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Lessig On Free Content, Copyright 148

Glyn Moody writes "In an interview with the Guardian, Lawrence Lessig explains exactly how he'd like copyright reformed, and has this to say about free content: 'I think it's going to be a more significant movement than the free software movement because whatever the importance of the freedom of coders, coders will still be just a tiny proportion of the public, but culture is ... much broader.'"
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Lessig On Free Content, Copyright

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  • Not gonna matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RLiegh ( 247921 ) * on Thursday June 08, 2006 @04:59PM (#15498095) Homepage Journal
    The culture is effected by the media and the content in it. A great example of this is the fact that the media was able to turn the word 'liberal' into a profanity. Language is perception, and the media controls the perception of most of the people.

    Whatever it is that Lessig is selling, John and Jane Sixpack ain't gonna be buying.

    Shit, CNN/Foxnews will make sure they don't even see it!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      that the media was able to turn the word 'liberal' into a profanity.

      No, that was liberals.
    • Whatever it is that Lessig is selling, John and Jane Sixpack ain't gonna be buying.

      Well, the world is not dominated by John and Jane Sixpack.
      What Lessig said is more towards creative people who create content, stories, and the like. Readers also have opinions. They are the ones who will decide. But, you are also right that the media might have the biggest stake in this. (Just like Microsoft on OSS issues.)
      Personally, I think it might happen. It's happening right now.

      • Actually, it is. That's the fun thing about democracies; they tend to need to cater to the most people possible; and most people are unbelievably stupid.
    • Re:Not gonna matter (Score:4, Informative)

      by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @10:15PM (#15499825) Homepage

      Language is perception

      That idea is known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and has been dismissed by mainstream linguistics. See Language Myths [amazon.com] , ed. Bauer and Trudgill (Penguin, 1999), and note the chapter about how changing meanings is a normal part of diachrony.

    • While I agree with you that CNN/FNC/MSNBC will always put the highest priority on their corporate interests, and will never encourage you to seek free sources of content, that doesn't mean that you have to listen to them. More people are getting informed about the world around them through the web, whether directly through news sites, from blogs, or just by reference in emails and forums.

      While coders are only a small portion of the people, the open source "movement" has already affected culture. Correct m

    • Re:Not gonna matter (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Friday June 09, 2006 @03:06AM (#15500662)
      The culture is effected by the media and the content in it. A great example of this is the fact that the media was able to turn the word 'liberal' into a profanity. Language is perception, and the media controls the perception of most of the people.

      The media is certainly a strong influence people's perceptions in any given situation.[1] But influence is not the same as control. If the media could control your perceptions, you would buy absolutely everything that they told you to without question or thought. I doubt you do that. I know I don't. All the media can do is attempt to persuade us. They're good at it, but not so good that resistance is futile. Is it hard to persuade large numbers of people of something? Sure. Is Lessig fighting an uphill battle against entrenched interests? Yep. Does that mean he's certain to fail? No. I refer you to the case of Martin Luther King Jr., who wrought major changes in a vast array of deeply entrenched cultural forces through little more than the power of words.

      Whatever it is that Lessig is selling, John and Jane Sixpack ain't gonna be buying.

      That's going to depend largely on the age of John and Jane. I've been using bits and pieces of Lessig's book Free Culture in the basic composition course I teach at a large, fairly conservative university in the southern U.S. I've provided my students with arguments from lots of viewpoints - Lessig's one, but also Jack Valenti's testimony before the Judiciary committee in 1995, Alan Menken from the same occasion, Thomas Jefferson's letter to Isaac McPherson, and others. I've had students who believed passionately that copyright should be left just as it is, or extended even further; but those tend to be the exception. The majority of them favor copyright reform a la Lessig. Older people (notably my mother) tend to think the current copyright regime is just fine as it is.

      Shit, CNN/Foxnews will make sure they don't even see it!

      Oh, and nobody ever gets any news or information from anywhere but CNN or Fox. I had forgotten. Thanks for reminding me.

      Television is no longer the only, or even the main source of information in people's lives. Lots of people get their news from the Internet. (Especially younger people.) And some of us, quaint thought it may seem, still read books and newspapers. Imagine that.

      My point? The media is neither omniscinet nor omnipotent. The media is powerful, yes, but it's not invincible. It can be challenged; it can be beaten. Don't throw in the towel before you've even begun exercising.

      [1] Just today I came across a reference to a study from the early nineties showing that people who watch a lot of TV tend to have a much more negative view of the economy than people who don't - even when you're considering people who actually make the same amount of money. See Hart and Daughton, "Modern Rhetorical Criticism," in the chapter on analyzing media.

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @04:59PM (#15498099)
    Right. Imagine a Beowulf cluster of forked Robert Jordan novels. shudder
    • http://www.tor.com/jordan/

      KFG
    • Mazrim Taim was Demandred, Jordan got called out on it, and changed it.

