April 29, 2005  ·  Lessig

So here’s a genuine question about journalistic ethics that I’ve gotten different feedback about:

(1) that a regular reporter at a major publication writes an article that with some length, but in passing, describes X,
(2) that the report is factually and fundamentally wrong,
(3) that X complains to the reporter, and publication about the mistakes, but
(4) no correction follows,
(5) then the reporter asks to write an “in depth report” about X,
(6) and the publication authorizes it.

Given 1-4, is 5 or 6:

(a) common
(b) unremarkable
(c) odd
(d) bad business
(e) unethical

My sense is at least (d): if the report is generous, it seems a way to make up; if the report is critical, it seems grudge journalism.


April 24, 2005  ·  Lessig

So at 11,000 meters, on a Lufthansa A340, just over Godthab, I am posting this entry, using airplane wide WiFi. It is fantastic. Not terribly fast (about 300 kbs), and not terribly cheap ($30 for a 12 hour flight). But I guess this is the future: yet another space where IP runs.

April 22, 2005  ·  Lessig


One year ago — April 23, 2004 — about a hundred students gathered at Swarthmore College to begin “an international student movement to free culture.” (Dan Hunter described the event in LegalAffairs). The event was organized by the students who had sued Diebold after Diebold sued them. The movement now has about ten chapters around the country.

Happy Birthday, Free Culture Movement! Creative Commons has a present that we wanted to announce today. Bizarrely, we’re still waiting for the license. More soon (we hope).

April 18, 2005  ·  Lessig


As reported at BoingBoing (thanks John), Trent Reznor of NIN has released a GarageBand wrap of a forthcoming song. The 70 meg download opens directly into GarageBand. The terms of the license (which you’ve got to accept to play) aren’t too bad. Not the share-cropper culture (the star owns the remixes) that the lawyers for some icons have insisted upon (Mr. Bowie, e.g.) — NIN permits sharing of the remixes, though not for commercial purposes. Would be very cool, however, were the expressions of freedom expressible in a machine-readable form, and in a license that others could combine other content with, say, in a friendster-like application made for music.

April 11, 2005  ·  Lessig

The OECD has released a fantastic new report on “Digital Broadband Content.” I saw a draft a while ago, but it was embargoed at the time, and then, delayed in its release by those who didn’t like its very balanced message. Unlike those pressing the “US view,” there’s lots in this document that advances the debate quite well. Some bits I would disagree with, and other bits, quibble with, but this is precisely the stuff this debate needs.

One issue that the document frames nicely, but doesn’t quite address: Notice the trade-off between (1) the way we choose to protect IP and (2) the kinds of creativity we encourage. (This is a point made well by Terry Fisher in his discussion of “semiotic democracy.”)

If we INDUCE and support the “per copy” model of copyright, for all content, especially video and music, and if we supplement that protection strong DRM, we pollute the opportunity for remix culture to develop. That should force us to ask: is there a way to protect the legitimate IP interests of the copyright holders, without polluting remix culture?

April 10, 2005  ·  Lessig

I screwed up an update on the last entry, and seem to have lost the comments, which I hadn’t read after the first few. I apologize, and will see if there’s a way to recover.

April 10, 2005  ·  Lessig

So there’s a view about the file-sharing debate held by most people who don’t know anything about the debate. It is a view the recording industry likes most people to hold. It is a view far from anything anyone interesting is saying.

The view – call it the uninformed stereotype (US) view – goes something like this: that there are just two sides to this debate, those who favor “piracy” and those who don’t. Supporters of Grokster are people who favor piracy, and who are against artists.

On Thursday, at the NYPL, I had the extraordinarily pleasure of being on stage with Jeff Tweedy and Steven Johnson, for a discussion titled “Who Owns Culture?” The evening started with 15 minutes of me and my “powerpoint” (actually, Keynote), and then a 50 minute discussion with Tweedy and me, moderated by Johnson. There was then time for questions from the audience.

It was an extraordinary evening. I had the chance before to talk to Tweedy, so I wasn’t surprised. But he was extraordinary � funny, subtle, smart about the issues, and deeply passionate. Suffice it that neither he nor I (as is obvious to anyone on this page) subscribe to, or fit, within the US view. I explicitly denounced “piracy”; Tweedy — in context — said nothing to support the view that people should infringe the rights of other artists.

David Carr of the New York Times was at the event. He wrote a review. Everyone I’ve spoken to loved the piece. I think they loved it because it was a piece printed in the Times, and we’re a culture that loves attention more than accuracy.

The review says nothing inaccurate about me, or the views I expressed. But, imho, it is filled with quotes from Tweedy, taken out of context, to support the US view. Nothing in the article suggests anything was said at all contrary to the US view. One reading the piece would think, there they go again, those supporters of theft, and haters of artists.

I’m not sure why there needs to be a NYTimes, if its role is simply to reinforce what people already think, especially with pieces like this. God forbid the Nation’s paper of record should reflect something more subtle or complex than the crudest view of an important debate.