November 19, 2006  ·  Lessig

Milton Friedman was a hero of mine when I was growing up. I devoured his (non-technical) work as a teen, and watched his “Free to Choose” every time I could (the days before Tivo).

No doubt the highpoint of the Eldred v. Ashcroft case was when I learned Friedman would sign our “Economists’ Brief“: As it was reported to me, when asked, he responded: “Only if the world ‘no brainer’ appears in it somewhere.” A reasonable man, he signed even though we couldn’t fit that word in.

His integrity to principle will be missed.

August 8, 2006  ·  Lessig

Ray Gifford has announced he is stepping down from being President of PFF. There are (unfortunately) too few things I and PFF agree about. But we agree about Ray. He is a man of extraordinary integrity and insight. It is sad to see him go (but for the best of all possible reasons).

May 23, 2006  ·  Lessig


Wired is holding a town hall discussion at Town Hall, New York, with Al Gore, James Hansen, Laurie David, and Lawrence Bender, moderated by John Hockenberry, Thursday, May 25, from 8-10pm.

You can get tickets here.

December 14, 2005  ·  Lessig

The New Jersey Assembly has voted 63-5 to enact a law to remove any immunity for negligence in hiring in any case involving sex abuse. Essentially the same bill had been passed by the New Jersey Senate last year. The bill goes to a committee to resolve the small differences. It is expected the Senate will vote tomorrow to concur in the Assembly’s action. The bill will then go to Acting Governor Codey for his signature. It is expected he will sign the bill before Christmas.

The Trenton Times has an editorial rightly praising the actions of the Assembly. But my praise goes to the person who, in my view, more than anyone, brought this matter to a decision.

John Hardwicke is the plaintiff in the case I argued (and which remains pending). But beyond his own case, he has devoted everything in the last few years of his life to getting the law fixed. Movements for justice require this sort of person. Change never happens without them. This change would not have happened, in my view, had John not done everything he did.

There are countless children who will never know to thank this man. Thankfully. But here’s one father who does.

Update: The Senate has passed the bill, 39-1. It now goes to the Acting Governor.

September 27, 2005  ·  Lessig

So I spend most of my life reflecting on how little progress I’ve made in the stuff I feel most strongly about.

But now, finally, some progress.

Dick Hardt is brilliant. Watch (and copy) the style. Learn tons from the substance. (My pride is tied to the style only).

January 11, 2005  ·  Lessig

IBM has announced the pledge of 500 patents to a “patent commons” for “open source” software development. That means people developing software licensed under a license certified by the Open Source Initiative can be assured that IBM will not assert these 500 patents against them — at least so long as they don’t sue IBM or another open source developer for patent related issues. (Steve Lohr’s got a piece in the Times.)

This is important news. It further demonstrates IBM’s commitment to making free software and open source software development flourish. And it could well inspire others to follow. Ideally there should be a trust that these patents could be contributed into. We’ll have to get the commonists to get to work building such a thing.

December 24, 2004  ·  Lessig


“I’m just a student, so I don’t have a lot of money to blow, but I donated $165 to EFF, Public Knowledge, and Creative Commons.”

So writes Michael-Forest Meservy in an email, inspiring the following plea:

I’m extremely honored to serve on the board of five extraordinary organizations: Creative Commons, EFF, Public Knowledge, Public Library of Science, and the Free Software Foundation. If you can follow a student’s lead, I’d be grateful. These are five amazing organizations that need your support. Ask yourself this: How much did I give to the monopolists this year? We’d be happy with 1/10th of that.

December 13, 2004  ·  Lessig

Dan Gillmor is leaving the SJ Merc to launch a project that continues the best of blogs. Few have the courage to risk so much for this. He has earned praise for the work he has done, and respect for this next step that he is taking.

November 18, 2004  ·  Lessig

Senator McCain has become an important force for good in the land of IP extremism. I reported a hold he had placed on H.R. 4077 because of valid concerns about whether the freedoms it granted (to enable parents to filter “smut” from films) would be read to deny fair use in other cases.

The same careful eye has now caught a very elegant trap buried within the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2004.

That bill adds some “Anti-Counterfeiting Provisions” to regulate counterfeit or illicit “labels.” Most thought its target was physical labels. But a careful reading revealed a real ambiguity in the statute, suggesting (as the MPAA believed) it regulated both tangible and intangible labels.

Why is that a problem? Well if the act makes it an offence to distribute unauthorized copies of labels, then there’s a very simple way for content owners to hack around fair use: embed a watermark into the content, and then any clip, even if fair use, would also constitute an unauthorized copy of a label. Thus, DMCA-like, what copyright law gives, this labeling law would take away.

Senator McCain is thus floating an amendment, to limit the regulation of “illicit labels” to physical labels only. And he has proposed a savings clause, which states:

Savings Clause.–Nothing in Section 2318 of title 18, United States Code, as amended by this title, shall be construed to restrict defenses or limitations on rights under title 17, United States Code, for a phonorecord, a copy of a computer program, a copy of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, a copy of a literary work, a copy of a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, or a work of visual art, that a genuine certificate, licensing document, registration card, or similar labeling component is (1) affixed to, enclosing, or accompanying, or (2) designed to be affixed to, enclose, or accompany.

Very nice work by a very careful Senator. The Justice Department had expressed similar concerns about an earlier version in March. But the Senator has now given those concerns real life.

October 28, 2004  ·  Lessig

from a description in a financial emal:

For those outside New England who can’t understand the emotional significance, please indulge me the following tale: Earlier this morning, I went to grab a bagel and coffee at my regular haunt in Framingham, Mass. (western suburb of Boston). As I waited in line, an older man walked up to a woman who was reading The Boston Globe. He asked her if he could see the front page, because all of the newsstands in the area were already sold out. She offered him the entire paper, but he gently said that he just needed to see the cover. She showed it to him and he started to cry. Grown man in the middle of a coffee shop on an October morning. Cynicism has finally taken a holiday.