Lessig » guest post http://www.lessig.org Blog, news, books Sat, 12 Nov 2016 16:31:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.2 OneWebDay: September 22, 2006 http://www.lessig.org/2006/07/onewebday-september-22-2006/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/07/onewebday-september-22-2006/#comments Sat, 22 Jul 2006 13:00:02 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/07/onewebday_september_22_2006.html OneWebDay. OneWebDay is one day a year when we all - everyone around the physical globe - can celebrate the Web and what it means to us as individuals, organizations, and communities. In short, it's like an Earth Day for the Internet--a day to stop and think about what the Internet means to us. Add the OneWebDay Button to your site and get together with friends in your town to plan an outdoor celebration with an online component that people elsewhere on the Web can appreciate. Put a link on the OneWebDay wiki In New York's Bryant Park, San Francisco's Union Square, in London with the Lord Mayor, near City Hall in Austin, in downtown Chicago, in downtown Portland, Maine, all over Canada, and in Naples (Italy), and Canberra (Australia), OneWebDay will be celebrated for the first time on Sept. 22 -- and those are just the celebrations we know about. The goal of OneWebDay is to make the Web, and our individual connection to it, visible -- so that we don't take it for granted. We make progress when we make things visible.]]> The Web has changed millions of lives. Just two months from now, on September 22, we’ll be celebrating the first OneWebDay. OneWebDay is one day a year when we all – everyone around the physical globe – can celebrate the Web and what it means to us as individuals, organizations, and communities. In short, it’s like an Earth Day for the Internet–a day to stop and think about what the Internet means to us.

Add the OneWebDay Button to your site and get together with friends in your town to plan an outdoor celebration with an online component that people elsewhere on the Web can appreciate. Put a link on the OneWebDay wiki In New York’s Bryant Park, San Francisco’s Union Square, in London with the Lord Mayor, near City Hall in Austin, in downtown Chicago, in downtown Portland, Maine, all over Canada, and in Naples (Italy), and Canberra (Australia), OneWebDay will be celebrated for the first time on Sept. 22 — and those are just the celebrations we know about.

The goal of OneWebDay is to make the Web, and our individual connection to it, visible — so that we don’t take it for granted. We make progress when we make things visible.

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So Long! http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/so-long/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/so-long/#comments Fri, 05 May 2006 20:44:51 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/so_long.html Well I had planned to write a few thoughts about Yochai’s book, but I haven’t finished it yet! Perhaps later, with Larry’s good grace.

It has been a great pleasure being here this week — the commentators on this site are really sharp and thoughtful, and it is just a nice platform for writing.

Enjoy Who Controls the Internet, if you’ve got a copy, and I look forward to any comments any of you may have.

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Tribute to Jane Jacobs http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/tribute-to-jane-jacobs/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/tribute-to-jane-jacobs/#comments Fri, 05 May 2006 20:16:44 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/tribute_to_jane_jacobs.html Jane Jacobs, the great theorist of all things urban, died recently. It had been my dream to go find her in Toronto but that will never happen. She’s obviously influential to urban planners, but I’ve found her writing tremendously helpful for thinking also about network design.

If you aren’t familiar with her work, Jacobs was an enemy of bad central planning. She believed in cities that grew up in a willy-nilly, unpredictable way, allowing new buildings to gradually replace old, or be converted to new purposes. She believed the causes of urban blight were dullness, and hated housing projects, mega-blocks and other doomed efforts to make people live just so.

What Jacobs favored is letting neighborhoods be. She thought city planners ought create small roads and small blocks that worked on a human scale, and then stand back let the inhabitants decide how best to use their neighborhoods. Here thinking wasn’t quite economics or sociology, liberal or conservative, but rather a powerful attack on our constant tendancy to overestimate our own abilities to plan how people should live their lives.

The comparisons to network design should be obvious. Network designers, like say the writers of ATM, who have too specific an idea of what they want their users to do create abominable networks that imprison their users and become obsolute quickly. The more general purpose and useful the network, the more it does for society and individuals, and the better it evolves from one use to another.

Consider the comparison: a SoHo building can begin life as a factory, become an artist’s loft, then a boutique, then a condo, and so on. Some of the networks and even applications have led constantly evolving lives. The internet supported usenet, gopher, veronica, the web, ICQ, IM and so on, in a steady kind of evolution that was unpredictable in advance. The WWW itself has shuffled through static sites, through “home pages” of the Geocities era, through the rise of the search engine, through the blog, and through 2.0-style sites. Someone, maybe Danah Boyd, should write “The Death and Life of Great American Applications.”

Jacobs understood that the point of urban planning was not planning for a moment, but trying to cultivate healthy, evolving cities that make people happy to live in. Much of the same can be said about information architectures – the best planned networks don’t overplan, but somehow manage to create a kind of life of their own.

You can learn this in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, or any of Jacobs’ other books.

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WIPO Broadcasting http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/wipo-broadcasting/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/wipo-broadcasting/#comments Fri, 05 May 2006 05:58:22 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/wipo_broadcasting.html James Love has an interesting article on the treaty on broadcasting and webcasting rights now under discussion at the WIPO, and completely ignored by nearly everyone.

Broadcasters have long wanted yet another form of intellectual property to, yes, provide more incentives to invest in the broadcasting of content. Love suggests that a collection of web firms, like yahoo, are lobbying for a web equivalent — a webcasting right as well.

In the meantime, I’d like a property right that gives me more inventives to wake up in the morning and floss my teeth.

