Dazzlingly inventive . . . It deserves to change the way we think about the electronic frontier.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A manifesto that shakes you up, making you aware of how much is lost when a culture turns ‘ideas’ into ‘intellectual property.’” —The New York Times Book Review
“A breath of fresh air in a crowded field . . . This book is a public service.” —The New York Times
“Lessig is one of the brightest minds grappling with the consequences of the digital world today, as deft and original with technical intricacies as he is with broad legal theory. . . . The Future of Ideas succeeds marvelously.” —The Nation
“Lessig’s book will serve as an excellent guide.” —The Washington Post Book World
The Barnes & Noble Review
This is an important book: an impassioned warning about the urgent threat to innovation and creativity born with the possibilities of the digital age. Lawrence Lessig's arguments are deeply felt but also infused with the scholarship necessary to support his cause -- and written in a style that will engage sophisticated as well as lay audiences.
Lessig begins by reminding us of the innovations made possible by the Internet and tantalizing us with the idea of unknown possibilities waiting in the future. But this reminder serves as a preamble to his basic contention that the Internet is in danger of being controlled in ways that will ultimately chill innovation and creativity.
Lessig's thesis, put simply (and colorfully), is that the dinosaurs are trying to stop evolution: Existing commercial interests seek to control any possible threat made to their markets by new technologies and distribution systems. Lessig carefully and convincingly prepares the reader for this argument, explaining how the Internet is an “innovation commons” -- a resource open and free to anyone -- much as public roads are common zones of transit. Along the digital "road," innovation has certainly flourished; in the past few years, we've witnessed the emergence of eBooks and peer-to-peer capability as well as the dissemination of technology that allows almost anyone to create high-quality films for relatively little money. Yet the dinosaurs (the record industry and cable companies, to name a few) threaten the expansion of possibilities, use are the courts, patent laws, copyright interpretation, or simply control of the “road” to threaten the expansive possibilities The future that awaits us could be one in which the content you are able to access is predetermined by others.
Lessig argues that we have more to gain culturally and commercially by maintaining the Internet as an innovation commons.
Even if you aren’t conversant in Internet architecture, intellectual property rights, or the theories of Adam Smith, you’ll find this book compelling and relevant to your daily life. Lessig’s mastery of his subject and his accessible prose make his work a thrilling one to read. This is a rousing book, one that truly makes you wake up and reimagine the Internet -- and want to protect it. (Holly McGuire)
(Holly McGuire is a book editor and consultant based in Chicago, Illinois.)
In his previous book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, constitutional scholar and former Industry Standard columnist Lessig offered a wary assessment of both the burgeoning architecture of the Internet and the work of those seeking to control its growth. In this sprawling follow-up, Lessig takes his arguments in Code to the next level. Warning of a digital future that, despite all its promise, could in fact turn out quite darkly, Lessig argues that while most of the world is still pondering a digital revolution, a counterrevolution is already underway. Programmers are closing off Internet innovation through code. And lawmakers, lobbied by entrenched commercial interests, are applying overly broad interpretations of copyright and intellectual property laws. To fully realize the cultural and economic benefits of our technological revolution, Lessig urges the creation of a public "commons" for the Internet, an open system that would allow for quicker exchange of intellectual capital and offer future innovators the ability to freely build upon the innovations of others. Some of Lessig's sweeping proposals are sure to spark a lively debate, but his well-reasoned, clearly written argument is powerful. If we fail to deal appropriately and immediately with the intellectual, legal, cultural and economic issues associated with rapid technological change, Lessig asserts, we risk not only squandering the promise of the digital future, but reverting to "a dark age" of increased corporate and government control. Although some readers may find parts of the book rather dense, Lessig has authored another landmark book for the digital age. Agent: Amanda Urban. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners BusinessInformation.
Is the Internet evolving into a controlled environment? Should it be completely free from intellectual property rights? Lessig (Stanford Law Sch.; Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace) argues that as the Internet faces the challenges of intellectual property laws, it should not become so controlled that it discourages innovation and creativity in the digital world. He explains the historical context of the Internet and its relationship to the "commons" (items that are made available for free) and argues that, for the Internet to evolve and be an open environment, there must be a balance between intellectual property and the public domain. His book is filled with current case and social histories, as well as extensive source notes. His examples are thorough but can be excessively detailed. Though it is written for the lay reader, it will be better understood by those with some technological background. Recommended for all types of libraries, especially those maintaining materials on intellectual property. Rob Martindale, Dallas P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The fate of free expression in cyberspace hangs in the balance, avers Lessig (Law/Stanford Univ.; Code: and Other Laws of Cyberspace, not reviewed), who offers practical advice to save it. From his opening rally-"The forces that the original Internet threatened to transform are well on their way to transforming the Internet"-Lessig offers a timely polemic against the sterilization of cyberspace. Created both as a venue for the quick dissemination of information and above all as a fiercely open medium, cyberspace, he argues, now suffers from innumerable and insuperable barriers created by corporate interests to protect their dominance. Maneuvering through a twisted thicket of scientific and legal arcane, his prose and reasoning could not be clearer or more passionate. He even makes computer wiring somewhat comprehensible for the layperson: no small achievement. Using concrete examples from daily life, Lessig clarifies such complex issues as intellectual property in cyberspace by providing a historical overview of relevant legal cases from player-piano rolls to cable TV to Napster. Although intellectual property laws are essential to protect the rights of creators, at what point does the protection of authorial rights unnecessarily cripple the public discourse? Why can people hang a poster of the Simpsons on their walls but not on their web pages? One of the major threads of Lessig's argument is the inherent lunacy of applying "real world" laws to cyberspace, as when eBay sued a rival for trespass because they "illegally entered" its site. For Lessig, the cyberspace commons as intellectual playground and societal gathering place must be preserved, lest we soon feel the stultifyingeffect of sterility drowning what should be a rowdy and polyphonic discourse. The author closes with a reserved homage to US Senator Orrin Hatch, a politician who (perhaps unexpectedly) seeks to preserve the freedoms of the Internet. Part manifesto, part jeremiad, but all essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of creative freedom in cyberspace.