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Free Culture 154

Posted by timothy
from the neither-word-dirty dept.
Peter Wayner writes: "When jury duty called, I was lucky enough to have a copy of Larry Lessig's new book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, to take along. The Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore is one of the most beautiful and ambitious marble allegories for how the law can be elegant, ornate, and permanently imposing. It was the perfect place to read a new book devoted to stopping the old guard media czars from using law to keep the couch potatoes down." Read on for the rest of Wayner's review of the book -- which is released today in hardcover, but also available for free online.
Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity
author Lawrence Lessig
pages 388
publisher Penguin
rating 9
reviewer Peter Wayner
ISBN 0375505784
summary Lessig takes a serious but accessible look at how law has been subverted by Big Media and proposes workable steps for taking it back.

Lessig is now famous for a number of reasons, including his two previous books, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace and The Future of Ideas : The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World. In the first, he was one of the first to affirm what many Slashdot readers know almost instinctively: whomever writes the code determines how the world works. Making the right decisions about power and control when designing a computer system is just as important as writing laws for the future. In the second, he writes of the importance of a vast cultural commons which acts as the wellspring for our expression and the grounding plate for our souls.

His new book is his most casual and most accessible. His prose is improving as he drops the footnote-heavy habit of legal writing and adopts a bloggier style driven by anecdotes and personal revelation. And what anecdotes he has -- Lessig's years on the barricades have given a surprisingly large collection of tales that will make any artist or citizen cringe. Time and time again, the powerful warlords of the entertainment conglomerates have banded together to try to stomp out the sharing and cooperation emerging from the Internet. After years of amassing a strangehold on the world's culture, the conglomerates aren't letting this cheap, fast and out-of-control technology sweep it all away.

My favorite anecdote, if one could be said to stand out, comes from a film maker documenting an opera company. When the camera caught a snippet of the stagehands watching the Simpsons with the sound turned down, the director wanted to add a four-second clip to the movie. Matt Groening said "Yes." The lawyers said it was clearly fair use. But Fox's executives responded with the kind of obscenity that doesn't upset the FCC: pay us $10,000. The clip didn't make the film because the director couldn't afford to go head-to-head with the Fox legal department.

This is just one of a number of stories of how interesting, invigorating content and innovation was strangled at birth by old guard. The anecdotes are, I think, an effort to atone for his loss in the Eldred case and reargue it. He presented the Supreme Court with a very logical and legal reading of why it was wrong for Congress to continue extending the length of a copyright monopoly and the court didn't buy it. A friend of his said that this tack was wrong because the court wanted to feel the depths of the injustice. The justices didn't want laws and footnotes, they wanted something human. Lessig blames his loss on not taking this advice. (As an aside, Lessig's personal description of taking a case to the Supreme Court is a good way to understand just how human the game can be.)

This time around, he piles the examples on top of more examples to show just how the conglomerates can hurt the artist and culture in general. After this case failed, Lessig tried another compromise that exposed the true goals of the copyright czars. Lessig describes his efforts to recreate a copyright registration system. If someone wanted to keep a copyright in force after 50 years, Lessig suggested getting them to pay a $1 fee. This would help everyone keep the copyright straight and make it simpler for everyone to understand just who has what rights to an art work. Any art work that goes unregistered flops into the public domain. Anyone who's tried to clear rights to a project will see this as a step in the right direction. The copyright industry, however, rejected this structure in a way that Lessig suggests illustrates how much this is about power and control, not creativity and expression.

Lessig has other tricks up his sleeve. If he can't convince the U.S. government to change the law, he can appeal to the artists themselves who have the ultimate control. He started his Creative Commons project several years ago and now artists can use several boilerplate licenses that reserve some of the rights while releasing others.

This new book itself is also available for free (PDF) under the license, a tactic that has worked well for Cory Doctorow and myself in the past. When I released Free for All under the license several years after the book was published, I watched the asking price on Amazon's used book market rise more than 40%. It wasn't a big jump, but it was still a bit counterintuitive. The freely available text encouraged people to buy the more readable printed version. I think Lessig will see the same effect. The sales driven by the people who read the electronic version will be greater than the sales lost to the people who just read the downloaded copy.

