Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lessig Video: Deregulate Culture - Copyright Law Does Not Make Sense

In this video of a speech from the ABA Techshow, Professor Lawrence Lessig has put together a powerful political manifesto for those wishing to deregulate culture. He points out how internet code has created new artistic norms, abilities to speak and communicate through video and music that are being marginalized, stifled and criminalized without regard to the First Amendment. He joins a thoughtful, enjoyable legal and historical analysis of the internet, of the interaction of law, norms, market and architecture on human behavior and the problems we face with a plan to reduce the impact of big money on Congress.

Watch the video, he can't be accused of thinking small.

His Manichean vision of Congress and the current state of big money influencing Congress (Lessig seeks to "kill off the bad" and "strike evil") is pure Ralph Nader.

About money and Congress, Nader was right, Lessig is right. This video, and Lessig's ideas, are tremendously important.

Whether we need a new Messiah to smite evil is a different story.


Money is corrupting our democracy. Our country's founders intended our government to be dependent upon the people alone—but today, lawmakers spend up to 70% of their time raising money for their reelection campaigns. In 2010, it cost an average of $8.5 million to win a Senate seat. Barack Obama is expected to spend over $1 billion on his reelection campaign. Where do we think this money comes from?

We need a democracy that's dependent on the people, not the funders. Government won't change itself. We need a grassroots movement to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics.

Thoreau wrote, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." The root of our political evils is money. Our goal is to build a network of rootstrikers—to talk about this issue, clearly identify the problem, and work together towards practical reforms.

Rootstrikers is a project of Fix Congress First, a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 by Lawrence Lessig and Joe Trippi to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics.

Joe Trippi's website says the following:

Joe Trippi is one of the most sought-after political strategists and an enduring figure on the presidential campaign circuit. He worked for Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart and turned Howard Dean into an unlikely front runner in 2004. A former Silicon Valley consultant, Trippi was the first political operative to appreciate and then realize the potential of the internet, and as such the strategy, tactics and tools he created in 2004 have become the foundation for many of today\'s most successful campaigns.

So the guy who created Howard Dean is going to combat the evils of money in politics?  Presumably if I send him some evil money?

Lessig's core thesis of deregulating culture is a powerful one.  But when he moves off message to Wikileaks and politics, the polish wears thin.  I am not so sure that Wikileaks really brought democracy to the Middle East, but I am in agreement that our expenditures on foreign expeditionary wars cloaked in democratic rhetoric are a collosal waste of money.

Lessig ought to lighten up on the combating evil stuff, be a bit more nuanced and tighten his focus to win on the ground where he is strong: criminalization of creativity.  It's kind of tough to save culture AND end wars at the same time, standing next to a guy bragging that he was Howard Dean's internet bag man. It wouldn't be the first time an idealistic young crusader went to Washington, was used by the establishment, had his pockets emptied and idealism shattered. Lessig is correct that deregulation of copyright law is a sensible and reasonable thing.  But it's not enough to be right.  Coalition-building, consensus and compromise are not necessarily dirty words and people who don't agree with you are not necessarily evil or insane.   Even if they are dead wrong.

Again, watch the speech, he is a brilliant thinker and his message is important.

Thanks to Cyberlaw Central for bringing the Lessig speech up, Kevin Thompson's take here.

More on Remix culture here.

WSJ endorses Lessig here.

My review of Lessig's book Remix.
 Purchase Copyright Litigation Handbook 2010 by Raymond J. Dowd from West here  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the blog, but haven't been here in a while and I don't like the moving avatar. You look creepy (even with a fast connection), and then your head keeps moving even though the spoke portion is done (it reminds me of Disney's Hall of the President). It also keeps starting from the beginning, with a loud voice (the volume button doesn't seem to change the sound level and there's no default to turn it off entirely) every time I go to a new posting. There is only 1 post about avatars, which is unrelated to yours, but I'm not a fan.