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Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity Paperback – Deckle Edge, February 22, 2005
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From 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 industryfor 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."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Lessig looks at the disturbing legal and commercial trends that threaten to curb the incredible creative potential of the Internet. All innovations are derived from a certain amount of "piracy" of preceding innovations, Lessig argues, and he presents a catalog of technological breakthroughs in film, music, and television as illustrations. Drawing on distinctions between piracy that benefits a single user and harms the owner and piracy that is useful in advancing new content or new ways of doing business, Lessig strongly argues for a balance between the interests of the owner and broader society so that we can continue a "free culture" that encourages innovation rather than a "permission culture" that does not. He reviews an array of legal actions, including the restrictions on peer-to-peer sharing made famous by Napster, and the threat they represent to the kind of openness the law has traditionally allowed and from which the marketplace has benefited. This is a highly accessible and enlightening look at the intersection of commerce, the law, and cyberspace. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
If you don't believe in the original ideas that the framers had in mind when copyright laws were drafted, you won't be able to follow Lessig's argument. Some believe that ALL property is absolute and that intellectual property should be no different, regardless of the reasons that we have for limiting the reach and scope of our intellectual property rights.
long live "free" culture!
The author has an interesting ability to bring in anecdotes that enliven his narrative. He also is able to relate in somewhat painful detail his intervention in the Ellred case - where the Supreme Court denied the ability of a person to publish a poem - that by any reasonable standard should be in the public domain. He discusses the role of Jack Valenti (MPA) and the RIAA in trying to alter the balance of interests between the producers and the consumers of ideas.
Finally, professor Lessig makes two more sets of contributions that are important to help us understand the dynamics of an arcane issue. First, he does a great job at setting the context for the debates about intellectual property - some of this builds on what was written in his two earlier books - but it is valuable none-the-less. Intellectual property and physical property are not the same and should probably not be considered co-equal under the law.
At the same time he makes a great set of suggestions about how to balance the rights of producers of ideas and consumers.
The original debate that got Americans concerned with these issues began between James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who argued over the appropriate scope of the "progress clause" in the Constitution. Lessig follows in that great tradition and adds to our knowledge.