September 30, 2008  ·  Lessig

Ben Jones has a piece about my book, Free Culture, being made available on Kindle, a platform that uses DRM.

In my view, the “free culture” test for a work is whether it is available freely — not whether it is also available not freely. “Free Culture” is available freely — meaning, it is licensed freely here. One can put that freely licensed version on a Kindle, freely. I hadn’t known my publisher was going to make Free Culture available on the Kindle, but now that they have, I’d be very keen to have a version I can make freely available on the “Free Culture” remix page.

“But shouldn’t,” one could well argue, “you not support DRM technologies at all?” That’s a valid position taken by many I respect. My view, however, is that one supports the campaign to avoid debilitating DRM by making culture freely available. New technologies will try all sorts of new deals to make things competitive. So long as free, open format versions are available to compete with that, I am not concerned about the DRM’d version existing as well.

Ben’s post claims that one would violate “the DMCA by circumventing the DRM, it is hard to put the pdf version of the book on the Kindle.” I don’t get this. There’s no violating of the DMCA when one adapts the format of a work as permitted by the copyright holder. Indeed, I should think the DMCA is violated by any effort to restrict the rights granted by a license — including the CC license rights. So any problem here is not the user’s — it is Kindle’s.

Anyway, I may be wrong about this. And I’ll be listening to see.

September 29, 2008  ·  Lessig

From Students for Free Culture:

Free Culture 2008 Conference
October 11-12, 2008
Chevron Auditorium, International House
2299 Piedmont Ave, Berkeley CA

What’s Free Culture?
Free Culture is a movement focused on creativity and innovation, communication and free expression, public access to knowledge and civil liberties. Students for Free Culture at Berkeley is proudly hosting the Free Culture 2008 Conference over Columbus Day weekend.

Conference Details
The conference will be held October 11th at the Chevron Auditorium at UC Berkeley. Anyone interested in politics, tech policy, art, and culture will find something to like—we’ll be featuring keynote presentations from Pam Samuelson of Boalt Hall, Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law, and Mozilla Corporation CEO John Lilly. We are also convening panels on transparent politics, remix culture, copyright reform, and open access to knowledge and medicine. Richard Rinehart of Berkeley Art Museum will present the groundbreaking OpenMuseum project and Berkeley’s OKAPI group will demonstrate its virtual recreation of Çatalhöyük island for the Open Archaeology project. Filmmaker Nina Paley will be present for a screening of her groundbreaking film Sita Sings the Blues. And on October 12th, SFC will present a slate of intimate “unconference” style workshops on the Berkeley campus. Join guests from Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others!

We’re asking attendees to donate what they think the conference is worth, whether that’s $1 or $100. Register today at!

As advertised, I’m speaking. I’ll introduce my new book, Remix, which will be released that week. (And fear not, there’s a very cool Creative Commons surprise to be announced then (iow: please don’t sweat copyright pages)).

September 26, 2008  ·  Lessig

From the CC blog:

The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World is a newly released book on “how to create communities of thousands [...] and channel their energy to effect political, social and cultural transformation.” Written by tech-advocate and political theorist Ralph Benko, The Websters’ Dictionary aims to educate on the web’s potential to motivate groups and enact change on broader issues, all while keeping in mind the complexities inherent in organizing movements online.

While the book is aimed at those with mid-level web experience, The Websters’ Dictionary has salient points that should resonate across technical prowess and familiarity. The Websters’ Dictionary is available for free PDF download – after taking the “Websters’ Oath” – and is being released under a CC BY-NC license, meaning that it can be reused in any number of ways, as long as future works credit Ralph Benko and are noncommercial in intent. Hardcover and paperbacks versions of the book should be available in October.

September 25, 2008  ·  Lessig

As reported on the LA Times blog, During the primaries, a bunch of us (both Democrats and Republicans) called on the parties to demand that the networks adopt “open” or “free debate” principles, to assure that the debates would be available to everyone to use or reuse as they choose.

We’re back. In the extended entry below is another letter, signed by another bipartisan mix, calling on McCain and Obama to commit to “open debate principles.” You can get a PDF of the letter here.

Open Debate Coalition

Dear Senator McCain and Senator Obama,

We are a coalition of people and organizations across the ideological spectrum asking you to make this year’s presidential debates more “of the people” than ever before by bringing them more fully into the Internet age.

Specifically, we ask you to embrace these two “open debate” principles for the 2008 debates:

  1. The presidential debates are for the benefit of the public. Therefore, the right to speak about the debates ought to be “owned” by the public, not controlled by the media.

    During the primaries, a href="">large
    coalition asked that media companies release rights to presidential debate
    video to ensure that key moments can be legally blogged about, shared on YouTube, or otherwise shared without fear of legal repercussion.

    CNN, ABC, and NBC agreed to release video rights. But one media company threatened legal action against Senator McCain for using a debate clip to spread a message. Such control over political speech is inconsistent with our democracy.

    We therefore call upon both candidates to commit to a principle that whenever you debate publicly, the raw footage of that debate will be dedicated to the public domain. Those in charge of the video feed should be directed to make it free for anyone to use.

  2. “Town hall” Internet questions should be chosen by the people, not solely by the media.

    The two campaigns href="">recently
    said of the October 7 debate, “In the spirit of the Town Hall, all
    questions will come from the audience (or Internet), and not the moderator.” We
    agree with the spirit of this statement. In order to ensure that the Internet
    portion of this debate is true bottom-up democracy, the format needs to allow
    the public to help select the
    questions in addition to asking them.