      I stopped reading after it was apparent he'd lost total control of his book (ok well past that since I got through Lord of Chaos) and started tap dancing on the Demandred thing.

      George R.R. Martin, now that's an author! Jordan's just a wannabe Tolkien who won't let his characters fuck.

      • I'm so glad that George R. R. Martin has freed me from any desire to read more Wheel of Time.

        Martin really, really needs to not do two things: 1) die, and 2) contract a case of Robert Jordan-itis.
        • Well, he took how many years for book 4, and it didn't cover anywhere near the content he expected? Thats at least stage 2 right there.

          On a side note, Jordan seems to be in recovery- things actually happened in the last book, and he seems to be driving it to a conclusion, even if that means a few inconsistancies and dropping loose ends. The last book basicly said the last battle was near.
          • Yeah, that scared the hell out of me. Martin can still pull it together, though. Jordan burned me out with, what? Six tomes of absolutely nothing happening? I'm just not going to wade through those to get to the last books, which might be relatively OK.

            I'll just be glad I read the first couple, and pretend he passed away after The Great Hunt.

            And I'm still bitter at Goodkind turning into Crazy Objectivist Sermon Guy.
            • You missed the really fun Jordan book then- the one where he started it two weeks before the end of the last book, and covered the same material from different characters perspectives. We complain about nothing happening in some of his other books, in this one it was true- nothing happened other than me wasting a few days of my life reading his attempt to portray female characters. All the events had already been written!

              I'm with you on Goodkind. First book awesome. Second book derivative but good. T
              • Oh, nonono. Not libertarian. Lower-case l libertarian is just fine. Objectivist. They get really crabby if you don't capitalize the O. Ayn Rand was an Objectivist, not a libertarian.

                I like libertarians. Objectivists...too much drinking of the Kool Aid.

                I've been reading the Belisarius series by David Drake and friends. It's fun epic fantasy kinda-alternate-history goodness, and you can get the first four novels at the Baen free library. w00t.
                • I like libertarians. Objectivists...too much drinking of the Kool Aid.

                  The worst part is that even when I agree with the philosophy Goodkind is pushing, I still don't want to read any more of his books. A little not-so-hidden allegory is fine, but Goodkind's recent stories are more like a sledgehammer to the forehead, and just in case you didn't notice the message he piles on page after page of Richard explaining it to you.

                  I've been reading the Belisarius series by David Drake and friends.

                  The Belisa

                  • he kills characters. And not just bit parts - he'll waste protagonists. Makes his feints so much better . . . the Dragon Reborn will never die. Hell, Mat and Perrin weren't going to either because he set himself up so they all had to be together to win.

                    And WRT Feast For Crows not going very far. . . true. But the reason was 4 and 5 both were Feast at one point, and were split into two different books.

                    Anyway I'm responding to the wrong post I think but, yeah. Best fantasy writer in a long long time.

                    • he kills characters.

                      Like there's no tomorrow. And, yes, that's a huge part of what makes him great (he's also a good writer, and tells interesting stories). We're all so accustomed to fiction that has a bunch of core elements which are 100% predictable, no matter how many plot twists the author introduces. Whatever kind of scrape the protagonist gets in, there's a limit to the amount of suspense that can be generated, because we *know* that, somehow, he'll get out of it, because it's a book and he's t

                    • totally off topic, but have you considered the possibility that the Others bring winter, and not the other way around?
                      Makes the Stark motto, Winter Is Coming all the more interesting. Just something I picked up in one of the Sam the Slayer chapters in 3.
                    • I had thought about that. It helps explain why winter and summer are so arbitrary. And it definitely adds a sinister overtone to the Stark motto.
                • Objectivists...too much drinking of the Kool Aid.

                  I think Objectivism can be fairly described as a cult. My opinion that it is was strengthened after reading Walker's The Ayn Rand Cult [amazon.com] (Open Court, 1998), which shows how instead of being a beneficial and coherent philosophy, it has ruined lives, broken up marriages, and caused people to blindly trust Rand's judgement even when she had no idea what she was talking about. It's just obscene that Objectivists must, according to Rand and her heir Leonard Pei

    • Not possible, beowulf clusters can't go on for 80 pages about adjusting necklines...they would explode.
    • "Right. Imagine a Beowulf cluster of forked Robert Jordan novels. shudder"

      Well, imagine a Beowulf cluster of Beowulfs.

      http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/981 [gutenberg.org]

      all the best,

      drew

  • by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:07PM (#15498160) Homepage

    Copyright laws are just like unions now. In the beginning, they both had their use, but as timee have changed, copyright laws, like unions have not adapted to suit current conditions. In the end, they cause more bad than good. Hello GM!

    http://psychicfreaks.com/ [psychicfreaks.com]
    • . . .copyright laws . . . have not adapted to suit current conditions.

      Actually, it's their adaptation to current conditions that have created the trouble. The conditions are not exactly desirable.