The good news is that the markets and the consumers are already heeding Lessig's advice because they instinctively disdain a monopoly. The power of the old networks is rapidly disappearing and the increasing concentration among the old guard is as much an illustration of the last ditch effort by the executives to cash out by taking large bonuses from the transactions. Some worry about the concentration of power in the radio world by companies like Clear Channel. But who listens to radio for music any longer? One Clear Channel station near my house plays traffic reports every 10 minutes during the day because their audience is dominated by people trapped on aptly named "parkways". The station may play as few as three songs an hour between 6:30am and 9am. The rest of the time, they yak about movies or the weather and their influence upon music continues to drop.

There are surprisingly good alternatives developing to take over the space. Lessig does an excellent job describing how the Internet radio stations were mugged with unfair regulations, but it's important to remember that they continue to exist because they offer something better than endless traffic reports. Furthermore, competition is coming from strange places. Starbucks is just one such company selling commercial- free mix tapes that are, for almost all intents and purposes, just a plastic disk version of a cool DJ. More and more radio-like venues are appearing.

There are other reasons why the concentration is backfiring. Lessig does a good job explaining how the television networks are squeezing out competition from independent producers. He describes how Norman Lear was only able to bring us "All in the Family" because he was free to take his work from ABC to CBS. That freedom disappeared after Congress repealed the laws forbidding the networks from owning stakes in the shows they broadcast. Now, if you want to get on CBS, it helps to sell a part of your show to CBS or, even better, just sell the whole thing.

But is this strategy really working for the networks? Their ratings continue to plummet. There's a reason why there are so many drug commercials for arthritis remedies on network air. That generation is the last one who watches network television almost instinctively. Lessig likes to complain about the "soviet" nature of these networks. It's a wonderful word that reads on many levels. The more they squeeze out competition and aggregate power in the committees, the more they lose the fluid competition that lets cream rise to the top.

So, who really cares if CBS isn't available on the Dish network? There are hundreds of other channels offering good fare. It was a different story in the 1970's when there were only three networks and CBS offered shows like "All in the Family" and "Mary Tyler Moore". Then, they controlled the heart of our popular culture. Today, the network ratings are so low on Saturday night that all of the networks are looking for a way to stop broadcasting on that day. Aside from the NCAA basketball tournament, I've lived without CBS for years without missing a thing. (Even then, I get most sports news from the websites.) The DVD player is a very, very powerful and destructive technology. When you can buy 50 movies for $30, who even needs CBS, the Dish network or HBO?

All of these idea swirled through my mind as I read Lessig's book and waited during jury duty. Are things getting worse or better? Are the 40+ million plus fileswapping pirates winning, or are the draconian laws crushing our creativity like a jackboot? I spent my time thinking of this balance while waiting for the judge and the attorneys to sift through 150 people to find the right 12 folks to render a fair and impartial verdict. On one hand, it was remarkable that society was being so careful before imprisoning someone for attempted murder. On the other, it was clear that the effort can't be sustained for the 40 million+ file sharing pirates who are thumbing their nose at the law.

Lessig understands this. One of his most persuasive arguments is that the current law becomes more marginalized as it becomes increasingly less fair. Prohibition of alcohol corroded the law and now the increasing prohibition of fair use is eroding respect for copyright.You only need to travel a few blocks from the Mitchell court house to end up in dangerous regions of Baltimore where the marble and the pomp can't do much to protect you. Lessig, the lawyer, knows the law can only work when it is fair and equitable. This new book is a strong and passionate argument for how we can restore some sanity to the system and restore our faith in copyright law. Some people think that Lessig is trying to "smash" the copyright system, but I think he's just trying to restore its ability to function.


Peter Wayner is the author of Free for All , a book on the open source movement and Policing Online Games, a book on how to build the Mitchell courthouse in cyberspace. You can purchase Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page. mpawlo points out you can get the book free and gratis via Bittorrent.