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Cell v. Computer http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/cell-v-computer/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/cell-v-computer/#comments Fri, 05 May 2006 04:52:39 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/cell_v_computer.html Over the next ten years or so, as others have said, a big platform war may not be as between Windows & Linux, but between computers and (deluxe) cell phones.

For Bellheads, the cell phone is in many ways a dream platform. It puts many of the sacred principles of closed infrastructures into place, including:

1. Limits on equipment attachments; (customers use approved cell phones);
2. Vertically integrated content & applications; (ringtones, etc.)
3. Pay-per-use, value added services (like “411 and more!”)
4. General freedom to bill;
5. Limited customizability or programability.

So the cell phone platform, if the Bells are right about innovation, should be just killer. As a revenue source, that’s true. Yet other than SMS, I guess, I just don’t see alot of apps other than voice.

The question is, would it make sense for a provider to experiment with an open cell platform? To make it easy for third party developers to offer applications to cell-users, without making some kind of deal?

Do principles like Network Neutrality make any sense for wireless? Or are conditions sufficiently different?

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Network Neutrality redux. http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/network-neutrality-redux/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/network-neutrality-redux/#comments Fri, 05 May 2006 04:49:21 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/network_neutrality_redux.html So I’ve been in a debate with Christopher Yoo over at legal affairs on the topic of Network Neutrality –

Here’s a Snippet:

A lot of the difference in Chris and my own views stems from how we think the process of innovation occurs. Chris, rather like the later Schumpeter, believes that large firms — in this case, network operators, drive telecommunications innovation. As the later Schumpeter put it, the “large-scale establishment” is “the most powerful engine of [economic] progress and in particular of the long-run expansion of total output.”

Chris thinks incumbents like AT&T will rarely or perhaps never threaten innovation. Instead he views them as the driving force of the technologies of tomorrow.

I am skeptical. I think these view of incumbent behavior has been discredited, and that in general incumbents, particularly in a monopoly position, have a strong incentive to block market entry and innovative technologies that threat their existing business model.

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The dot-xxx debacle http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/the-dotxxx-debacle/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/the-dotxxx-debacle/#comments Fri, 05 May 2006 04:20:56 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/the_dotxxx_debacle.html The dot xxx debate has been back in the news recently, and what I find unendingly puzzling is the sides taken.

From first principles, you’d except groups who want it to be harder to get pornography on the internet to want a .xxx domain — followed by a law (like this one, or stronger) ordering ISPs to block porn sites that don’t move to the porn zone. That would make it relatively easier to avoid randomly running into porn on the internet.

Yet as everyone knows the positions are reversed. The United States has signaled strong opposition, as have other governments. Groups in opposition rely on arguments that defy logic – like the argument that dot-xxx would mean more porn on the internet (if there is anything slowing the market for porn, its not the unavailability of a domain name). But U.S. groups, for reasons I cannot fathom, urge that dot-xxx would “mean perhaps twice as many Internet porn sites and twice the danger to children.”

What the episode largely teaches is a lesson in how the obessions of large and powerful states will shape the Net of the future. The opposition to dot-xxx is fairly hysterical — it is of the mindset that thinks it is better to pretend pornography doesn’t exist, for to admit it exists is to condone it. That’s a puzzling way of thinking to much of the world, but very familiar to Americans and some Europeans. Hence the opposition to dot-xxx.

Since the 1990s I’ve thought alone with others that porn on the internet could be better zoned. But if to zone it is to condone it, so much for that vision.

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On Piracy http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/on-piracy/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/on-piracy/#comments Thu, 04 May 2006 03:58:12 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/on_piracy.html When I was in my teens my brother David and I ran what was then called a pirate bulletin board. We had at the time three computers, an Apple IIgs, a IBM 286, and a Mac we borrowed from school, and we had very different feelings about each.

David & I were loyal to the Apple II platform. That the IIgs was, and it pains me to say this, a flawed and doomed product, made us only more loyal. The IBM was a much better machine, yet cold and generic in a way that meant we never grew attached to it. So we let the IBM ran the BBS, and kept the Apples for ourselves. We named our BBS “Fifth Business,” after the novel, and David and I were the sysops.

Fifth Business was relatively successful. At its pinnacle, we had a fancy 2400 baud modem, about 35 calls a day, and about 40 megabytes of files and games available for our users. It was, in a sense, our dream, yet of course over time, we got bored of it. We barely played the games people uploaded — the only game we really liked was Ultima. It was actually more exciting to be a user, struggling to get ahead, than a sysop, with total power. And so one day, though I don’t quite remember when, we just turned it off, and that was the end of my career as a pirate.

David & I were lawbreakers, and part of this book is part of an effort to understand law-breaking and its effects on legal systems. (My brother, incidentally, is a programmer, and now makes his living creating the kind of software we used to make available for download for his firm, pseudo interactive, publishers of Full Auto. I should ask him how he feels about that.)

So of course the filesharing wars from the 2000s are the unavoidable focus of that discussion. What we describe in the book is what we call the “forest fire” model of legal change. That is the idea that mass waves of lawbreaking are sometimes how the law changes – in the sense that forest fires, while they look scary, can actually keep a forest healthy. Of course if the whole forest burns down that’s not quite so great, but refusing to accept what lawbreaking is saying can eventually lead to even worse results.

The forest fire is just an analogy and may not be such a good one. But it is certainly clear that Napster begat Kazaa, and that Kazaa in turn begat both iTunes and Skype, which have made enormous contributions. Not everyone likes iTunes or Skype for various reasons. But the ability to download songs for a dollar and make calls for nothing. must be counted for something.