      For the most part Lessig is promoting rolling back the adaptations to a time when the conditions were some weird ideas about the "rights" of the "The People."

      KFG
    • Copyright laws are just like unions now.

      I believe it would be more correct to say that copyright(all IP, actually) laws are just like union leadership. The unions would adapt very quickly if not for those who cling to power. Union leaders became corrupt right at the get-go. So did IP law. Hmmm, just like everything else that acquires undue influence and power. Let's get this straight. IP law was never intended to protect the creator. It was created to protect the creation business. And each time new tech ca

    • Copyright laws are just like unions now. In the beginning, they both had their use, but as timee have changed, copyright laws, like unions have not adapted to suit current conditions. In the end, they cause more bad than good. Hello GM!

      I open Netflix or the Movies Unlimited catalog and see 60,000 DVDs in print.

      I click on Amazon.com and find hundreds of thousands of books in print. 1,000 Penquin Classics in modern English translations. 183 titles in The Library of Ammerica series, including a superb new ed

      • [GP: "In the beginning, they both had their use, but as timee have changed, copyright laws, like unions have not adapted to suit current conditions."]

        I click on Amazon.com and find hundreds of thousands of books in print. 1,000 Penquin Classics in modern English translations. 183 titles in The Library of Ammerica series, including a superb new edition of H.P. Lovecraft. $22 in hardcover. Ribbon marker, Smythe binding, acid-neutral stock. Shelf life 200-400 years.

        You will excuse me, perhapd, if I don't feel
  • Free Culture (Score:5, Informative)

    by joeytsai ( 49613 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:08PM (#15498166) Homepage
    Lawrence Lessig is awesome. If you don't know anything about him (or even if you do), I highly recommend watching his last talk given in 2002. You can hear him and see his slides here [randomfoo.net]. Even if you're not into legal things like copyright (like me) his speech is fascinating and compelling.
    • Re:Free Culture (Score:2, Insightful)

      by argoff ( 142580 )

      Lawrence Lessig is awesome. If you don't know anything about him (or even if you do), I highly recommend watching his last talk given in 2002. You can hear him and see his slides here. Even if you're not into legal things like copyright (like me) his speech is fascinating and compelling.

      No he's not. I don't know much about him and I dont need to other than the fact that his solution is not to get rid of copyrights but to make them "nicer". While this sounds "reasonable", the media industry has simply use

      • Re:Free Culture (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SillyNickName4me ( 760022 ) <dotslash@bartsplace.net> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @06:33PM (#15498750) Homepage
        So please let me explain the ugly truth: this is an all or nothing game. Either the copyright lords are going to control how we use information, or they aren't. Sorry charlie, there is no nice way out there is no happy middle ground. Get used to it, wake up and smell the hummis, pull your head out, quit being stupid! All or nothing. Sony, the RIAA, and MPAA seem to understand this perfectly well, their actions are obvious, they plan on it, they act on it, they clearly understand it, so why don't we?

        Your observation about it being an all or nothing game is correct, but I don't think you are correct in your conclusion.

        First of all, abolishing copyright will do nothing to remove the desire for distributors to have complete and infinite control over distribution and preferably also use. This is because copyright is merely the means by which this control is currently achieved.

        Second, copyright based on the constitution of the USA can only exist if you recognize that the 'public' is in ultimate control over any copyrighted works, else the whole concept of granting temporary exclusive rights to the creator makes no sense (you may be able to grant rights over something over which you have no control on paper, but your lack of control makes that a completely pointless thing to do), so if copyright has to be, then the question over who has ultimate control over created works is already answered.

        At any rate, the article was (unsurprisingly) lacking in detail, and failed to make any argument for the alternative that was proposed (or for or against copyright in general). It merely points at one of the problems and an obvious solution to it. The implication of what the article says is that 'initially, copyright as it was in the 1700s was good, so lets change back to how it was back then'. Of course that ignores that circumstances have changed substantially. I, just like Lessig it seems, believe that a limited term, limited scope copyright can actually work and advance science and arts. Additionally, I also believe that copyright should always go to the actual creator(s) and be non-transferable. On top of that, I believe anyone who wants to have something protected by copyright, will have to ensure that the work will be available in unencumbered form after expiration of that copyright, if things like drm or other forms of access control are permitted at all.

      • I'm with you - it's all or nothing [slashdot.org] when it comes to Intellectual Monopoly.
        The problem is that the 'without protection, there won't be any creativity" lie is so well accepted, that suggesting to most people that we need to get rid of copyright gets you written off as a lunatic.
        Copyright with much shorter terms could be a stepping stone; Lessig suggests we backtrack to 1710:

        14 years, renewable to 28, as laid down by the 1710 Statute of Anne

        Perhaps if we can start by showing people that creativity doesn't r

      • Re:Free Culture (Score:2, Insightful)

        by name773 ( 696972 )
        no copyright law also sounds like a bad idea, especially to the people who come up with copyrightable things. i can get behind what lessig is pushing for.
      • Re:Free Culture (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shmlco ( 594907 )
        Sorry, but your "truth" is anything but. What's needed is less extremism such as this, and more work towards achieving workable solutions that are fair to those on both sides of the equation, e.g., those who create the content, and those who consume and enjoy it.