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Free Culture

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  • by chrisspurgeon (514765) <chris@NOspam.spurgeonworld.com> on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:38PM (#8670903) Homepage
    IJWTS that Lawrence Lessing gave a fine interview on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" this past Tuesday. More info, and the interview in RealAudio format, here [npr.org].
  • by maximilln (654768) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:39PM (#8670922) Homepage Journal
    -----
    My favorite anecdote, if one could be said to stand out, comes from a film maker documenting an opera company. When the camera caught a snippet of the stagehands watching the Simpsons with the sound turned down, the director wanted to add a four-second clip to the movie. Matt Groening said "Yes." The lawyers said it was clearly fair use. But Fox's executives responded with the kind of obscenity that doesn't upset the FCC: pay us $10,000. The clip didn't make the film because the director couldn't afford to go head-to-head with the Fox legal department
    -----

    And that, folks, is just how it's going to be done.
  • Jury duty (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ornil (33732)
    When jury duty called, I was lucky enough to have a copy of Larry Lessig's new book...

    Hey, how about actually doing your civic duty? I wouldn't want to be the defendant in this case.
    • Re:Jury duty (Score:3, Informative)

      I don't know how jury duty works where you're from, but my experience is that if you're called, you can often spend the better part of the day waiting in the jury pool room without ever being called into a courtroom.

      It's an excellent time to have a book you want to read handy.

      • When I was on jury duty, one of the judges cames into the jury pool room and encouraged us to watch some trials that were in progress. Very cool.

        And even when you are an observer in the court room, you were not allowed to read a book, paper, etc.
    • Re:Jury duty (Score:5, Informative)

      by peterwayner (266189) <p3@wayn e r . o rg> on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:45PM (#8671006) Homepage
      My "civic duty" involved sitting there. Just sitting there. Some watched a movie. Some read books. Others just talked.
      • What!? (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        That is so not how it works. On Law and Order, they show up, are shown into a court room, asked a question, then the go home to be bribed/terrorized/killed.
        • Re:What!? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jetson (176002)
          That is so not how it works. On Law and Order, they show up, are shown into a court room, asked a question, then the go home to be bribed/terrorized/killed.

          That only happens in the second half-hour of the show, after the jury has been selected (but never sequestered).

          In any case Peter was reading while sitting through jury selection, not while acting as a juror at trial.

          Off-topic question for Peter: Did they seat a dozen before they got to you, or did the lawyers see the title of the book you were rea


      • Haven't had the pleasure yet.

        How about if I bring my laptop? Is there WiFi?

    • Being called for jury duty often involves a large amount of time sitting around waiting before being involved the selection process or trial.

      Once you've seen the "So, Now You're on a Jury" video and have found out where the restroom is located, there's not much to do.

    • Hey, how about actually doing your civic duty? I wouldn't want to be the defendant in this case

      When you do jury duty you spend a lot of time outside the courtroom, mostly waiting to be selected for a jury. Also the judge may clear the jury to hear arguments over what the jury is allowed to be told.

      I don't think he was reading the book in the jury box! I doubt you could get away with that in court, even if you had a pair of fake glasses that made it look like you were paying attention (Simpsons fans know

    • Dude, jury duty consists of long waits in the jury pool room before you even see a courtroom. I played Advance Wars on the Gameboy Advance during my last trip to "civic duty".

      And no judge would allow a juror to read during a trial.

      ObDuh: Duh!

    • Have you ever had jury duty? You can spend all day in the 'pool' and never even be considered to be on a jury.

    • When jury duty called, I was lucky enough to have a copy of Larry Lessig's new book...

      Hey, how about actually doing your civic duty? I wouldn't want to be the defendant in this case.

      I suspect the original poster was referring to the hours that one must wait before one participates in any actual jury work, not reading the book while court was in session.

    • By far the most time you spend when called for Jury Duty is sitting around waiting to be empanelled.
      Once you're empanelled as a juror, that's when you put the book down and concentrate on the case. If a juror was trying to read a book in the courtroom (and there's no way one could hide such an activity) he'd be cited for contempt. There's no danger that the reviewer was reading during a trial.

