Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity [NOOK Book]

Overview

Lawrence Lessig, ?the most important thinker on intellectual property in the Internet era? (The New Yorker), masterfully argues that never before in human history has the power to control creative progress been so concentrated in the hands of the powerful few, the so-called Big Media. Never before have the cultural powers- that-be been able to exert such control over what we can and can?t do with the culture around us. Our society defends free markets and free speech; why then does it permit such top-down ...
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Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity

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Overview

Lawrence Lessig, “the most important thinker on intellectual property in the Internet era” (The New Yorker), masterfully argues that never before in human history has the power to control creative progress been so concentrated in the hands of the powerful few, the so-called Big Media. Never before have the cultural powers- that-be been able to exert such control over what we can and can’t do with the culture around us. Our society defends free markets and free speech; why then does it permit such top-down control? To lose our long tradition of free culture, Lawrence Lessig shows us, is to lose our freedom to create, our freedom to build, and, ultimately, our freedom to imagine.


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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The shrinking of the public domain, and the devastation it threatens to the culture, are the subject of a powerfully argued and important analysis by Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School and a leading member of a group of theorists and grass-roots activists, sometimes called the ''copyleft,'' who have been crusading against the increasing expansion of copyright protections. Lessig was the chief lawyer in a noble, but ultimately unsuccessful, Supreme Court challenge to the copyright extension act. Free Culture is partly a final appeal to the court of public opinion and partly a call to arms. — Adam Cohen
The Washington Post
As the rest of Free Culture makes clear, the arcane ins and outs of today's copyright battles now mask a much deeper cultural struggle in which the stakes have grown unthinkably high. — Chris Lehmann
Publishers Weekly
From Stanford law professor Lessig (Code; The Future of Ideas) comes this expertly argued, alarming and surprisingly entertaining look at the current copyright wars. Copyright law in the digital age has become a hot topic, thanks to millions of music downloaders and the controversial, high-profile legal efforts of the music industry to stop them. Here Lessig argues that copyright as designed by the Framers has become dangerously unbalanced, favoring the interests of corporate giants over the interests of citizens and would-be innovators. In clear, well-paced prose, Lessig illustrates how corporations attempt to stifle innovations, from FM radio and the instant camera to peer-to-peer technology. He debunks the myth that draconian new copyright enforcement is needed to combat the entertainment industry's expanded definition of piracy, and chillingly assesses the direct and collateral damage of the copyright war. Information technology student Jesse Jordan, for example, was forced to hand over his life savings to settle a lawsuit brought by the music industry-for merely fixing a glitch in an Internet search engine. Lessig also offers a very personal look into his failed Supreme Court bid to overturn the Copyright Term Extension Act, a law that added 20 years to copyright protections largely to protect Mickey Mouse from the public domain. In addition to offering a brilliant argument, Lessig also suggests a few solutions, including the Creative Commons licensing venture (an online licensing venture that streamlines the rights process for creators), as well as legislative solutions. This is an important book. "Free Cultures are cultures that leave a great deal open for others to build upon," he writes. "Ours was a free culture. It is becoming less so." (Mar. 29) Forecast: This book will have a wider appeal than Lessig's previous works, and author appearances in New York and San Francisco could attract buyers. With peer-to-peer file sharing constantly making headlines, the book has added relevance. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"A free culture, like a free market, is filled with property," writes a copyright expert. But, he adds, extremism in asserting rights in that property can kill a culture. Consider Disney Corp., which regularly clamps down on artists who use the likeness of, say, Mickey Mouse for their own purposes. Now, Mickey has been around since 1928, born, Lessig (Law/Stanford Univ.; The Future of Ideas, 2001, etc.) argues, to the great magpie Walt Disney, who "ripped creativity from the culture around him, mixed that creativity with his own extraordinary talent, and then burned that mix into the soul of his culture. Rip, mix, and burn." Fair enough, and it's inarguable that many of Disney's early creations were parodies of or commentaries on other films of his time. Try that today, though, and you'll invite a lawsuit, for the big media have taken pains to secure legislation that extends copyright terms, and always in their favor; you wanna use Mickey, you gotta pay on Disney's terms. "No society," writes Lessig, "free or controlled, has ever demanded that every use be paid for or that permission for Walt Disney's creation must always be sought. Instead, every society has left a certain bit of its culture free for the taking." Until now, that is. The result: rampant piracy, ever-tighter commercial control over intellectual rights, and a derivative, commercialized, impoverished culture. Though no stranger to rhetorical excess ("every generation welcomes the pirates from the last"), Lessig quite sensibly suggests that copyright become harder to hold onto for long stretches, and that the emphasis of the law shift to a "some rights reserved stance," particularly where the work in question is no longeractively sold on the market-an out-of-print book, say, or CD. Provocative, and sure to inspire argument among the myriad lawyers who, Lessig hints, are the only ones who benefit from the current mess. Amanda Urban/ICM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101200841
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/30/2004
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 679,068
  • File size: 1,020 KB

Meet the Author

Lawrence Lessig is a professor at Stanford Law School and the founder of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. The author of The Future of Ideas and Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, he is the chair of the Creative Commons project. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Cambridge University, and Yale Law School, he has clerked for Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court.