        I don't think the current copyright situation is fair, and I believe that works should be generally unemcumbered, subject to "fair use", and that the copyright term should be limited. That said, I think we also need to recognize that the stuff we lo
        • .... That said, I think we also need to recognize that the stuff we love takes time, energy, money, and highly skilled and talented people to create, that they do so on a risk/reward basis, and that most of them need to pay the rent just like we do.

          Nonsense, the question isn't wether creators will be compensated, the question is wether incentive will center arround information related controlls or information related services. For chrissake, give a freaking concert or something, don't microregulate how

          • Or something. How many paid book readings have you been to recently? How many Broadway shows at $100 a pop?Heck, the "concert" model doesn't even fit half the singers, songwriters, and musicians out there.

            For the most part the current system works just fine: The content creators take a risk and produce a product. You decide if it has value to you and buy it if it does. A "microregulation" system known as commerce.
        • I appreciate your desire to have people fairly rewareded, the thing is, can you come up with a legal framework for copyright protection in a digital age that doesn't involve draconian laws? I think it would be very hard to do so effectively. The main thing preventing (even more) rampant piracy is still just bandwidth, and for literature, a good portable e-reader. To counter that inherent piratability effectively, the laws have to be very severe. So severe as to make murder look begin to look like a misdemea
          • "To counter that inherent piratability effectively, the laws have to be very severe."

            Nope. We just need to convince people that they it's in their best interests to pay for value received. Because if no one pays for music, books, movies, games, or software then there's not going to be very many people making them. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have my favorite author actually writing books full time, and not spending day greating people at WalMart's front door.

            People constantly say they're willing
      • So please let me explain the ugly truth: this is an all or nothing game. Either the copyright lords are going to control how we use information, or they aren't. Sorry charlie, there is no nice way out there is no happy middle ground. Get used to it, wake up and smell the hummis, pull your head out, quit being stupid! All or nothing. Sony, the RIAA, and MPAA seem to understand this perfectly well, their actions are obvious, they plan on it, they act on it, they clearly understand it, so why don't we?

        Absolu

  • by ClassMyAss ( 976281 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:17PM (#15498236) Homepage
    Really, now...while I feel the creative landscape would be a much brighter place if copyrights didn't last indefinitely, I don't see Lessig proposing any real plan here. 14 years renewable to 28 sounds fair to me, but I'm part of the choir in this situation, and I don't see any indication that our lawmakers are going to be receptive to this. To my knowledge, one of the major reasons for the lengthening of copyright terms in the US is that we needed to bring our laws in line with the copyright laws in Europe, and nothing is changing there.

    There are billion dollar interests at stake here. I'm glad that there are academics like Lessig that want to stand up for their principles, but unless he's planning to raise the funds for a massive lobbying campaign, I think he's fighting a losing battle...

    The most realistic part is definitely the bit about requiring people to register for copyrights, but I worry about this - if you need to register, chances are you'll need to pay. Even if it's just a little, I'm not in favor of giving the government more knobs to turn...I fear that this particular step would only further help the moneyed interests at the expense of the little guy.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:48PM (#15498479)
      . . .one of the major reasons for the lengthening of copyright terms in the US is that we needed to bring our laws in line with the copyright laws in Europe

      The question is should we have done this? Especially since the copyright laws of Europe were (and are) antithetical to American legal philosophy. They are founded on the medieval monarchial grant/guild system of rights. It seems strange to me that we should export "American values" at the point of a gun in some places, but refuse to actually hold our simple moral ground at home. In this case I think we should have made Europe come to us.

      I fear that this particular step would only further help the moneyed interests at the expense of the little guy.

      History shows just the opposite. If nothing else look what Lessig did with This Land is Your Land.

      The primal philosophy is that of free speach. To get a grant to abrogate this you should have to actually petition the government for the rights of monopoly. Yes, there is a fee involved, but it has always been reasonable to cover filing costs and not a center of control/profit. A teenager can cover the fee by mowing a single lawn and the forms are simple; and free.

      The automatic creation of copyright has also created a world of abuse by the big guy against the little guy, the big guy sometimes being the government. Internal memos and such showing criminal action and culpability are now being supressed using their copyright status as justification. Civil lawsuits have skyrocketed where none would have been filable previously over purely incidental "works" little more than someone's laundry list.

      Copyright should only be applied to those works that the creator himself thinks important enough to go through the trouble of filing and said works should then be free to public access.

      That, after all, was the whole original point. That protected works would be made available to the public, put on file in the Library of Congress, rather than hidden away. Conversely anything that the creator wants hidden away (like evidence of criminal activity) should not be granted protection.