      How about doing your civic duty and learn some basics of the legal system?
    • You do know that there are long periods of time during the jury selection process before the trial even begins where you do nothing but sit around and wait for them to call your name right? They may never even call your name. And if you happen to be chosen and then sequestered I don't think they expect you to be deliberating 24/7. Reading a book and doing your civic duty are not mutually exclusive.
  • Why PDF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaveMe (19844) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:45PM (#8670995)
    pdf is an waful format to make derivative works from. for example, I would like to bake a plucker [plkr.org]-ebook for my palm from it, but with acrobats text export function as the only available export tool, it screws footnotes and page numbers etc.

    DON'T use pdf for book distribution!
    • Hear, hear...I'd like to use iSilo to read it, myself...but there's just no easy way that I know of to get the stuff out of PDF without munging it in the process.
    • Re:Why PDF? (Score:5, Informative)

      by s20451 (410424) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:55PM (#8671132) Journal
      Why PDF?

      1. Almost everyone knows what PDF is and has the reader.
      2. It's better than sharing Word files.
      3. Reader is available for most platforms. Open source readers are available for those not officially supported.
      4. It preserves the look of documents across hardware and platforms.

      In other words it's the most practical of the popular formats. Everything I make available online is in PDF. Maybe it doesn't have some pet feature that you have in mind, but that's no reason to go with some obscure format that is probably broken in other ways.
      • Re:Why PDF? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Really the only reason to use PDF is your point number 4. "It preserves the look of documents across hardware and platforms."

        Why HTML?
        1. Almost everyone knows what HTML is and has the reader/parser.
        2. It's better than sharing Word files.
        3 The Reader is available for most platforms. Open source readers are available for those not officially supported.

        In other words it's the most practical of the popular formats. Everything I make available online is in HTML. Maybe it doesn't have some pet feature that you
        • If I could do formatted equations and vector graphics (reliably) in HTML, I would move everything over in an instant. Until then, I'm stuck with PDF for much of what I do.

        • I think point 4 is important. One of the most annoying things about HTML are pages that require you to side-scroll to read text. This text probably looked just fine to the person who wrote the file. With PDF, I know everyone sees it just like I do.

          Also, though your point was made from cutting-and-pasting my comment, PDF is far from an obscure format.
        • What about some format based on SGML or TeX, for the master documents, and a set of converters (possible even operating on-fly, or online), to produce the format you desire - HTML, PDF, formatted plaintext with specified line length, anything?
      • I can't use the pdf reader for palm with my linux box... the acrobat for palm package only synchs via ms windows or mac [adobe.com]...
    • Re:Why PDF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pavon (30274) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @04:04PM (#8671223)
      DON'T use pdf for book distribution!
      No, please DO use pdf for book distribution. It is the most widely supported format that has all the features you need and is open enough.

      DON'T however write the book strait into pdf. Use something like DocBook, which can be converted into many formats after the fact, and will probably make your life easier anyway.
    • PDF is the format that should be used for distributing books. It's the best way to give the user one file that ensures both a good softcopy experience as well as hardcopy.

      If you want to extract text out of a PDF then use something here [planetpdf.com].
    • Re:Why PDF? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jon787 (512497) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @04:21PM (#8671392) Homepage Journal
      Perhaps Lessig might release the TeX (or whatever he wrote it in) version too if asked nicely.
    • But that's not a problem with the pdf format which is open and fully described. It is a problem with your software.
    • DON'T use pdf for book distribution! Agreed! The problem with PDF is that it is based on page defintion -- defining exactly how to layout the letters. PDF has no conception fo words, sentence, paragraphs, headings, footnotes, etc. -- it all just a bunch of filled polylines sprinkled on a fixed-size rectangular space. PDF is totally incompatible with small screens. Its great for preserving the look of a page, but terrible for preserving the meaning.

      If you want a universally readable light-weight form
    • Re:Why PDF? (Score:3, Informative)

      by doublem (118724)
      There is an Acrobat reader for Palm you know.

      Works very well too I might add.
    • Try opening the pdf in KOffice.
    • The book is distributed under a license that allows you to convert it and redistribute it. For example, here is a version of the book Free Culture [montana.edu] that is html (some foobared characters and missing footnotes). It's not perfect, but feel free to fix the problems and reply to this thread. So get off your lazy bum and convert the darn thing to your favorite format.
  • Soo.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:45PM (#8671010) Homepage Journal
    When jury duty called, I was lucky enough to have a copy of Larry Lessig's new book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, to take along.

