Remix Making Art And Commerce Thrive Inthe Hybrid Economy Hardcover – Oct 21 2008
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" Once dubbed a 'philosopher king of Internet law,' [Lessig] writes with a unique mix of legal expertise, historic facts, and cultural curiosity. . . . The result is a wealth of interesting examples and theories on how and why digital technology and copyright law can promote professional and amateur art."
About the Author
Lawrence Lessig is a professor at Stanford Law School and the founder of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. The author of The Future of Ideas and Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, he is the chair of the Creative Commons project. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Cambridge University, and Yale Law School, he has clerked for Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Top Customer Reviews
Lessig distinguishes between 'Read Only' (RO) and 'Read Write' (RW) cultures. RO culture has been the traditional realm of copyright - here intellectual property is carefully fenced off from the public commons, and individuals must ask permission to use it. RW culture, on the other hand, thrives off of sharing and creatively adapting (and re-adapting) media. Neither is necessarily better or worse than the other - they are each useful in particular domains. The problem, however, is that the laws governing RO culture are now preventing RW culture from legally thriving; digital technologies enable culture to be remixed, while the laws of the land outlaw creating remixed digital artifacts without first asking the permission of rights holders.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
(My only criticism would be this book is very US-centric, but that's Lessig's prerogative; others needs to extend these arguments beyond national boundaries.)
This is a passionately written book, but it takes some engagement with the issue to really enjoy it. Starting with another of Lessig's books, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World, might help a reader get into the subject, but once he or she realizes the consequences of culture's legal stance on this issue, Lessig's perspective becomes invaluable to have around. That book more sets out the conditions created by sharing economies, where Remix looks for how art and business can survive under these conditions.
Lessig's lessons on how businesses can thrive or fail as hybrids may help content-producers get a grip as the financial industry melts down.
The main point, as I said, is about the world and culture we create for our children. Do we want a world where they have free "speech" in hundreds of digital "languages", or one where their natural abilities are locked down? Lessig offers advice on how to change law and ourselves to create a culture where our children's expression is cherished (for the sake of their education and their community-building). He wants to start a conversation about how business can thrive among sharing economies as well. This book will be a key perspective in that conversation.
In Remix, Lawrence Lessig says 'enough' to this situation, arguing for a hybrid approach that differentiates private and commercial use. His book is an important and urgent work of radical moderation. It seeks to get both sides to stand down and respect one another, using arguments couched in terms of each party's values. Lessig wants to persuade traditional publishers -- the purveyors of 'read-only' culture -- that they should not fear their own fans. Publishers stand to make more money by embracing those who make new works from old standards than they do by criminalizing them. More subtly, Lessig argues that a strict divide between the world of sharing and the world of commerce is counterproductive. He wants to refocus attention away from the stalemated copyright wars and towards a more vibrant 'read-write culture' that remixes rather than replaces what came before. The future lies with hybrid enterprises that wisely blend the mercenary 'me' and the charitable 'thee'.
Lessig points out that the act of writing is near-universal. We teach our children how to write at an early age, and the tools to do so have long been accessible. With so much writing going on, there is bound to be appropriation of others' work, but its universal character has meant that no one minds, as long as it is attributed. The accessibility of new tools of digital literacy -- and with them the ability to remix audiovisual works -- is a much more recent phenomenon. Here, Lessig says, our instincts are too often wrongly grounded in the elaborate rules of copyright and licensing practices that date from an era when only big publishers could effectively edit such works. Lessig claims that the new is actually the old: before the rise of mass media, people naturally reworked audiovisual works as they sang the songs or performed the plays of the day. Even the most orthodox copyright proponents did not object. Some, such as composer John P. Sousa, thought this remixing crucial, lest the new "infernal machines" of mass media led to a world only of "the mechanical device and the professional executants". The loss of amateur 'yeoman creators', says Lessig, cheapens and flattens our culture, and worse, alienates us from our kids.
Lessig's ingenious framing makes the late-twentieth-century dominance of read-only culture the outlier, a rut caused by historical accident. It was a particular combination of technological development and some unintended language -- the word 'copies' -- by the drafters of the US Copyright Act of 1909 that vastly expanded the scope of regulation. Free markets and democracy are the respective private- and public-sector innovations that ensure the past does not unduly dominate the future. Lessig fears that if read-write culture is marginalized by the law, this will detrimentally reinforce the status quo; the tenet of 'what is now, ought to be' is one of Lessig's main enemies, as in nearly all of his works. He is desperate for us to reflect on what counts as normal, and what counts as depraved, in a zone too often defined and dominated by soulless lawyers.
The sharing economy that has thrived alongside the Internet greatly intrigues Lessig. Although he concedes that no one has yet fully understood its magic, he is concerned that too much purism can kill it. Here, one can find a quiet remonstrance that content and code are different creatures, and thus some of the types of licence that sharing-oriented people might choose for free software might not be suited to content that is shared. Lessig is the founder of Creative Commons, a non-profit organization that provides creators with flexible copyright licences. In Remix, he outlines the case for licences that make one's work free for non-commercial use but reserve any right to commercial exploitation to the author -- something that is traditionally anathema to the free-software movement.
