From Publishers Weekly
Should anyone besides libertarian hackers or record companies care about copyright in the online world? In this incisive treatise, Stanford law prof and Wired
columnist Lessig (Free Culture
) argues that we should. He frames the problem as a war between an old read-only culture, in which media megaliths sell copyrighted music and movies to passive consumers, and a dawning digital read-write culture, in which audiovisual products are freely downloaded and manipulated in an explosion of democratized creativity. Both cultures can thrive in a hybrid economy, he contends, pioneered by Web entities like YouTube. Lessig's critique of draconian copyright laws—highlighted by horror stories of entertainment conglomerates threatening tweens for putting up Harry Potter fan sites—is trenchant. (Why, he asks, should sampling music and movies be illegal when quoting texts is fine?) Lessig worries that too stringent copyright laws could stifle such remix masterpieces as a powerful doctored video showing George Bush and Tony Blair lip-synching the song Endless Love, or making scofflaws of America's youth by criminalizing their irrepressible downloading. We leave this (copyrighted) book feeling the stakes are pretty low, except for media corporations. (Oct. 20)
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As Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, sees it, if intellectual-property law is left as it is an entire generation will be criminalized. He argues that the ways in which young people break copyright laws help them to become the sort of people we want them to be�creative and collaborative. Kids today are simply not going to give up downloading music and using copyrighted material in YouTube videos: they belong to a culture for which �remix� is �the essential art.� Lessig�s proposals for revising copyright are compelling, because they rethink intellectual-property rights without abandoning them. He argues that hybrids that combine the �commercial and sharing� economies can create value for both sides (as Harry Potter fan sites and Lostpedia have done); indeed, one problem is media companies� appropriating the work of fans without returning the favor. �When both benefit,� Lessig writes, �how do we say who is riding for free?�
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