August 17, 2005  ·  Hilary Rosen

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.

August 15, 2005  ·  Hilary Rosen

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.

August 14, 2005  ·  Hilary Rosen

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.


August 14, 2005  ·  Jimbo Wales

Many thanks to Larry for the platform, and my apologies that I haven’t finished the project of the “ten things that will be free”. It’s an ongoing thought process that I’ll continue on my own blog.

I’m going to be giving this talk and changing and adapting it over the next couple of months to refine it into a proper list.

August 6, 2005  ·  Jimbo Wales

I’ve been a bit delayed from posting because I’ve been completely swamped by media. As I’ve joked before, I’m a lot like David Hasselhoff: big in Germany. :-)

But a fair amount of my time was spent this morning trying to complain about a rather absurd story published by Reuters which claims that I’ve announced some major changes to Wikipedia editorial policy. It’s a fine story except for the tiny detail of being completely false.

Of course slashdot and a ton of newspapers and websites picked up the story and ran with it, causing a fair amount of speculation based on, well, absolutely nothing.

August 3, 2005  ·  Jimbo Wales

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.”

August 2, 2005  ·  Jimbo Wales

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.

August 1, 2005  ·  Jimbo Wales


I will be blogging for Larry Lessig for the next couple of weeks, most of which I will be at the Wikimania conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Wikimania is the first major conference of the Wikimedia Community, and my keynote opening talk on Friday will be entitled “Ten Things That Will Be Free”.

The list is inspired by Hilbert’s problems. In 1900, at a conference in Paris, German mathematician David Hilbert presented 10 problems, from a list which ended up being 23. These problems influenced mathematics strongly in the coming years, serving as a focal point for the research and work of thousands of mathematicians.

I hope that my list will serve as a similar inspiration for the free culture movement. Many of the 10 are already well under way but need definition and focus, a coming together of a single coherent community. Others are in the earliest stages.

I started to name the list “Ten Things That Must Be Free” – but this sounded to me too much like an empty political demand. And the point is: this is not a dream list of things which I hope through some magic to become free, but a list of things which I believe are solvable in reality, things that will be free. Anyone whose business model for the next 100 years depends on these things remaining proprietary better watch out: free culture is coming to get you.

I will be presenting the ten things over the next ten days, but I will let you in on a little secret. I haven’t finished the list. In true collaborative style, I want to invite you to participate in the finalization and formation of the list.

The ground rules are: I am talking about free in the sense of GNU, that is: free as in speech, not free as in beer. I was talking to someone about this concept recently who suggested “health care”. That’s not the sort of thing I’m talking about. Think: GNU/Linux. Think: Wikipedia.

For each of the ten, I will try to give some basic (and hopefully not too ambiguous) definitions for what it will mean for each of them to be “solved”, and we can all check back for the next 25 or 50 years to see how we are doing.

What are the ten things that will be free?

The first seven things I have chosen, and I will post one per day for the next seven days. The final three are up to you. You tell me…

What should be free?

What will be free?