      KFG

      • Internal memos and such showing criminal action and culpability are now being supressed using their copyright status as justification

        My view is that, since copyright is intended to encourage creativity for the good of all, that it should be contingent on distribution. If you don't distribute a work at a reasonable price[1], then you should not get copyright at all. You should still get trade secrets protection, and be able to use an NDA to distribute your work to publishers, etc. This only lasts unti

    • I also support registration, along with a few other formalities, but I wouldn't worry about them much. Remember that they are traditional in the US; we didn't stop requiring registration until very recently, and it's still required if you want to enforce your copyright in court or be able to take advantage of some remedies. It's not a big deal, and artists, being people who are capable of filing their taxes or registering to vote, or getting a drivers' license, can surely also manage to fill out a form wher
    • Lessig: copyrights last too long. How about we start by squaring the laws with the Constitution's explicitly stated purpose?

      PP: ohh, but the big companies have soooo much money! Let's just whimper and die and ignore this guy. He's probably just stupid like all those academics anyway. I mean, he believes in principles — how stupid is that?

      I worry

      Got anything else to offer?

      I fear

      Oh.

  • Thank the Gnods (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrCopilot ( 871878 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:19PM (#15498257) Homepage Journal
    Thank the Gnods for people like Lessig and Stallman.

    The idea of triggering only on commercial distribution is a logical no brainer. Makes perfect sense therfore will never be passed in the U.S.

    Keep up the good fight LL.

    • No, no, no. One more time for all the goddamn programmers here. Copyright is not only about coding. It is about all media and its contents. If I write a short story, I need the copyright from the git-go so some agent can't steal it before publication. If I shoot some film, I need the copyright from the git-go so some editor can't just pilfer my work. Etc. There's more -- much more -- to life than programming.
      • No copyright is about copy ( read Txt, Print ) and your rights to reproduce it.

        Code I write is just as protected as your sprawling rant and vica versa. If you had but read the article, you would have found this nugget.

        Copyright trigger Lessig would like to see copyright reduced to 14 years, renewable to 28, as laid down by the 1710 Statute of Anne, the basis of all subsequent legislation in the UK and many countries. He also wants the emphasis on copying as the trigger for copyright to be removed. "In

  • exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare@gmail. c o m> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:27PM (#15498318) Homepage Journal
    every historical era is defined by an ideological struggle which defines the status quo of future eras. in our time, that struggle is the balance between corporate ownership and public culture. the riaa/ mpaa won't stop until they own all of our culture, period. every single bit of expression of it. every venue, every time period

    what lessig gets but many don't is that it is a trade off: financial wealth versus cultural wealth. ip law makes sense because it rewards creators for creating. but the balance gets lost when ip law is extended unnaturally into areas of content expression and lengths of time which are totally unreasonable

    then the social compact between those who consume culture and those who create it, becomes null and void. the ip lawyers are crushing the natural free exchange of ideas that lead to cultural wealth, and eventually financial wealth, and their corporate masters don't understand how they are shooting themselves in the foot by giving these ip lawyers free reign to extend, extend, extend their grasp. the corporate masters don't seem to understand that, paradoxically, by extending ip law unnaturally, ip lawyers are effectively handing their corporate masters diminishing returns over the long run: decreased cultural wealth eventually leads to decreased financial wealth

    its a pathology: greed, greed, greed, and it will never stop, until it kills cultural wealth in the name of financial wealth, even if that means that eventually, financial wealth is sacrificed too. because the financial masters don't really understand how the free exchange of ideas in a respected, natural, reasonable cultural public spaced eventually enriches them. they just have an unthinking pathological allegiance to the concept of bloated ownership, with no appreciation for the nuances of how respecting a free zone of cultural trading creates more riches for them to own in the long rin

    unfortunately, this struggle is too esoteric now, too new to have reached the man in the street yet. only us dweebs and tech heads see the outrageousness of this creeping doom on the horizon right now. but give it time. eventually it will rear its ugly head on the radar of public consciousness

    and then maybe, hopefully, this pathology that is ip law that wants to own absolutely every bit of cultural expression will get the bitch slap down it deserves
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:39PM (#15498412)
    This will require a paradigm shift from the sole creator and possesor of a 'natural right' of control and ownership of ideas.

    Coders collaborate to create complex things whereas artists are often individualistic sorts, possesie of their ideas. As an art student my college would not mark 'collaborative' works as they could not figure out how to apportion credit.

    Open source Creativity has occured but the very word Artist has a certain idea of sole author - seemingly this came about in the Rennaissance. When Vasari started bigging up Michelangelo.

    Before this it was believed that Authorship was a kind of heresy as God was the Prime Creator. Many Artists and Author before then saw themselves as part of a stream of culture and thought. They would attribute their works to historical figures or were anonymous.

