Lessig on Free and the Differences between Culture and Code.

I watched this lecture today from the recent 23C3 conference in Berlin. You should watch it here.  What follows are highlights from the speech, which is inspiring to say the least.

Lessig starts out with an overview of recent “mashups” and “remix” (like the Mary Poppins trailer remixed into a horror movie), and says that anyone with access to a computer can take sounds and images and remix them to say things differently, and due to the character of our culture, this is more powerful than the written word. This is our new literacy.

As people experiment, they start to see the potential, and there is a nagging question:  whether this form of speech, creativity is legal. Is it allowed?

How do you convince people that their laws have crumbled?  When was it, since 1995 to today, that the system became broken? The system is broken: we will either stop creating or people will go underground and create contrary to the law. The laws do not work.

What can we do? Nothing?

One thing that will not work is that hackers etc. working to “destroy” the system (DRM),  as the other side has more resources. War on theft (copywriter theft). Secondly, in the short term, we will not see progressive legislation -which seems increasingly hopeless. In the US, the democrats are just as crazy in terms of copyright protection. Thirdly, litigation will be futile, and is a long term losing strategy – instead of convincing 10 judges, we need to convince 100 million people.

Online,  look at the war on downloaders, Myspace being sued for people adding Universal artists, YouTube reserving a third of its purchase price for litigation. The battle is raging here.

How do we free the future from the dead hand of the past?

Lessig gives two possibilities: 1.  Creative Commons – infrastructure to a free culture, marking content not under “all rights reserved” and instead a “some rights reserved” – 70 countries porting these licences in. 2.  A new way to use Metadata – to produce opportunities to share, but if it needs to be used in a commercial space. Commercial rights can be secured; anything beyond the non commercial licences can be purchased. Together, these are combined so that things can be used, and that this infrastructure can be imported, and inspire the use and to use creativity.  Two freedoms: to share and to remix.

In the new digital age,  we have the chance to revive the capacity of ordinary people to speak, create and participate. If we are to crack the power of this 20th century mentality of “control”, if we are to move forward in the 21st century, then there is a battle that each individual can participate in. 


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