June 4, 2009  ·  Lessig

This is fabulously cool: iFixit has built a teardown platform. I’ve used the site many times to take apart Mac’s I’ve needed to fix. But those instructions were iFixit prepared. They’ve now enabled anyone to build a teardown (“the act or process of disassembling”) spec for any product. The site offers the structure and advice for building great teardowns. It then hosts and supports feedback. It is a fantastic example of a “hybrid,” as REMIX defines the term — and all submissions are CC-BY-NC-SA.

May 19, 2009  ·  Lessig

The world of American copyright scholars is very familiar with the poetic passage of Jefferson’s, written in a letter:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

Thomas Jefferson letter to Isaac Mcpherson, August 13, 1813, reprinted in H. A. Washington, ed., Writings of Thomas Jefferson 1790-1826, vol. 6 (Washington, D. C: Taylor & Maury, 1854), 180-81; quoted in Graham v. John Deere Company of Kansas, 383 U. S. 1, 8-9n.2 (1966).

David Ellerman writes to point to an earlier version of the same point, this one penned by Augustine. As Augustine wrote:

The words I am uttering penetrate your senses, so that every hearer holds them, yet withholds them from no other. Not held, the words could not inform. Withheld, no other could share them. Though my talk is, admittedly, broken up into words and syllables, yet you do not take in this portion or that, as when picking at your food. All of you hear all of it, though each takes all individually. I have no worry that, by giving all to one, the others are deprived. I hope, instead, that everyone will consume everything; so that, denying no other ear or mind, you take all to yourselves, yet leave all to all others. But for individual failures of memory, everyone who came to hear what I say can take it all off, each on one’s separate way.

Augustine Sermon; quoted in Scan Globally, Reinvent Locally: Knowledge Infrastructure and the Localization of Knowledge.” In:  Joseph Stiglitz and the World Bank: The Rebel Within. Chang, Ha-Joon (Ed.),London: Anthem, 2001, pp. 194-219, quoting Wills, Garry 1999. Saint Augustine. New York: Viking, p. 145.

Ellerman is a researcher who had worked for Stiglitz at the World Bank. Thanks to him, Augustine is the new Jefferson.

April 26, 2009  ·  Lessig

Some scholars have been arguing that the architecture of the internet, its embrace of openness as a design principle, might revolutionize science if we could apply the same principles there — if we could break down the legal and technical barriers that prevent the efficient networking of state funded research and data. Imagine a scientific research process that worked as efficiently as the web does for buying shoes. Then imagine what economic growth a faster, leaner, and more open scientific research environment might generate.

James Boyle, What the information superhighways aren’t built of, FT (April 17, 2009). (Not that the FT is the perfect architect of openness. You’ll have to give away some personal information to read this wonderful essay. Don’t worry. You can give it away “for free.”)

April 25, 2009  ·  Lessig

Mich Kabay of Norwich University (VT) reports his class has just completed 3.5 weeks with CODE v2 in his Politics of Cyberspace course. As he writes,

the files in the LECTURES section include more than 100 specific questions for discussion and exams that they may find helpful in preparing their own courses.

You can download the entire set here.

Thanks for the work making my own more useful.

April 12, 2009  ·  Lessig

The above is about the conference described below:

PLAY MACHINIMA LAW

DATE: April 24-25, 2009
LOCATION: Stanford Law School

Register now at http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/playmachinima

Machinima.
…It has been hailed as the art form of the 21st century.
…It is redefining music videos.
…And reinventing the videogame.
…It might be the future of cinema.

But there’s a catch: if you make machinima, you might be breaking the law.

Or are you?

Find out at Stanford University. “Play Machinima Law” from April 24-25, 2009. This two-day conference will cover key issues associated with player-generated, computer animated cinema that is based on 3D game and virtual world environments. Speakers include machinima artists/players, legal experts, commercial game developers, theorists, and more. Topics include: game art, game hacking, open source and “modding,” player/consumer-driven innovation, cultural/technology studies, fan culture, legal and business issues, transgressive play, game preservation, and notions of collaborative co-creation drawn from virtual worlds and online games. Films will be shown throughout the conference, including: Douglas Grayeton’s Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator and Joshua Diltz’ Mercy of the Sea.

April 7, 2009  ·  Lessig

The good souls at the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan have come up with a fantastically suggestive way of seeing the relationships between “money and government.” Here for example is contributions to the Senate by industry and sector. Here you can see contributions by entities that received TARP funding. Wonderful work that will feed lots of insight and reflection.

April 6, 2009  ·  Lessig

Fred von Lohmann has a fantastic essay on the complexity in knowing whether the President’s gift to the Queen violated the law.

Does anyone doubt it is time to begin a formal and serious discussion about how best to craft a copyright law for the 21st century? Does anyone think such a law should yield such ambiguity to such a simple question?

March 4, 2009  ·  Lessig

Hoyer to W.H.: Hands off our earmarks - Alex Isenstadt - POLITICO.com

Herein brews perhaps the first important battle of reform for this President. I have long thought the President should resign his membership in the Democratic Party — not because he doesn’t or shouldn’t share the values of the Democratic Party, but because it is time we recognize we need a President above either partisanship (which got us the “Contract with America”) or bipartisanship (which got us the Iraq War). But Hoyer’s behavior here makes the point most starkly.

Earmarks are a cancer: Not because they consume a large part of the budget — they don’t; not because we shouldn’t be spending money — we should. But because they feed the system of corruption that is the way Washington works. They are the cornerstone of a system feeding the worst of the lobbying mafia (another plug here for So Damn Much Money), which itself is the cornerstone of K St. capitalism. It was a mistake for Obama not to join McCain in targeting them during the campaign. It is a fantastic thing that he is beginning to target them now.

Cancers can be benign or malignant. This cancer is malignant when it feeds K St. capitalism. It is benign when it is simply a locally informed direction to how the government’s money (aka, the people’s money) should be spent.

And apropo of the benign form of this cancer: I’ve agreed to help Congresswoman Jackie Speier with an experiment for earmark reform. (Decidedly and clearly progressive) Congresswoman Speier voted against the appropriations bill because of the earmarks in the bill. But as reported in the SF Chronicle:

Speier is now trying a novel experiment: She’s put together a citizen’s oversight panel to recommend projects for federal funding, chaired by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, a critic of earmarks, and including local elected, business and labor leaders. If the model works, she may offer legislation to expand it nationally.

The panel will meet in 3 or 4 public hearings over the next month of so to review earmark proposals. We will then report our recommendations back to her.

The citizen panel idea is completely Speier’s. It is a brilliant idea with enormous potential. More on the potential soon.