    The Public Domain has fallen into disrepute, it is a kind of 'bin' were all the old stuff ends up. Copyright a limited monopoly for publishers, a concession by the public was concieved to enrich this public sphere. Now Copyright is seen by many as a sort of natural right of creators.

    Better to believe that you stand apon the shoulders of giants, that personal art derives from the canon of language, culture, folk-music that once was commonly owned by all ( or rather the nature of property was inimicable to ideas ).

    Interestingly Publicly funded Science has moved away from the public domain and instead of researchers publishing findings for the common weal they patent with their University.
    While dreams of rich patents may provide investment funds to inventors, consider that the price of research has increased astronomically as progress accelerates there are more sub-patents to be liscensed (or withheld to prevent rival research).

    Now there are so many Patent & Copyright Squatters who neither create nor fund creators but use law to leech fees from those who do.

    Thank goodness you can't patent software or algorythms (in Europe anyway).

    Copyright is theft from the Public domain.
    It used to be that we got some payback, now we just pay and pay and pay.
  • FTA: Lessig would like to see copyright reduced to 14 years, renewable to 28

    I think that we should gradually scale down the copyright lengths. If it happens suddenly big business would react and try and bring them back up.
    If copyright lengths were gradually scaled down people would eventually realize that we're better without copyright existing at all.
  • "[...] it's going to be a more significant movement than the free software movement because whatever the importance of the freedom of coders, coders will still be just a tiny proportion of the public[...]"

    The free software movement (free as in freedom) directly affects programmers by giving them the source code and ability to change it, but this also indirectly allows anyone the power to have problems fixed by whomever he or she wants to hire. In the arena of computer software, what more freedom could you n
    • Besides which, why does anyone think programmers will always be a "tiny proportion of the public"? Today, the vast majority of citizens in the "developed " world are literate. A couple centuries ago this was very definitely not the case. Heck, when writing was invented it was known only to a few palace scribes and such, a tiny elite. No one today doubts universal literacy is possible; what exactly makes "universal programming literacy" impossible?
      • Actually I think literacy in America was about as high 200 years ago as it is now. People saw that it was part of civic life in a free society, and also necessary for religious instruction (that is, reading the Bible). See a reference to Cremin's American Education: The Colonial Experience [google.com].

        I think more people could become programming-literate, perhaps even the majority of people, but I don't think it's going to happen. It takes levels of time and interest that most people don't have, with our culture leani

  • by Steeltoe ( 98226 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:52PM (#15498505) Homepage
    Creative Commons [creativecommons.org] can become what GPL is to software, something which liberates the content from the misuse and apprehension of huge corporations. Free Software Foundation and the GPL-licenses was invented as a reaction to ever increasing prices, EULAs, NDAs, copyright lengths, and every other toll-booth the corporations will impose just to squeeze the last drop of money out of our souls, for software.

    With Creative Commons, we have a chance to reclaim our culture as a whole. A real, culture, indie artists, not sponsored and RIAA-breastfed brats copying the latest fad.

    The irony being, that the stronger copyright becomes by lobbying from the corporations, the stronger Creative Commons and GPL also become.

    In the long-term future, I believe in a reclamation of our culture on the local level too. More people will be fed up with way too many hours spent in front of a screen, and desensitized by an everlasting surge of noise in their ears. People will start to appreciate silence more and more, not in hordes, because that is a paradox in its own right. However, slowly more and more will look for alternative ways, something local. Playing in a local band, or just with friends. Meditation. Yoga. Tai-Chi. Quigong. Whatever to breathe life back into the soul.
  • I beg to disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @05:53PM (#15498514)
    Distribution without a profit motive may cause a significant financial loss, as we are endlessly reminded by the media and software industry.


    I think the key concept in intellectual property laws should be that the creations *must* enter public domain at some time, and remain in the public domain forecer after that. Therefore, the law should provide no protection at all to anything that's protected by anything other than the law itself, or for that which isn't fully disclosed.


    No copyrights for anything distributed with any sort of DRM, no copyrights for anything distributed under proprietary standards, no protection for any software distributed without source code.

    • by Eivind ( 15695 ) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday June 09, 2006 @03:32AM (#15500722) Homepage
      I agree.

      Publishers should have a choise:

      Either they use DRM and whatever other shit they can come up with to try to control the work. In this case the work, in its unprotected form, never gets "published" at all, so it should have no legal protection whatsoever.

      Or, they *do* publish the work, by making the work available to the general public. In which case a copyrigth with a sensible timeout is acceptable. The original 14 years sounds acceptable to me, even though I think 10 years would be sufficient as really the world is changing a lot faster these days.

      • I also agree, and think that registration of the source of the work (source code, editable text file) should be mandatory. The copyright note should also be mandatory (a legally distributed work without this notice not being protected) and the renovation (10 more years) should be taxed.

  • by massysett ( 910130 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @06:46PM (#15498808) Homepage
    Says the article: "The analogy with Richard Stallman's GNU General Public Licence is evident."