None of this, I suggest, would have happened without the challenge to law that came from the Napster in his dormitory. And so what we need to have is a more nuanced idea of what lawbreaking is telling us, what messages its sending. That’s actually the topic for my next book, and I’ll leave it there.

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New York at Night http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/new-york-at-night/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/new-york-at-night/#comments Wed, 03 May 2006 06:45:49 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/new_york_at_night.html New York

From the window.

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Chatrooms from the 1980s http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/chatrooms-from-the-1980s/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/chatrooms-from-the-1980s/#comments Wed, 03 May 2006 04:40:47 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/chatrooms_from_the_1980s.html My first experience using a chatroom was in 1988. Some group in Toronto, Canada, set up something called the “Free Access Network,” or FAN. It wasn’t really the internet: it was all dialup, with perhaps 100 phone lines or so. And it was, true to the name, free.

FAN was amazing, and still maybe the most addictive thing I’ve experienced in a life with a decent amount of experimentation. After school we’d run home, Lisa, Karen myself, Quaid and others (Onil was always skeptical), 15 year-olds all, and “war-dial” FAN desperately trying to get an open line. I developed a Pavlovian response to the sound of the modem’s carrier – a kind of deep excitment that comes back just by thinking about it.

As an aside, I remember Cory Doctorow, the writer and Boing-Boing editor, well-known to readers here, was also on FAN. Cory and I went to primary school together, and even once colloborated on a short film, but since high school we’d drifted apart. My last memory of Cory on FAN, at the last time I would see him in a decade, was the day Robert Heinlein died, May 8, 1988. Cory, of course, wanted people to quit talking about nonsense and recognize the importance of what had happened.

But back to FAN — what drew us in? There was, of course, flirting, which to a 15-year old has a power not dulled by the drudgery of dating. But, to me, really it was something else — this sense of vastness of opportunity. The feeling, oddly enough, that you can get in the Grand Canyon, or walking around parts of New York City, when you think, who knows what you might find or become. Something about those simple lines of text made the imagination run free, like all the dust at Black Rock City, and I’m still not sure why.

That was how it was — when the internet promised deliverance from the hassles of identity. And when the internet mostly was stuff that took you away from the “real world,” or what sometimes was called “meatspace.”

Where’s that vision, nearly 20 years later? Certainly, some of it is still there, and its maybe better, especially in places like Second Life. Today’s online worlds, have way more users than FAN ever did and get alot deeper. But what’s different is there’s alot, maybe most of the internet usage that’s not really personally transforming or an escape, unless you consider writing responses to eVITE personally fulfilling. Sometimes I feel a little sad about that, sad that email doesn’t have the same thrill it did in 1993 — when “you have mail” felt like getting messages from a burning bush.

What happened over the long run is interesting. The principles of the network’s design, in short, trumped the power of the applications, as compelling as they were. That may seem a subtle point, but one with enormous meaning for how the Net is governed.

Alot of the early apps were indentity-twisting and escapist. That, among things, led to a strong sense that self-governance could handle most problems (as it does on Second Life). That’s even what seemed to be what the Supreme Court had in mind in ACLU v. Reno, or when it called the internet as a “unique medium–known to its users as ‘cyberspace’–located in no particular geographical location but available to anyone.”

But the infrastructure, the basic protocol design, itself never believed in or promoted self-enforcement or independence from law. Instead, it just pushed difference and tolerated diversity. That meant, in time, more replication of realspace activity — banks, ebay, amazon, orbitz. Apps not designed to get away from the real world, but instead trying to improve it. That meant more demand and need for laws to control the effects of what the network had given birth to. That led to what we see in the book: more government involvement, sometimes out of necessity, and for better or for worse.

In short, the framers of the Net maybe might have, but didn’t actually create a Net that would rule itself. They created something that could be anything and many things. And that’s what it has become.

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One Internet or Many? http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/one-internet-or-many/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/one-internet-or-many/#comments Tue, 02 May 2006 03:49:08 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/one_internet_or_many.html One theme in the book is that an evolving balkanization of the internet is often driven by consumer preference. A good example is the suprising decline in the use of the English language on the Web.

From Ch. 3

The Economist confidently stated in in 1996 that “English may now be impregnable established as the world standard language: an intrinsic part of the global communications revolution.” A New York Times article written the same year, titled “World Wide Web: Three English Words,” asserted that “if you want to take full advantage of the Internet there is only one real way to do it: learn English.”

That turned out not to be true. English was dominant at first. But it faded fast. By the end of 2002, less than half of the web pages were still in English, and the flights from English just continued — babelization, if not balkanization.

Today, David Sifry and Ethan Zuckerman write on “the surprising possibility that Japanese may have unseated English as the dominant language of the blogosphere.” According to Sifry’s fascinating survey, ”

Something that may come as a surprise (at least to the English-speaking world) is that English isn’t the biggest language of the blogosphere. In fact, English isn’t even the primary language of one third of all posts that Technorati tracks anymore.

If you look at the survey, you’ll notice other oddities too. French accounts for but 2% of technocrati blogging, for example, despite being one of the world’s most widespread languages.

So much for those ten years I spent in French lessons (yet fortunate that I’ve had 3 months of Japanese, kamon).

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What does China Want? http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/what-does-china-want/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/what-does-china-want/#comments Tue, 02 May 2006 01:27:08 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/what_does_china_want.html Today I’m scheduled to meet with Dr. Xiong Chengyu, who is one of the personal advisors to Chinese President Hu Jintao for internet & media issues. He is in town to meet with the National Committee on United States-China Relations, among other things.