    This cycle’s YouTube debates were a milestone for Internet participation in presidential debates. But they put too much discretion in the hands of gatekeepers. Many of the questions chosen by TV producers were considered gimmicky and not hard-hitting enough, and never would have bubbled up on their own.

    This “bubble up” idea is the essence of the Internet as we know it. The best ideas rise to the top, and the wisdom of crowds prevails. We’d propose debate organizers utilize existing bubble-up voting technology and choose Internet questions from the top 25 that bubbled up. We ask you to instruct the October 7 debate planners to use bubble-up technology in this fashion.

    This is a historic election. The signers of this letter don’t agree on every issue. But we do agree that in order for Americans to make the best decision for president, we need open debates that are “of the people” in the ways described above. You have the power to make that happen, and we ask you to do so.

    Thank you for your willingness to take these ideas to heart. If you have any questions, please contact: [email protected]


    Lawrence Lessig; Professor, Stanford Law School, Founder, Center for Internet and Society

    Glenn Reynolds; Professor, University of Tennessee Law, and founder of blog

    Craig Newmark; Founder, Craigslist

    Jimmy Wales; Founder, Wikipedia

    David Kralik; Director of Internet Strategy, Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions

    Eli Pariser; Executive Director, Political Action

    Roger Simon, CEO, Pajamas Media

    Adam Green; Director of Strategic Campaigns, Political Action

    Mindy Finn; Republican strategist, former Mitt Romney Online Director

    Patrick Ruffini; Republican consultant, Former Republican National Committee eCampaign Director

    Arianna Huffington; Founder, Huffington Post

    Markos Moulitsas; Founder,

    Jon Henke; New media consultant, including for Fred Thompson, George Allen, and Senate Republican Caucus

    Mike Krempasky; Co-Founder of

    Matt Stoller; Founder/Editor,

    James Rucker; Executive Director,

    Robert Greenwald; President, BraveNewFilms

    Kim Gandy; President, National Organization for Women

    Carl Pope; Executive Director, Sierra Club

    Micah Sifry; Co-Founder, Personal Democracy Forum and

    Shari Steele; Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

    Josh Silver; Executive Director, Free Press

    Carl Malamud; Founder, Public.Resource.Org

    Roger Hickey; Co-Director, Campaign for America’s Future

    Roger Simon, CEO, Pajamas Media

    K. Daniel Glover, Executive Producer,, Media Research Center

    Billy Hallowell, Director of Content, VoterWatch

September 23, 2008  ·  Lessig


Susan Crawford’s fantastic idea — One Web Day — happened today. I participated in New York. My five minutes is in the extended entry. PDF is here.

This Technology, This Community, This Dream: One Web Day, 2008
Lawrence Lessig

I am honored to be here to mark, to celebrate, this One Web Day, as it is all together fitting to, like the Earth, celebrate the Web with its own special day.

There is an endless list of technologies with us today that forty years ago only science fiction writers, and professors at MIT, could have imagined imagined. But on that list, there’s only one that we could imagine celebrating with a day. There won’t be a one iPod day, Steve’s dreams notwithstanding. Nor a one PC day, whether or not Seinfeld offers to come. Only this technology — the Web; only this community — the Web; only this dream — the Web; makes sense to celebrate in just this way.

And of course, there is much to be proud of. This technology, this community, this dream, is far more than anyone who created it ever imagined. As Holmes said of the constitution — that it “called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters” — so too could we say of the Net.

Indeed, that is precisely what we cheerleaders have said of the Net, as we have fought to defend it from changes that would corrupt its most precious feature — that it repeatedly surprises even the most gifted of its begetters. Defend it, that is, by keeping it open to change, free from the inevitable design of those who have made it to make it so the platform on which they have made it doesn’t encourage others to displace them.

But as I reflect upon where we are today — and by “we” I mean we Americans, just one part of this world — I grow increasingly impatient with celebrations. I grow tired of self-confident pride.

We are in the middle of a war, paralyzed by terror. In this city, the financial system of our nation is collapsing. Across our nation, the financial system of millions of families has already collapsed.

And yet at the center of this mess is a government — the product of a democracy — which too few of us respect. A president favorably thought of by less that a third of the Nation. A Congress favorably thought of by less than 10%. The only branch enjoying majority support is the one branch not elected by the people — the Court.

We should pause to think about just what this means. There were more who supported the British Crown at the revolution than support the US Congress today. And I suspect more who had faith in our government attending to the problems that were ours at every point in America’s history, save that one point that quickly slid to a civil war.

We must change this. It is time we turn this extraordinary platform for hope, the Web, to more of the extraordinary public problems that weigh us down today. It is time we use the inspiration and power of this technology, this community, this dream, to fix what is broken in this real world. It is time the virtual gets used to fix the real.

Our crisis in governance has perhaps never been as profound. And it feels almost Hollywood-esque, or Harry Potter-esque, that just at the moment when things are as dark as they could possibly be, we get handed a magical tool that could, if used well, save this day.

But the fact is things are this dark, and we have been given that tool. And we must use it to learn again how citizens govern.

There is a government we are responsible for. There are enormous problems that it has either caused, or is not curing. Let us take this technology, this community, this dream, and use it to restore democratic responsibility. And community. And a dream.

September 23, 2008  ·  Lessig

Trust: Reaching The 100 Million Missing Voters, originally released in 2004 as a collection of essays, has been re-released online under a CC BY-NC license, by (my friend) the author, Farai Chideya, is credited and it is for non-commercial purposes.

You can download the first chapters here, with more to follow as the election continues.