    Not really. The article (I won't say Lessig, because the article may be distorting his views) ignores the fact that the GPL relies on copyright. Only with copyright can a GPL licensor ensure that other users of her code grant access to the source code.

    Perhaps a better analogy for the point the article is making would be the BSD license, which has spurred creativity without the heavy reliance on copyright that is a feature of the GPL.

    But overall the article is unconvincing because it ignores the fact that both GPL and BSD-licensed software exist even though (and indeed because) we have today's regime of long copyrights. One can certainly argue that the state's scarce resources are better spent on things other than enforcing 50-year-old copyrights (or even on enforcing some 1-year-old copyrights.) But creativity isn't being stifled by long copyrights--to the contrary, the Internet is promoting new waves of creativity, with scores of authors of works of all kinds--software, photographs, writings, and more--willingly submitting their works to the public for its use.

  • by bill_kress ( 99356 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @06:57PM (#15498870)
    Where was the "Free" concept before the computer age? Let's say even before 1995... Why did no other segment of society invent it?

    Stephen King is rich as hell and loves to write. Was it really impossible for him to give a book away? Just one?
    How about music? Art?

    I suppose the main difference is that before the computer age everything had a replication cost, and now it doesn't, but can that be the only issue?

    Madonna never gave away CDs at cost, nor did any artist I've ever heard of. Why wouldn't have someone done that just once to see what happened? Maybe the publicity would do you well. The only thing that I know of that came close is a few bands encouraging bootlegs, and even at that it wasn't strictly "Legal", just encouraged (as far as i know).

    The government makes a few things "Free" such as parks, streets, beaches, police, army, ... but people would refuse to even fund those basic things if they had the choice.

    In the computer realm, we are dedicating massive numbers of man-hours to open source projects and not even expecting to profit from the publicity!

    Okay, so most people are fundamentally selfish to such an extreme that makes me embarrassed to call myself human, but what makes these programmers so different from other "Creators"?

    I can't even attribute it to the fact that many got rich in the 90's because many of the open source projects had/have nothing to do with rich people, at least not Stephen King rich.

    any ideas?
    • by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @07:23PM (#15499002) Homepage
      Sidewalk entertainers.

      Fan Fiction (yes, it existed before the Internet)

      Graffiti Art

      There were tons of people who created and gave away their creations before the Internet. The difference is that before the Internet only people right nearby KNEW about them. Their was no ultra-cheap/free distribution method to get the creations of these people out into the hands of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other people.

      Many writers existed making stories for free. They wrote stories, books, novels... and were either uninterested or incompitent in trying to get them published. So who got to read them? Their family, neighbors, and friends. And that's it.

      Many artists existed making paintings and drawings for free. Who saw them? Their family, neighbors, and friends. And that's it.

      Many musicians existed who gave their music away for free or cost on casette tapes and such. Who heard them? Their family, neighbors, and friends, and maybe the local bars. And that's it.

      People creating stuff for others, and giving it away for nothing or almost nothing, have always existed. But until the Internet, only a few people nearby knew about them. You probably knew someone yourself who fits this description (at least, if you're old enough to have known lots of people before 1995). Now, these same people can reach millions with a little technical savvy, or a friend with that savvy.

      The Internet has made us the neighbors of everyone on the 'Net. We're all just one step away from everyone else. Just a visit, a quick jaunt across the street to read the latest writings, hear the newest song, or see the newest painting of that guy next door.

      So nothing has changed. We just have more neighbors now.

      The Raven
      • Sidewalk Entertainers are making a living/doing it for profit. They don't directly charge a fixed ammount, but neither do priests or strippers (as far as I know).

        Graffiti artists and fanfic writers--that makes a good point, but if either of those could make money creating, do you think they would still be doing it for free?

        To put it the other way around, how much fanfic do you imagine is written by professional writers? How much Graffiti do you suppose is done by people painting for a living.

        I really do
    • You've never heard of "The Grateful Dead"?

      They permitted taping of their concerts and trading of the tapes since very nearly their first concert. See:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grateful_Dead#Tapers [wikipedia.org]

      As long as the tapes weren't being used for commercial profit, it was effectively a free-for-all, to the point of them setting up a "taper's area" to allow their own sound crew to have access to the area where they'd need to set up their equipment for the best sound for the concert.
    • I don't have the answer to your question, but I do think it's important to note the differences between source code and other forms of culture.

      Here are a few differences that might be important:
      - Other culture is sometimes a "big hit" and can make the artist very wealthy, but souce code very rarely does that.
      - Most other culture is produced to be enjoyed, whereas source code is more like a recipe - it's the necessary instructions required to do/create something.
      - Programmers tend to be pretty different from
    • Okay, so most people are fundamentally selfish to such an extreme that makes me embarrassed to call myself human, but what makes these programmers so different from other "Creators"?

      They were making very good money before their contributions to open source.