Here’s what I’m curious to hear about: What Dr. Xiong thinks China’s internet policy is; or what function, exactly the internet does or should play in Chinese society.

In the West, the typical role of a communications infrastructure is spoken of, at an ideal, something that leads to more self-expression, happier people, and more involvement in the nation’s governance. Failing that, it ought at least entertain people and make the country richer.

Observers, myself and our book included, make guesses as to what China’s government sees as the function of the internet in Chinese society. Not all have been, exactly, flattering.

But I am very curious to hear what is said directly, and I’ll let you know what I learn.

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Is ICANN a Hobbit? On “unregulation.” http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/is-icann-a-hobbit-on-unregulat/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/is-icann-a-hobbit-on-unregulat/#comments Tue, 02 May 2006 00:08:26 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/is_icann_a_hobbit_on_unregulat.html Jack at I were at the Markle Foundation in New York today to speak about the book, and as is so often the case, ICANN and domain name governance came up.

Carol Cosgrove-Sacks, until recently the United Nations’ Director of Trade, asked whether an Internet that increasingly reflects the will of individual nations, as our book suggests, won’t inevitably need a more globally responsive domain name system. In other words, she asked whether, in the long run, ICANN just cannot survive.

Esther Dyson, who happened to be at the event, gave a most interesting response. “Domain name governance” she said (and I paraphrase) “is like the One Ring. You can’t trust anyone with its power.”

While she didn’t say this, ICANN under this logic is basically like a hobbit — an organization too weak to be a threat to anyone.

“ICANN has two things going for it” said Dyson, “it lacks power, and it lacks legitimacy. If ICANN tried to do anything controversial, the U.S., Europe, Japan, and the world internet community would resist and put a stop to it.”

So is that a good enough answer? Is a decent result enough, or does the process matter?

The question is central to our book. In writing Chapter 3 of our book we interviewed, among others, Ira Magaziner — who shed very helpful light on the whole process that lead to ICANN. (Readers may be particularly interested in his discussion of the famous 1998 “show down” with the late Jon Postel.)

The view taken by Magaziner and others in the Administration parallel Dyson’s hobbit thesis. The idea was something like this: the U.S. government needs to step in to prevent regulation of the Internet. Call it “unregulation,” or regulation to stop regulation.

That seems like a paradox, yet for Americans, how you feel about “unregulation” is a key to future debates over the internet and internet policy (it is crucial to the network neutrality issue, as I’ll discuss later this week). In short, given the enormity of government power, our book says that sometimes people will want and need government to keep the internet free from, yes, government, and governments.

More on this as we go on.

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Back to Blog – Who Controls the Internet? http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/back-to-blog-who-controls-the/ http://www.lessig.org/2006/05/back-to-blog-who-controls-the/#comments Mon, 01 May 2006 23:29:34 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2006/05/back_to_blog_who_controls_the.html Most happy to be here. Mostly, but not entirely, I’ll talk this week about Who Controls the Internet. If you’ve already read the book, I’d love to hear any comments or feedback. The book can be purchased here or at most online or physical bookstores.

Let me introduce the book first. The book is mostly a history of the last ten years of nation-states & the internet. It is an effort to tell the story of the struggle of governments to control the net, and to understand the role played by geography, culture, and physical force in shaping what the network is becoming.

The book chronicles a rise in the use of state power to try to control network conduct. That’s bookended by the Elred v. Reno case on one side, and ends with Yahoo & Google’ capitulation to Chinese demands over the last few years. Along the way, it chronicles slow changes in the architecture of the network driven by local culture and government obsessions, with chapters on Copyright, ICANN, eBay, China, Int’l Law and others.

We have worked hard to make this a story accessible to many readers. Of course many of the readers of this blog are experts in one or another of the topics in the book. But even then, what we’ve tried to do is putting the last 10 years together, and put them in some perspective.

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august http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/august/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/august/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2005 13:56:34 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/08/august.html The comments have been reallly interesting.

I love the Warhol Campbell Soup example. I wonder if Campbell’s would sue him today. doubt it. in fact that is what is always so fascinating. the amount of people who face legal consequences for things like samples or parodies is so miniscule compared to the amount of their use. Music sample lawsuits, for example are really only done by successful artists against successful artists because it just isn’t worth it to pursue. Every once in awhile “artistic integrity” comes into play, but rarely.

Public Enemy was genius. Did they lose their mojo because they stopped sampling?

I’m impressed with the balance and thoughts expressed in the comments.

One thing that Larry and I have always agreed on is that the licensing systems for all copyright owners are often antiquated and unresponsive to today’s needs. While most copyright owners with a significant investment in work have made great strides in addressing this issue, there are so many small owners who are either regularly unavailable or not willing to use collective licensing (when it is available) As I have learned over the years, it is particularly difficult in the academic and research settings where university or grant policies often require licenses that are impossible to get or even impossible to trace ownership. That is a very good and important set of examples.

One more bit of info before I head to the beach today – relevant to the Fox News example. I believe the following story is little known.

1988. It is 2:30 in the morning. I am sitting in the House Commerce Committee room with four or five congressional staffers and only three or four lobbyists/lawyers. The final mark-up for the DMCA is the next morning in the Full Commerce Committee. The Bill had already passed out of the Judiciary Committee but it had a sequential referral to Commerce which needed to approve it before we went to the floor for House Passage. And we were hung up. Hung up on the very issue you raised. What would happen when legitimate fair use needs arose and the required content wasn’t available in upprotected formats? While we knew it wasn’t a “dreamers” issue and that technology was moving rapidly enough that protected content could be a reality quite soon, it wasn’t yet at the time. And several of us, including most importantly by that time, the Committee Chairman who had heretofore been opposed to the Bill, wanted to get it done.

