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The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (Vintage) [Kindle Edition]

Lawrence Lessig
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Internet revolution has come. Some say it has gone. In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the revolution has produced a counterrevolution of potentially devastating power and effect. Creativity once flourished because the Net protected a commons on which widest range of innovators could experiment. But now, manipulating the law for their own purposes, corporations have established themselves as virtual gatekeepers of the Net while Congress, in the pockets of media magnates, has rewritten copyright and patent laws to stifle creativity and progress.

Lessig weaves the history of technology and its relevant laws to make a lucid and accessible case to protect the sanctity of intellectual freedom. He shows how the door to a future of ideas is being shut just as technology is creating extraordinary possibilities that have implications for all of us. Vital, eloquent, judicious and forthright, The Future of Ideas is a call to arms that we can ill afford to ignore.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

If The Future of Ideas is bleak, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Author Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor and keen observer of emerging technologies, makes a strong case that large corporations are staging an innovation-stifling power grab while we watch idly. The changes in copyright and other forms of intellectual property protection demanded by the media and software industries have the potential to choke off publicly held material, which Lessig sees as a kind of intellectual commons. He eloquently and persuasively decries this lopsided control of ideas and suggests practical solutions that consider the rights of both creators and consumers, while acknowledging the serious impact of new technologies on old ways of doing business. His proposals would let existing companies make money without using the tremendous advantages of incumbency to eliminate new killer apps before they can threaten the status quo. Readers who want a fair intellectual marketplace would do well to absorb the lessons in The Future of Ideas. --Rob Lightner