    Did being informed on some subject get you out of jury duty?

    When I sat through my jury selection process it seemed those who were well informed got the boot. Either side could choose to excuse someone too informed to make their chosen impression on.

    So it goes within a free society.

    • They didn't even get to my number. They took the first 12 that met their requirements and that came surprisingly quickly. They started off with 150+ in the room, but filled the jury box after going through about 35.

    • Re:Soo.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by jeffy124 (453342)
      both sides (in either a criminal case or a civil suit) tend to prefer those who can't think for themselves very well or draw their own conclusions from the arguments given. They prefer those types because it makes it easier to leave an impression upon them. This does backfire sometimes, as there are occasional cases where jurors will talk to reporters after a decision and reveal incredibly absurd reasons for their decision. This really screws over prosecutors in criminal cases, as they can't file appeals
      • Never served on a jury, have you? In fact, I'd wager you've never even been into a courthouse. I think that you'd rethink that statement the same way Avi Rubin rethought what he thought about poll watchers if you ever had.
        • I've been to court before, once as a witness and twice as a student in some criminal justice classes. But never on a jury and probably never will given that case where I was a witness and other circumstances.
      • There's also the idea that an informed person is also intelligent enough to have excuses ready when asked if they cant serve.

        I do NOT recommend trying to weasel out of jury duty. If you have a reason, (i.e. related to a witness or either party), judges will release you, no problem. If you try to excuse yourself with some flimsy thing like 'opposition to death penalty' you may be surprised to find how judges feel about people uninterested in committment to their own community. Contempt comes to mind. T

        • ok, so you're probably right on with the contempt part. but as for the death penalty, if the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for a suspect, the candidate juror will be asked if they are unable or unwilling to give the death penalty if it comes up. possible reasons include personal morals, religious beliefs, even simple unwillingness (eg, "I'm in favor of the penalty, but I just can't sentence someone to death"). Clearly, having someone on the panel be unable to give death in a death penalty case
        • If not you on the jury, they whom?

          That's who, not whom. Who is on the jury? You are on the jury. You are asking for a subject for the sentence, so you should use who.

          A small point, I know, so mod me down, go on. It's not like karma's a matter of life and death.


          • If not you on the jury, they whom?

            That's who, not whom. Who is on the jury? You are on the jury. You are asking for a subject for the sentence, so you should use who.


            I agree completely. It's disgraceful the way "who" and "whom" are confused these days.

            And did you notice that other error, replacing "then" with "they"? What really bugs me is that most so-called grammar nazis let this one go by every time.
        • But what if I really am opposed to the death penalty? I don't think I could condemn anyone to die, and if it was a capital case I believe the prosecution should know that.
      • There is one bit of information that will always get you barred from a jury. That is the knowledge of the truth about the jury system. Why do we have juries? Why not just let judges make the decisions, if all the jury gets to decide on is whether or not a law was broken?

        The juries are in fact the fourth branch of government, the final check in a series of checks and balances. Suppose that Congress enacted an unfair law. Suppose that the President signed it. And suppose that the Judiciary upheld it.
  • I thought that letting subscribers look into the "mysterious future" was supposed to help us not to have broken links.

    Here's the fixed link. [state.md.us]
  • Broken link (Score:3, Informative)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:47PM (#8671028) Homepage
    Here's a working link to the Mitchell courthouse, [state.md.us] sans magical Slashdot link space...
  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:49PM (#8671056)
    His prose is improving as he [...] adopts a bloggier style

    Did I read that correctly?

    Did he just say "bloggier" ?
    • It is a rather slithy word. Makes me gyre and gimble just to think about it.
    • Hey kids! it's a newer shinier trendier way to say, "conversational."

      Soooo cool!

      (that is if blogs were cool ;-) )
      • That's not necessarily true. The style in which I write blog entries might not be as formal as I might use for a book, but it's not the style in which I speak either.

    • An excerpt from the book:

      -----

      You know, it really doesn't make sense to give the recording industry so much power over making music and stuff. They really abuse it. The MPAA too. Reply and tell me what you think.