So, I pulled out a long used legislative tactic and suggested we put a “study” in the statute. That we empower the Copyright Office to do a regular study on the impact of the law on fair use and the accessibility of works. The tech lobbyist and committee staffer suggested the C.O. was too pro-copyright owners and suggested that the Commerce Department have a role in the study as well. We got a Bill passed the next day.

So, the example you raise, is just the sort of thing that the law envisions be monitored thoughtfully. One such study has already been done and found no adverse impact to date on Fair use. They will keep going.

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so…….. http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/so/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/so/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2005 01:05:52 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/08/so.html a few thoughts vis a vis some of the comments.
I don’t believe we live in a world now in which it is either the corporate investment in artistic works that then get distributed versus the individual or communal creation that has no audience. i am convinced that there are many more grays than that and there are many more opportunities than that to be seen, heard, viewed, appreciated. i read some of the stuff over the last month from “Free Culture” and was intirigued with the notion of a campaign to encourage creators to see the benefits of multidistribution venues, but i was also surprised and disappointed at the cynicism about the potential success without the corporate investment.

sorry, i just don’t think that is the corporation’s fault.

moreover, what exactly are we talking about anyway when it comes to works at that are so stifled? I just haven’t seen an environ7ement that suffers from an excess of “ownership.” i would love some specific examples in the hopes that you will open my eyes.

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Where to start? http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/where-to-start/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/where-to-start/#comments Sun, 14 Aug 2005 21:53:50 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/08/where_to_start.html Hi. Larry has graciously asked me to guest post for him for the next week. We actually didn’t talk on the phone. We did what I most often do with Larry which was e-mail. Given how long I have known him by now, it is surprising how infrequently I actually talk with a real person rather than just communicate with him on-line. I frankly don’t know how he answers so much mail. I am well known to my friends and colleagues for just letting messages sit in my box for weeks unanswered. Is this a yes or no? That’s a quickie. Or does it require more thought, more substance, more planning, more scheduling, more feeling, a phone call, etc. So Larry asked a quick question. I gave a quick answer. And here goes.

There is my life these days, a panoply of choices that feel luxurious. Plus lots of time with my kids, twin 6 year olds.

Often people want me to spend time to interpret my 17 years at the RIAA. Or at least the last 5 of them. For the most part, I have little interest in doing that – until the book comes out :) – so when I do engage in the discussion publicly it is with an eye only towards the future. I am still engaged in the convergence of entertainment and technology. I still think about how consumers and fans interact with their stuff and what else we want to play with more or more easily. I consult with some companies who are investing in this space or advancing their positions in the market and I regularly speak with and to groups from all walks of the media and tech areas.

And I of course still love music. Actually, I love music more than ever. Because now when I listen to it, I am not thinking about the artist’s relationship with their band, the record company or the sales figures or the marketing disputes or behind the scenes gossip that everyone shared. I just listen.

So given that most of my time in Washington these days as an analyst and commentator is spent on politics and what I see as the colassal moral, legal and political failings of the Bush Administration and their allies, I am at a bit of a loss as to what to focus on this week at the Lessig Blog.

I wrote these pieces on THEHUFFINGTONPOST.COM about the Grokster decision but I didn’t really engage with comments or feedback given the other things going on politically at the time. I offer them here again and welcome a few constructive suggestions from Lessig Blog readers as to what you would like to hear from me this week. They are brief and may be trite compared to the large subject matter but they reflect a general mindset that I have long held. They have since been used against my former colleagues unfairly in a Senate hearing by some in the p2p community and that was annoying. It is always easier to pick a few sentences out of context rather than consider a full view. (that is why I can’t wait to see what the White House papers from John Roberts will say; and what the special prosecutor’s report on the Valerie Plame leak will reveal!)

I can’t respond to everything but I will try and come back regularly to engage in some of the issues that interest you. And remember what happens when even my friends expect back a really long email. Thanks for having me here.




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Free the Curriculum! http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/free-the-curriculum/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/free-the-curriculum/#comments Wed, 03 Aug 2005 20:40:34 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/08/free_the_curriculum.html The second thing that will be free is a complete curriculum (in all languages) from Kindergarten through the University level. There are several projects underway to make this a reality, including our own Wikibooks project, but of course this is a much bigger job than the encyclopedia, and it will take much longer.

In the long run, it will be very difficult for proprietary textbook publishers to compete with freely licensed alternatives. An open project with dozens of professors adapting and refining a textbook on a particular subject will be a very difficult thing for a proprietary publisher to compete with. The point is: there are a huge number of people who are qualified to write these books, and the tools are being created to leave them to do that.

I just wanted to add one little note to today’s post, based on an excellent philosophical question Diana Hsieh asked yesterday about my views on free knowledge. While I do, in fact, think that it is wonderful that each of the ten things I will list will be free, the point of naming the list “will be free” rather than “should be free” or “must be free” is that I am making concrete predictions rather than listing a pie in the sky list of things I wish to see.

If there are things that I wish were free, but which I don’t see any way to make free, I won’t list them.

Now, for that concrete prediction: a complete curriculum in English and a number of major languages will exist by 2040, and translation to minor languages will likely follow soon after.