From Library Journal

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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 826 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (November 12, 2002)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FBFM6G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #627,054 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
I well remember when I first entered the Internet. Even in those days of Gopher and early versions of Mosaic, I found an exciting and brand-new world, ripe with incredible possibilities. It was a world of free expression, rapid access to vast storehouses of information, instant contact with anyone who had the resources to connect.
But a dark thought always lurked in the recesses of my mind: What will happen when "Big Money" wakes up to the power of the Web? I luridly imagined mega-corporations somehow buying up the Web, tying up content, and crying up to Big Brother when they didn't get their way.
Those days seem to be closer than I ever imagined.
That's what I learned in this intricately arresting book by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig. It's an exultant yet sobering look at how the nature of the Internet sparked a new age of innovation--and how this is now seriously threatened. As Lessig writes:
"The original Net protected fundamental aspects of innovation. End-to-end meant new ideas were protected; open code meant innovation would not be attacked; free distribution meant new ways of connecting would be assured. These protections were largely architectural. This architecture is now changing. And as it changes, as with the threats to liberty, there is a threat here to innovation."
Lessig's purpose is awaken us to our untested belief in the value of control over commons before the Net is swallowed up.
The Future of Ideas is nicely structured to that end--but you'll need to strap on your thinking cap before you dive in.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A superb book with a few fatal flaws March 13, 2003
Before proceeding to criticise this book, I want to give credit where credit is due. Lawrence Lessig has written a superbly clear and even-handed account of the erosion of the balance at the heart of intellectual property law - between public benefit from creations, and private reward for creators. With a wealth of references and a deft style, he illustrates how regulation of the internet is undermining this crucial balance.
Just as in his previous book, `Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace', Lessig upbraided cyber-libertarians for the lazy assumption that the internet will resist regulation simply by virtue of being the internet, so here he upbraids both sides of the intellectual property debate various for lazy assumptions that have disastrous consequences. Above all, the book is comprehensible to the lay reader while also being invaluable for the legal professional - the collection of references in the endnotes is alone worth the cover price.
Now, on to the flaws. The first and foremost flaw is that Lessig commits precisely the crime he railed against in `Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace' - technological determinism. He fetishises information technology, and ascribes to it vague autonomous powers, even going so far as to distinguish the internet from the `real' world and argue that it has its own `physics'. At one point, he catches himself doing this - after a reference to the `natural state' of cyberspace, he confesses: `I spend many pages in "Code" arguing against just this way of speaking.' But he can't wriggle out of it so easily - his over-dependence upon assumptions about the different nature of cyberspace undermine his (otherwise very good) argument.
A second, related flaw is that Lessig relies for his argument upon too vague a definition of `innovation'.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book For Our Time November 25, 2001
This book should be at least a candidate for the National Book Award. It is, I believe, an important book for our time. The author, Lawrence Lessig, according to the book's jacket, is a professor of law at the Stanford Law School; once a clerk for Judge Richard Posner; and is a board member of the Red Hat Center for Open Source, among other things. So he has the knowledge, experience, and judgment to write such a book.
What is the main concern of the book? Let me try to put it in this fundamental way: How do we want the Internet to develop? How do we create the conditions necessary to maximize the creative potential of the Internet and, for that matter, any new electronic technology?
These concerns leads us to the consider the laws that we have now--especially the patent and copyright laws, and perhaps to a lesser extent, the anti-trust laws.
I am familiar with some theoreticians who hold that there should not be any patent and copyrights at all. This is one extreme view, which the author does not hold. I believe that there has to be adequate reward to the innovator, and copyright and patents--which indeed does grant a limited monopoly--does that.
However, the author argues that the current laws that we have today go too far in the other extreme. These laws he argues hinder future creativeness. The laws we have today, he says, will lead to a future where "take the Net, mix it with the fanciest TV, add a simple way to buy things and that's pretty much it." (page 7) But the future can be better and greater than this, in ways we cannot fathom now.
It seems to me that concerning copyrights and patents, a utilitarian standard should apply: Pursue the policy that maximizes wealth in society as a whole.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Considering Legal Frameworks for Intellectual property, Copyright,...
Intellectual property, copyright, information ownership, fair use, e- versus hardcopy - if you are interested in exploring the nature of information, ownership, use and legality,... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Yesterday's Future
Lawrence Lessig has, rightly, achieved hero status amongst netizens for his early, analytical and compelling advocacy of the need for wise regulation by law - and other sorts of... Read more
Published on March 24, 2009 by Olly Buxton
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Now Creative Commons
This books is now free and available under the creative commons license. You can find it as a downloadable PDF online. Search google for it.
Published on January 15, 2008 by Lynn M. Wallenstein
5.0 out of 5 stars Good review
Deep understanding on what is going on with intelectual property that we don't see on the newspapers
Published on September 10, 2007 by A. B. Souza
5.0 out of 5 stars Best on the subject
The author has great insight in the area of intellectual property and how it has an impact in future innovation.
Published on November 4, 2006 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Complex But Wonderful Nonetheless
The book is written in a very complex style -- especially the sections where Lessig goes into the nitty gritty of the architecture behind the Internet -- but the book is a... Read more
Published on June 16, 2005 by Simit Patel
5.0 out of 5 stars Important book for IP lawyers and internet architects
This is the best of Lessig's books that I've read so far. Lessig is one of the more articulate spokespersons for the movement to protect the public domain, which includes such... Read more
Published on June 18, 2004 by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars From whence comes invention?
Ultimately, the flaw in Lessig's books is his belief that the revolution of personal computing and the internet are the products of intellectuals like himself. Read more
Published on March 30, 2004 by D. Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical and future views, but neglects the present
Rather than just looking at what the intellectual property law is today, he does an excellent job of framing what all of the different types of intellectual property are, how they... Read more
Published on December 24, 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars vitally important and well-told!
Lessig explains himself well in this book, and one can sense his presence as he argues a case in the Supreme Court, or explains a subtle point to a classroom, at Harvard previously... Read more
Published on December 22, 2003 by Gaunilon
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More About the Author

Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school's Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

Lessig serves on the Board of Creative Commons, MapLight, Brave New Film Foundation, The American Academy, Berlin, AXA Research Fund and, and on the advisory board of the Sunlight Foundation. He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including the Free Software Foundation's Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and being named one of Scientific American's Top 50 Visionaries.

Lessig holds a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale.

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