      Off to buy some ice cream. Mmm...ice cream...

      Mood: hungry
      Now Playing: They Might Be Giants - Ana Ng
      -----
    • is that "bloggier" is cited as an improvement of the author's prose style.
  • Revealing, no? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:49PM (#8671058) Journal
    It was the perfect place to read a new book devoted to stopping the old guard media czars from using law to keep the couch potatoes down.

    I suppose that's meant to be facetious but it leads nicely into "Are things getting worse or better? Are the 40+ million plus fileswapping pirates winning, or are the draconian laws crushing our creativity like a jackboot?" Yeah, "fileswapping pirates" are the cornerstone of global creativity. What will our society do without their invaluable contribution?

    I'm the first to object to the DMCA and abuse of fair-use but if the Lessig crowd wants to convince me that there's a need to tear the existing system to shreds, they need to come up with a better victim class than Kazaa users.

    • by s20451 (410424) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @04:04PM (#8671217) Journal
      More than that:

      Are the 40+ million plus fileswapping pirates winning, or are the draconian laws crushing our creativity like a jackboot?

      Apart from being inflammatory, this question sets up a false dichotomy, which presupposes that fileswappers help innovation. Yet this is far from proven, given that almost all of the files shared by fileswappers are the same pop culture materials produced by the conglomerates.

      The reading of the review is not terribly critical, and is more like a rant.
      • In the short term, fileswappers are probably not having much effect on creativity one way or the other.

        I would think that although much of the traffic is in top 40, there is some traffic that isn't (older stuff, rarer stuff, bootlegs maybe?). The swappers aren't really a force for creativity, but they are a force for wider distribution.

      • ...this question sets up a false dichotomy, which presupposes that fileswappers help innovation.

        If they are able to help eliminate bad copyright law, they would indeed help innovation. If nothing else, they can show that creators don't have to give up their gov't given rights to distribute their work. We still need to remember that copyright is NOT a natural right. It's a service provided by gov't to promote...
      • Apart from being inflammatory,

        Well, yes, it's kind of that. :-)

        this question sets up a false dichotomy,

        I don't think so. Or at least I didn't mean to give that impression. These are just the two extremes. The fact that they're not really true opposites might mean that there's some hope for a middle ground. The RIAA et al, worried about losses, is painting any tool for swapping files as a tool for theft. The creators, who often use the same tools, are losing their ability to rip, mix and burn cultu
      • Apart from being inflammatory, this question sets up a false dichotomy, which presupposes that fileswappers help innovation. Yet this is far from proven, given that almost all of the files shared by fileswappers are the same pop culture materials produced by the conglomerates.

        You got proof of that?

        The whole purpose of file swapping is to get stuff you can't find easily. Saving $20 and a drive accross town for content you only want 1/10th of is a secondary consideration. Getting that recording of a conce

    • by ckathens (631781)
      From what I gather from reading Lessig's previous book, his webpage, EFF webpage, and my personal experience as a law student studying IP and CyberLaw, you are getting two different points mixed up:
      (1) EFF & Lessig argue that filesharing and related technology is so prevailing that the old copyright regime no longer works, and it really needs to "get with the times."
      (2) They also argue that the copyright laws enacted in the last 20 years (but espceially in the last 8 years) significantly crush creati
      • I'm certainly not putting words in Peter Wayner's mouth -- he's the one who explictly equated illegal filesharing with "creativity".

        Perhaps I'm being unfair to Lessig, who is certainly too bright to say something that stupid. I wrote "Lessig crowd", not "Lessig", because Wayner is clearly trying to cast himself, Cory Doctorow and Lessig into a single camp. Still, from what I've seen of Lessig's work, he doesn't do much of a job of arguing that meaningful creativity is being stifled, either. This is a book r

    • ...they need to come up with a better victim class than Kazaa users...

      I'm pretty sure the "Lessig crowd" understands that the real victims are the public at large and more importantly the creators who have had to sell their soul and give up all rights to get their work published. The current copyright laws were "hand made" to protect publishers at the expense of the creators, and really do need a complete teardown and rebuild. Anybody that wants to maintain the status quo is either very naive (believing t
    • Yeah, "fileswapping pirates" are the cornerstone of global creativity. What will our society do without their invaluable contribution?