Unlike the encyclopedia prediction, which I was able to make by doing conservative extrapolations from the proven growth of Wikipedia, I make this prediction completely by the “seat of my pants.”

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Free the Encyclopedia! http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/free-the-encyclopedia/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/08/free-the-encyclopedia/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2005 19:33:56 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/08/free_the_encyclopedia.html As I work through the list of ten things that will be free, the order that I go in has no special meaning. Even so, it should not be surprising that the first thing I’ll discuss is the encyclopedia, since I’m best known as “the Wikipedia guy”.

“Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.” This is the Wikipedia mission statement.

The goal of Wikipedia (and the core goal of the Wikimedia Foundation) is to create and provide a freely licensed and high quality encyclopedia to every single person on the planet in his or her own language.

What does this mean, operationally? How can we define success?

“Freely licensed” is easy: free means that people can copy our work, redistribute it, modify it, and redistribute modified versions, commercially or non-commercially.

“High quality” means Britannica or better quality. Contrary to what some might suppose, Wikipedia is not intentionally or primarily an anarchy, despite our radical production methods. Wikipedia is a community, and a community, which is at the core, committed to _getting it right_. While many criticisms of Wikipedia’s current quality may be valid, others are clearly absurd (“public toilet” or “anti-elitist” in particular are not serious objections).

“Every single person on the planet” means exactly that — and so implies that we are involved in something that reaches beyond just wealthy western nations with broadband Internet access, but rather an effort that reaches languages used primarily by people who have no decent access to knowledge at all currently.

So, how are we doing? What are the odds of this goal being accomplished in the next 20 years?

First, it can be argued that although much work remains to be done in many areas, if you speak English, German, French, or Japanese, and have broadband Internet access, you have your encyclopedia. Each of those 4 languages has more than 100,000 articles and provides a reasonably comprehensive resource. Several other languages will pass the 100,000 threshold soon enough, and in 5 years time, all of these and many more will be larger than 250,000 articles.

Second, clearly there is a lot of work to be done in finding ways to actually distribute the work we have done already into areas where people can use it. Many people would be able to make positive use of English, French, or Spanish Wikipedia (for example) if only they had access to it.

Third, while it is important to provide our work in important global or “colonial” languages, we also think it is extremely important to provide our work in languages that people speak natively, at home. (Swahili, Hindi, etc.)

I will define a reasonable degree of success as follows, while recognizing that it does leave out a handful of people around the world who only speak rare languages: this problem will be solved when Wikipedia versions with at least 250,000 articles exists in every language which has at least 1,000,000 speakers and significant efforts exist for even very small languages. There are many local languages which are spoken by people who also speak a more common international language — both facts are relevant.

I predict this will be completed in 15 years. With a 250,000-article cutoff, English and German are both past the threshold. Japanese and French will be there in a year. Several other languages will be there in two years.

The encyclopedia will be free.

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Au revoir http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/au-revoir/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/au-revoir/#comments Sun, 31 Jul 2005 19:22:30 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/07/au_revoir.html Elizabeth may get a chance to sneak in one last post from Defcon — if she doesn’t get hacked — but I’ll go ahead and wind things down.

Thanks to Larry for having us, and thanks to you readers for coming to hear a bit about us. Your feedback is well appreciated.

Keep in touch: subscribe to our announcements mailing list and swing by our blog from time to time. Feel free to join the discussion as well. Snag one of our T-shirts, and give a listen to Creative Common’s birthday gift to us.

We’re young and busy: we need all the guidance and help we can get. Please help us decide our priorities, form policies and strategies, do outreach, maintain our Web site and communication channels… basically, there’s a lot to do: will you help? Remember Lessig’s speech at OSCON 2002: “What have you done about it?” If you think there’s something at stake with culture, technology, and media — if you’re looking for a way to get involved — we have nails that need hammering.

If you can help with the Web site, with research and writing, with creating graphics and other media, or with any of a hundred other tasks, drop us a line at freedom@freeculture.org and let us know.

If you want to start a Free Culture group in your own corner of the world, e-mail us at newgroup@freeculture.org and let us know how we can help.

We hope you’ve gotten a glimpse of what we’re about and how we roll over at FC.o. Thanks for lending us an ear. See you around!

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Offical FreeCulture.org T-shirts Now on Sale http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/offical-freecultureorg-tshirts/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/offical-freecultureorg-tshirts/#comments Sun, 31 Jul 2005 01:47:39 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/07/offical_freecultureorg_tshirts.html If you’ll excuse the blatant self-promotion, we’d like to let you know that you can support FreeCulture.org by buying one of our snazzy new t-shirts for only $20 shipped in the US and Canada, or $27 internationally. The front prominently features our logo and name across the chest, while the design on the back reminds us that, as Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Stop by our “Low-tech” shopping page with your credit card ready to get yours today!

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The spirit of public libraries in free culture http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/the-spirit-of-public-libraries/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/the-spirit-of-public-libraries/#comments Sat, 30 Jul 2005 20:15:10 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/07/the_spirit_of_public_libraries.html I love public libraries. As a kid, I spent most of my lazy Saturday afternoons inside one of the various branches of our library system, delighted at the idea that, wherever I looked, there would be stories, magazines, or books on virtually any subject to capture my attention. The feel of the library was no less captivating. An ethos of learning and relaxation definitely hung in the air, bringing together people of all ages — from pre-schoolers to senior citizens — into the midst of a Renaissance-like mesh of scientific thinking and artistic expression.