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Read an Excerpt

Jon Else is a documentary filmmaker, who has been very successful in spreading his art. He is a teacher of other filmmakers and, as a teacher myself, I envy the loyalty and admiration he has built in his students. (I met, by accident, two of his students at a dinner party. He was their god.)

Else worked on a documentary that I was involved with. At a break, he told me a story about the freedom to create with film in America today.

In 1990, Else was working on a documentary about Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and the story was to be told by the stagehands at the San Francisco Opera. Stagehands are a particularly funny and colorful aspect of opera. During a show, they hang out below the stage in the grips’ lounge and in the lighting loft. They are a perfect contrast to the art on the stage.

In the course of one of these performances, Else was shooting some stagehands playing checkers. In the corner of the room, there was a television set. Playing on the television set, as the stagehands played checkers, as the San Francisco Opera played Wagner, was The Simpsons. And as Else judged it, this touch helped capture the oddness of the scene.

Years later, when he finally got funding to complete the film, Else attempted to clear the rights for those few seconds of The Simpsons. Of course, those few seconds are copyrighted and, of course, to use copyrighted material you need the permission of the copyright owner.

Else knows Matt Groening, so he called Groening’s office to get permission. Groening said, “Sure, use the shot.” The shot was a four-and-a-half-second image on a tiny television set in the corner of the room. How could it hurt? Groening was happy to have it in the film, but he told Else to contact Gracie Films, the company that produced The Simpsons.

Gracie Films was okay with it, too, but they, like Groening, also wanted to be careful. So they told Else to contact Fox, Gracie’s parent company. So Else called Fox and told them about the film and told them about the four-and-a-half-second clip in the corner of the one shot. Matt Groening had already given permission, Else said. He was just confirming the permission with Fox.

Then, as Else told me, “two things happened. First we discovered…; that Matt Groening doesn’t own his own creation—or at least that someone [at Fox] believes he doesn’t own his own creation.” And second, Fox “wanted ten thousand dollars as a licensing fee for us to use this four and a half seconds of…; entirely unsolicited Simpsons, which was in the corner of the shot.”

Else was certain there was a mistake. He worked his way up to the someone he thought was a vice president for licensing, Rebecca Herrera. And he said to her, “There must be some mistake here…;.We’re asking for your educational rate on this.” That was the educational rate, Herrera told Else. A day or so later, Else called again to confirm what he had been told.

“I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight,” he told me he told her. “Yes, you have your facts straight,” she said. Ten thousand dollars to use the clip of The Simpsons in the corner of a short in a documentary film about Wagner’s Ring Cycle. And then, astonishingly, Herrera told Else, “And if you quote me, I’ll turn you over to our attorneys.” As an assistant to Herrera told Else later on, “They don’t give a shit. They just want the money.”

Else didn’t have the money to buy the right to replay what was playing on the television backstage at the San Francisco Opera. To repeat that reality was beyond the documentary filmmaker’s budget. And thus, at the very last minute before the film was to be released, Else digitally replaced the four and a half seconds of The Simpsons with a clip from another film he had worked on—The Day After Trinity. Only problem was that when Else shot the sequence at the San Francisco Opera in 1990, The Day After Trinity had not yet been made.

We live in a free society—built between the bulwarks of free speech and the prosperity of a free market. Yet the culture of that culture—once a free culture—is changing. We are moving from this free culture, where artists and creators and critics could build easily upon our past, to a permission culture, where the right to use what is all around us depends upon the permission of an increasingly small few.

This is a profound change in our culture.  It is the product of changing law and changing technology. Unless it is reversed, it will remake who we are and how we build our culture.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
"Piracy" 15
Ch. 1 Creators 21
Ch. 2 "Mere Copyists" 31
Ch. 3 Catalogs 48
Ch. 4 "Pirates" 53
Ch. 5 "Piracy" 62
"Property" 81
Ch. 6 Founders 85
Ch. 7 Recorders 95
Ch. 8 Transformers 100
Ch. 9 Collectors 108
Ch. 10 "Property" 116
Puzzles 175
Ch. 11 Chimera 177
Ch. 12 Harms 183
Balances 209
Ch. 13 Eldred 213
Ch. 14 Eldred II 248
Conclusion 257
Afterword 273
Notes 307
Acknowledgments 331
Index 333
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