using a new CC tool we’re releasing in December that makes it clear that there are no rights — copyright, moral, publicity, etc. — attached to content). This is a brilliant step to a properly accessible public domain. Bravo to Carl!