At any given moment at a library, there are probably kids oohing and aahing over gross bugs, budding young authors writing the next chapters in their stories, and students collaborating on their research assignments. Quite simply, libraries represent a bastion of culture and knowledge, a source of creative inspiration (for me, and almost undoubtedly, for many others).

The free culture movement fosters a similar sense of learning and sharing and creating, which is probably why I was drawn to it in the first place. On a very fundamental level, the collective body of works created by scientists, artists, and thinkers (who want to share their ideas) deserves a place for public consumption, and the online community seems to be a natural extension of the borrowing-and-creating concept epitomized (in my view) by public libraries.

When I entered college, I was somewhat surprised, and disappointed, to discover that many of the institution’s libraries were closed to the general public (for security reasons or otherwise), and that a significant percentage of classroom materials were available only to enrolled students. Granted, students may be paying for the education, but knowledge is, well, knowledge and deserves to be free (an oversimplification, perhaps, but my views nonetheless). Therefore, I was pleased to learn about MIT’s OpenCourseWare, a “free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world”, or as I like to think about it, an effort combining the openness of a public library with the academic intensity of a university.

Naturally, I started wondering about ways in which students could convince their own universities to embrace initiatives like OpenCourseWare, or at the very least, make small changes that could increase the openness and accessibility of knowledge created by professors and information kept in the libraries. What sort of hurdles need to be overcome for this to happen? Is talking to professors and administrators enough? As a student, what can you do to make classroom content more readily available?

For me, this issue is important for the same reasons I feel thrilled to step into a library and read, learn, and explore to my heart’s content. Initiatives that contribute to a truly global repository — or, more fittingly, library — of ideas almost always bring about about public good.

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A child of free culture http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/a-child-of-free-culture/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/a-child-of-free-culture/#comments Sat, 30 Jul 2005 15:51:17 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/07/a_child_of_free_culture.html You could say that I grew up with free culture, or that free culture grew up along with me. Free culture as a coherent movement is young, although you could say that its roots go back to the beginning of print culture, since before we had bloggers we had independent pamphleteers like Thomas Paine. It could go back to the beginning of culture itself, since before we had DJs we had the remixing and appropriation inherent in oral cultures of the past and present. Still, only recently have people been connecting the dots, with the help of the democratizing power of digital technology and the internet. The free culture movement is young (like me), and perhaps that’s why I feel that young people like me should have a special affinity for it.

I was born in 1984, the same year as the free software movement, the year RMS left MIT to start the GNU project. Stallman refers to the free software movement as his child, and I’ve sometimes wondered, “What would the free software movement be like, if it were a kid? Would they be fun to hang out with? I bet they would be an idealist like their father, and, well, kind of like me.” In 1984, the internet, which would help make free software more than an idealistic dream, was itself just a babe. The number of hosts on the internet was just breaking one thousand… I don’t think anyone even knows how many hosts there are on the internet today. 1984 was also the year that the Supreme Court decided in Sony v. Universal, the “Betamax case,” that taping shows off your TV in order to watch them later was a fair use, not copyright infringement, and that the VCR manufacturer could not be held liable for the infringing activities of its users so long as the VCR had “substantial non-infringing uses.” The battle over what exactly the Betamax ruling meant has continued up until the present day, surviving the disappointingly unclear Grokster decision this summer, but that decision in the year of my birth was a significant victory for free culture, even though none of the parties that were “on our side” would have recognized themselves as part of a fledgling movement.

Shortly after I was born, my family became “early adopters” of the personal computer. Our first computer was an Altos computer with a 40 MB Winchester hard drive, it cost $18,000 and it was the state of the art! (I now carry 512 MB on my USB keychain drive, which cost 50 bucks.) My father wrote it off as a business expense for his home office, and as soon as I was old enough to sit up, he had me playing “educational” games on the green monochrome screen. As I got older I began to use word processors like Wordstar, where I learned the revolutionary concepts of “copy” and “paste,” and how digital technology allows you to edit a document, dissecting it into its component parts and reassembling it, without destroying the original. I loved this freedom to experiment with different versions of the same document, mashing together different drafts and building a better version from the mistakes of the past. I didn’t know this at the time, but later the internet would allow me to do this collaboratively on a global scale.

Blogging arrived on the scene as I arrived in high school, with the term “weblog” arriving in 1997 and “blog” being coined in 1998. Naturally, at the time I did not know that I would eventually have my own blog, or that I would meet my girlfriend through Livejournal. (Lauren dear, would this be too public of a place to “officially” ask you out?)

Presumably “bloggers” were covering the story as Napster debuted in 1999, and I joined millions of others in using it to expand my musical horizons. Before Napster, I mostly listened to my favorite band, Queen, and whatever my parents listened to or what came on the radio. After Napster, I became a fan of genres that many people have never heard of, such as progressive rock, trance, and third wave ska, and this led me to purchase many CDs I would, otherwise, have never have purchased. (This had an impact on my own musical compositions, as my noodling around on the guitar began to produce full-fledged songs around that time.) Some of my favorite finds on Napster were purely accidental, songs that turned up in the search results while I was looking for other things. For instance, I was searching for the Matrix soundtrack, and found a trance song labeled “Matrix ][", which I later discovered was actually "Grid ][" by the Cynic Project, who apparently was just a college kid making music in his basement. The Cynic Project album, “Soundscape Sampler,” was available from MP3.com at the time, and MP3.com did on-demand printing of CDs for their artists, so I bought the CD.