      Because the heyday of file-swaping, when Napster was in full swing, was the single best time in the history of recorded music sales. I'm serious...look it up.

      My wife and I had more than 13,000 MP3s available for download. Most of these are things that are not available for purchase new. Most artists release a single album. If that "flops" (i.e. doesn't sell more than 100

  • by StateOfTheUnion (762194) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:50PM (#8671076) Homepage
    I find it tragic that what may have been assumed to be fair use a few decades ago . . . is now still protected by fair use, but now one needs an army of lawyers to protect their fair use claim.

    My personal thought is that this is an irrational fear stemming from the popularity of home printers, video editing software, and the internet (all of which weren't easily available 20 years ago); it is now much easier for someone to "fairly use" copyrighted material in their own work. In the opinion of the media conglomerates this "devalues" their intellectual property so rather than allow fair use to proceed legally, they fight it in hopes that most of the little guys will just give up trying or cower in fear of the onslaught of lawyers.

    • by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @04:07PM (#8671251)
      Much of Fair Use has effectively been outlawed by the DMCA. If you buy a copyrighted work, you have the Fair Use right to make a backup copy, etc. But if the distributor has included any sort of copy protection, it is illegal to bypass the protection scheme - even though you have legal rights to the work!

      We will have to start demanding fair use rights more as consumers to win them back.
      • What blows my mind is that it is legal for a person making an editorial or a video for teaching a film class to use excerpts from a video tape copy of a film (this is fair uses as long as the clips are short), but if the same film is CSS'ed on a DVD and the DVD is used as the source, it's illegal for the same person to copy this same clip of the same film for the same purpose . . .

        The DVD is digital and has been copy protected so using it as the source would be a violation of the DMCA

      • We will have to start demanding fair use rights more as consumers to win them back.

        Unfortunately few consumers even know what fair use is, much less how to demand it. Voting with wallets won't work in this instance. You stand a better chance by giving your money to the ACLU instead. They know how to pick and choose their battles well. $1000 contributed to the ACLU will do a lot more than a $10,000 blip that never shows up in Disney's pocketbook.

    • Though fair use is a very strong issue, it's not THE issue as I see it. The media folks only have IP because they were able to con the creators into selling their rights to them. They are doing what they can to prevent creators from understanding that they (creators) don't need these companies to distribute their work for them anymore, thus they (creators) can distribute AND keep their rights (as provided by the gov't). The media conglomerates are the "buggy whip" manufacturers of today, and are thus obsole
  • by Recalcitrant Labrado (759161) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:54PM (#8671125)
    There is considerable historical material that demonstrates that societies that muzzle their creative instincts go to the rubbish bin of history faster then most. This is the danger that the U.S. faces. There is a common thread in Lessig's complaints about copyright laws, the DMCA, the SCO/Linux lawsuits, dumb patent laws and of course Microsoft's monopoly. By locking up IP you stifle the creative capabilities of the U.S. What happens if you do this? Well, the creative people either give up or move offshore to countries that do not have such restrictive rules. There they can disassemble, reverse engineer, tinker and fiddle to their hearts content without needing a bevy of lawyers. You can seee it coming now. Europe, Russia, China and maybe India are going to dominate the software industry as long as they avoid getting tied up in U.S. sponsored IP laws. The last two programs I bought are DVD backup software - from Switzerland and Germany. I don't think the software can even be legally sold in the U.S. thanks to the MPAA. "Freedom to innovate in the U.S.?" - I don't think so.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:54PM (#8671127)
    ...of The Simpsons to save an opera documentary.
  • by StateOfTheUnion (762194) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:54PM (#8671131) Homepage
    My favorite anecdote, if one could be said to stand out, comes from a film maker documenting an opera company. When the camera caught a snippet of the stagehands watching the Simpsons with the sound turned down, the director wanted to add a four-second clip to the movie. Matt Groening said "Yes." The lawyers said it was clearly fair use. But Fox's executives responded with the kind of obscenity that doesn't upset the FCC: pay us $10,000. The clip didn't make the film because the director couldn't afford to go head-to-head with the Fox legal department.