      J.K. Eowling was on welfare before her success with Harry Potter. It's forgiotten on Slashdot. But you will find very few writers of low and middle class origins making it into print before the copyright era.

      • That's a really good point. Opra gives a bunch of money out, and she was pretty poor. Perhaps that's a good point.

        Hmm, if it was, I'd expect to see a lot less "bling" on rappers and a lot more money flowing into poorer schools... but maybe you're on the right path.
    • "The government makes a few things "Free" such as parks, streets, beaches, police, army, ... but people would refuse to even fund those basic things if they had the choice."

      Indeed. Thank GOD us taxpayers don't have any significant power over our benevolent legislative overlords.
  • by rthille ( 8526 ) <web-slashdot.rangat@org> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @08:12PM (#15499271) Homepage Journal
    To write a program that generated _huge_ (TBs) amounts of content; speaches/essays/articles about the current state of politics including the real players out there today, and what's really going on and copyright them. Then sue anyone who you don't agree with politically who writes an article that comes close enough to your generated content that their 'political free speach' could be considered infringing.

    Could it technically work? What would those cases do to the laws?

    How can we convince people that copyright laws are out of wack when they legally can't sing 'happy birthday' to their kids at their birthday party without paying royalties...
    • by stubear ( 130454 ) on Friday June 09, 2006 @12:09AM (#15500250)
      First of all it's speech, not speach. Second, no you cannot. Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. This very important distinction is lost on your typical slashbot frothing at the mouth with the mere mention of the word copyright. As long as I do not actually use substantial sections of your work and claim it as my own or distribute it without your permission I'm OK when I write a scathing article about a politician that you also wrote a scathing article about.
      • You know, 'speach' didn't look right, but I couldn't see why :-)

        I'm not frothing at the mouth, I am wondering if you could possibly generate enough content so that your text would in a large part overlap my generated text, even though you never saw my text. Certainly copyright is designed to prevent me from copying you without your permission, but if I can generate _enough_ content that no matter what content you produce, I've generated it before you, would you be violating copyright? I think by the law y
  • by barutanseijin ( 907617 ) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @11:41PM (#15500154)

    I think it was Joni Mitchell at the '71 Isle of Wight festival who asked gate crashers why they expected her and others to perform for free. It's a nice utopian thought that cultural creators would share everything with everyone, but most creators have to worry about paying the rent. Now Joni Mitchell probably didn't have too much to worry about in that regard, but I think her point is still valid. Getting rid of copyright won't help people pay the rent. If you want to propose a system of generously distributed grants and stipends to cultural creators, an anarchistic or communist reorganisation of society, or even something like the WPA projects for writers and artists that's fine -- and much more realistic than saying culture ought to be free. Culture is not going to be free until people are free to make it. Tinkering around with the length of the copyrights isn't going to change the situation, either.

    I fully realise that in the end most creators end up working for nothing or taking a loss and that copyright doesn't do anything for them -- but neither will "free culture" or shorter copyrights. People make culture, but people have bills to pay and kids to feed. I'd work for free too if I didn't have to worry about groceries, rent, day care, saving for retirement...

  • Kinda OT, but I listened to this clip on what's called the most used 6 sec sample drum loop. Anyway it's a good listen and he brings up copyright and quotes Lessig

    A society free to borrow and build upon the past is culturally
    richer than a controlled one.

    Another bit I found interesting is this bit:

    To trace the history of the amen break is to trace the history of a brief period of time when it seemed digital tools offered a potentially unlimited amount of new forms of expression; where cultural production, a
  • Lawrence Lessig...has this to say about free content: 'I think it's going to be a more significant movement than the free software movement because whatever the importance of the freedom of coders, coders will still be just a tiny proportion of the public, but culture is ... much broader.'"

    But I think that's the main reason free software has florished and other types of free content haven't. Coders are a small, 'elite' group with skills most of the public don't have. What they produce (free or not) has t

  • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Friday June 09, 2006 @11:12AM (#15502984)
    As a song-writer, this issue irritates me.

    Free software works because it reduces duplication of labour: anyone can write a Bubble-Sort routine for language X, so if the first person who writes a bubble-sort in X releases it freely, no-one is forced to rewrite the Bubble-Sort. This is efficient. Is the coder being ripped off? Probably not, as someone else will have programmed it, so he can pick it up free. Distribution of labour.

    However, it is only me who can write my songs -- they are the product of my brain and my personal interpretation of my environment and culture. No-one else is ever going to write the same songs independently of me. By making my songs free, I reduce the impetus for others to write their own (they can just cover mine). This leads to a reduction in effort, definitely, but also to a reduction in variety.

    And here's the killer. What if I get involved in a road accident which crushes my right hand and leads me to need a trachyotomy? I would never sing or play any musical instrument again. Thus to make a living from my music, I would need to be able to sell my songs, not just my performances, which I couldn't do if all other songs were free.

    HAL.

  • Put a moratorium on copyrights and patents for 10 years then see how it affected "the incentive to create".

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

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