That CD is now a historical artifact, of course, since MP3.com was killed off shortly after I purchased that album. I watched as both Napster and MP3.com were destroyed by record industry lawsuits, and I became angry and resentful. At the time, I didn’t know the history of the persecution of new technologies by the industries of old, but I did know that these services created a marketplace for more obscure talent who did not have other means to access the listening public. Perhaps more importantly, they helped lead to a more educated listening public, as any decent library should. Both of those services were important to my development as a person and a music fan, and both of them were pioneering services that enabled independent artists to reach the public without having to sell their souls to a record label. I didn’t understand why there hadn’t been more of a public effort to defend these communities, and I was disappointed that I hadn’t gotten a chance to fight for the revolutionary potential that they offered. Argue as much as you like about the ethics of filesharing, it’s a complex issue that cannot be boiled down to a simple “right” or “wrong.” Peer-to-peer is bigger than filesharing anyway, and while Napster awakened me to the power of the internet to circumvent existing avenues of distribution (and control), the internet is not a one-trick pony. Writing off the power of the internet to change the world, and the power of the people who grew up with it, would be a grave error.

Any history buff could tell you that in 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a pamplet which inspired the colonists to continue with their revolutionary fight against the British. Any geek or Super Bowl fan could tell you that in 1984 – the year I was born – the first Apple Macintosh went on sale, helping to start the computer revolution. The free culture movement is a different type of revolution, but a revolution nonetheless. Free culture is, after all, like print culture squared; it represents a shift from one-way broadcasting to two-way communication. And leading the fight for a participatory culture is just Common Sense.

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“You Have to Know Who Has Your Stuff” http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/you-have-to-know-who-has-your/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/you-have-to-know-who-has-your/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2005 03:25:35 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/07/you_have_to_know_who_has_your.html I am Andy Scudder, a rising sophomore at the Unversity of Evansville, where I have been working to organize a FreeCulture.org chapter.

One of my friends at school got a shiny, brand-new Nikon D70 as a graduation gift and was, obviously, excited about the creative possibilities that it would provide. She already enjoyed browsing my photos on Flickr, so it was no surprise to me that she soon had an account of her own and started posting a few shots from her new camera.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the question she asked me a few days later.

“Can I make it so that people can’t print my pictures unless they have my permission?”

I tried to be helpful and tell her that she could keep people from seeing the original-sized images (and therefore only have access to images that wouldn’t be a suitable print resolution), but she persisted. To her, this was a legitimate question. Since she has no way of knowing who would view her pictures online and what they do with them, she felt that it would be in her best interest to “protect” her copyright by limiting what people could do with it. As she explained it, “I want people to look at my stuff. But I also want to know who has it. It is part of being an artist; you have to know who has your stuff.”

But to me, it was a dangerous question. If an artist wants to prevent someone from printing his or her work from their computer, then what other controls would we have to open our hardware, software, and very lives to if such technology existed and was widespread? This is all very reminiscent of the problems with Adobe’s e-book reader and its “permissions” system. The ability of software to arbitrarily determine what rights we should and should not have based on a few bits flipped in a file on the whim of the author or publisher reminds us that, as Lessig wrote:

On the Internet, however, there is no check on silly rules, because on the Internet, increasingly, rules are enforced not by a human but by a machine: Increasingly, the rules of copyright law, as interpreted by the copyright owner, get built into the technology that delivers copyrighted content. And the problem with code regulations is that, unlike law, code has no shame.

My concern from this encounter is not that my friend lost interest in Flickr, but that as an art student fresh out of college, she felt that control of what other people’s computers could and could not print was an essential feature of copyright. This is a dangerous idea for technology and the freedoms that it promotes, and if most artists hold the same concerns that my friend expressed, then DRM technologies would not only be common but the expected norm by artists.

How can we change this? It seems inevitable that if if we continue to educate our students about copyright with programs designed by the MPAA which do not reconcile for the changes to the creative landscape that digital technology and the Internet have enabled, then we will quickly lose our digital freedoms. Instead, we need to help artists understand the benefits of the digital world and why locking down their works in this landscape would not only hurt the patrons of their works, but the very creative freedoms that they enjoy.

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Geeks vs. Artists http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/geeks-vs-artists/ http://www.lessig.org/2005/07/geeks-vs-artists/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2005 01:38:52 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2005/07/geeks_vs_artists.html One of the criticisms of the free culture movement in general has been that there are far too many academics and geeks talking about the potential perils of overreaching control over information, and not nearly enough artists. If the artists really believed that this is a threat to culture, the skeptics say, they would act out.

While I do definitely agree that our organization and the movement as a whole need to engage those who are creating art, music, and other creative works, there are a lot of young people out there who are doing exactly the type of work that embodies an open culture. Take Cory Arcangel, who melds art and technology in his Super Mario clouds hack, or Matt Boch, a video artist who combined films of his childhood with his favorite video game to create an exploratory work. Artists like these are reflecting upon works of the past and using new technologies to build upon them.

So even if there are all these young people doing interesting things, how do we get them to care about free culture? Some artists may prefer to embed a political message in their work instead of participating in outright activism. At the same time, I believe that there is a new generation of creators and artists that do indeed care about these issues. As an organization and a movement, we need to make an effort to reach out to these people, to hear their stories, to exhibit their work, and to bring them in.

As a rising 2L at Harvard Law School, I’ve taken an interest in the intersection between law, technology, and culture. Along the same lines, Fred Benenson and I will be giving a presentation for Freeculture.org at this year’s Defcon in Las Vegas explaining why techies should care about the issues surrounding free culture. Much like we need to attract the artists, we also need to make the case to the geeks that they should care about and take action on these cultural issues. More to follow from Defcon…

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