    What a sad ancedote that shows how the conglomerates undermine the creativity and quality of new content. It seems that if it's not a research article . . . you better claim you're making an editorial or a satire (two well protected examples of fair use) or you better have a team of lawyers on retainer.

  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @03:55PM (#8671134)
    One thing that amuses me about this whole Media-Corporations-trying-to-reel-in-technology fiasco is how much of it they create themselves. For instance, the mpeg and mpeg2 (DVD) formats were devised by these big companies. So was digital HDTV. It was these media powerhouses that forced the change from analog to digital.

    Then, one day, they say "Oh crap!" all of our media is digital and can be easily copied! We need to control it much better. Then they try to implement all sorts of technology to stop sharing that, in many cases, degrades the quality back to the analog level... or worse!

    Where do they find these people?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The justices didn't want laws and footnotes, they wanted something human.

    How foolish of Lessig, to think that a Supreme Court Justice might put an emphasis on the actual law and its logical implications.

    Sheez. You'd think they were a freakin jury off the street. No wonder the law is such a mess these days.

  • Some worry about the concentration of power in the radio world by companies like Clear Channel. But who listens to radio for music any longer?

    I think the real change that Clear Channel has brought about is this:

    Stores used to pay companies like muzak [muzak.com] to pipe in a pacifying soundtrack for our shopping pleasure. But in the last ten years businesses have figured out that e.g. an actual Hall and Oates song is just as muzakky as an orchestral arrangement of a Hall and Oates song. (No offense to Mr. Hall, Mr.
  • You cannot defeat Death. You cannot defeat Information. Both are examples of Infinity.

    As in, there is a lot of both around, it is a free substance.

    People should be taught to -play- music, not buy it.
    • "Finite and Infinite Games - A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility" by James P. Carse
      ISBN 0-345-34184-8, Ballantine, $4.95

      Excerpts here [worldtrans.org].

      That second line should more properly end "It is free of substance." Tee hee. ;-)
  • When I read Mr. Lessig's talks Ayn Rand's book "Atlas Shrugged" comes to mind. Big business rewriting our laws to suit themselves. As I've said in the past - monopolies and big business are nothing more than kingdoms and everyone else are the serfs.

    Kingdoms are monopolies. Do as the king says or else. It used to be the church which ran kingdoms from behind the throne. (Do it or be excommunicated.) Now it is big business. (Do it or we will change the laws to force you to do it.)

    The secret is - laws
    • As excerpted from the end of this wiki page [c2.com], which also, oddly enough, compares her to Richard Stallman:

      Another frequent criticism of AynRand is that she is full of shit; that her arguments lack rigor and are intended to misdirect the reader; and that her novels are a) poor philosophy, b) poor novels, and c) a poor way to express philosophy through a novel. (Contrast with ZenAndTheArtOfMotorcycleMaintenance). Those same people argue that AynRand was not rejected from the academic canon because of elitism,

    • Kingdoms are monopolies. Do as the king says or else. It used to be the church which ran kingdoms from behind the throne. (Do it or be excommunicated.) Now it is big business. (Do it or we will change the laws to force you to do it.)

      If by "Do as the king says or else" you mean "Do as the king says or don't," I agree. Nobody forces you to do business with these corporations or to consume their products.

      • My only reply to this would be that you may say that about some companies but I do not believe it is a valid opinion about the larger, multinational corporations.

        And as for "not forcing" - where have you been these past few years? Microsoft trial [usdoj.gov]? A little thing about them forcing outlets to sign contracts? Or maybe you'd like to read up on Oracle [usdoj.gov]? Or how about First Data [usdoj.gov]? And what they have been up to.

        No company is pristine. But some are worse than others.

    • ``Why don't we have a national black-out day? One where no one gets on the net for 24 hours!''

      Millions of geeks in withdrawal, foaming at the mouth...

      ``Nobody answers the phone.''

      Tens of millions of anxious teenagers in withdrawal...

      Scaring big business? You're terrifying me!

As the trials of life continue to take their toll, remember that there is always a future in Computer Maintenance. -- National Lampoon, "Deteriorata"

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