Lessig approves of sharing activities that fall beneath a corporate umbrella, as long as they are in touch with their volunteer communities, and he sketches what can make them work. In one quietly controversial paragraph, he advocates that the current allocation of copyright infringement liability in these situations should be reversed. For example, YouTube ought to answer more for the copyright infringement of its users because it profits from such transgressions, whereas the infringing users should be protected because their activities amount to non-commercial sharing.
Successful hybrid enterprises abound. Yahoo! Answers is a web-based service to which people post questions and others answer them for payment in the form of non-monetary points. Interestingly, the similar service Google Answers sought to pay contributors outright, and it folded. One wonders what would have happened in the late 1990s if Microsoft's Encarta encyclopaedia had started paying for corrections and improvements from the world at large -- would users of the nascent Wikipedia have felt they were doing for free what otherwise ought to be charged? Other hybrid phenomena -- such as the classified-advertising network Craigslist, wiki-hosting service Wikia and even Google itself -- will soon find themselves competing not only with pure community enterprises such as Wikipedia, but also with a new set of mercenary but distributed services. These include InnoCentive, which awards bounties to those who can solve particular problems, usually in exchange for transferring all rights to the solutions to those paying for them; Amazon's Mechanical Turk, a marketplace for people to do mind-numbing work that still only a human can do; and LiveOps, a 'virtual call centre' that creates communities of independent contractors, each in their own homes, who might take pizza orders one moment and staff a hotline for hurricane survivors the next.
Ultimately, Lessig seeks to shed his copyright-fighter's reputation, acquired in part through his challenge -- for which I was a co-counsel -- to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in the United States. The case was lost in 2003 at the US Supreme Court by a majority of 7-2. Lessig's goal is not to overthrow the current system so much as to temper its shortsighted excesses and to give a little something to everyone. Remix is dedicated both to L. Ray Patterson, a copyright historian who would no doubt have agreed with Lessig's prescriptions for copyright reform, and to Jack Valenti, the late president of the Motion Picture Association of America. Lessig and Valenti debated several times, and agreed on nothing except the observation that our children's values are out of touch with read-only culture and the law that tilts so far in its favour. Lessig hopes to appeal to the Sousa within Valenti's successor and partners, yet as the founder of modern cyberlaw, he has a more ambitious agenda: dealing with what he sees as a more general corruption of the democratic political system originally intended to save us from our economic, legal and cultural ruts. Perhaps Lessig's smaller battle is being won: in late December it was reported that the RIAA was abandoning new lawsuits against individual file sharers. But Joel Tenenbaum's trial continues.
Code 1.0 and Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace, Version 2.0 present the basis of arguments for an informed discussion about the law and its application to our lives as technology, too, enters our lives. They barely argue, but the facts themselves are wonderful agents for provoking arguments, especially amongst the many competing beliefs we may have about what is right, what is just, what is practical, and what is legal.
Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity and The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World are arguments. They are compelling arguments, passionate and brilliant, but they are merely arguments.
What is completely new about Remix is that it finally and fully embraces the human context that was always present in Lessig's writing, but always subordinated to facts and arguments. In Remix it becomes clear that we can no longer dismiss his writings as "of the elite for the elite by the elite". More dramatically, and speaking as a father myself, I believe that the experience of fatherhood has fundamentally altered Lessig's perspective (for all our benefits) and focused the full power of his intellect on the question: how do the errors in our present legal constructs of copyright not only destroy the vitality of our culture and the value of our creative industries, but what are the consequences of finally and fully criminalizing the entire generation of Americans born after the birth of the VCR?
Lessig's thoughts move beyond argument to constructive advocacy: 5 positive reforms that can remedy what we "lefties" believe are a great travesty of law and free culture, potentially reverse what has become a precipitous decline in the value of the creative industries (movies, music, and recorded media especially), and most importantly, give our children the kind of rich cultural heritage that was the birthright of every American born before 1909. Moreover, these 5 positive reforms are expressed with a level of brevity simplicity that even a Congressperson can understand them.
Most provocative and encouraging to me is the way he marries the history of civil rights legislation (including the Civil Rights Act of 1964) to a possible way we could make copyright reform harmless and helpful to all concerned parties--the traditional rights holders in Hollywood and the creative remixers in Brooklyn. His synthesis of the legal mechanics of that great struggle with the great creative/cultural struggle in front of us is true genius.
I fully agree with Lessig that we have created a system that is not only doomed to fail (evidence of which can be read in ever-decreasing unit sales of music), but a system that is doomed to fail our children, comprehensively. Lessig pinpoints the root causes of failure, identifies nascent and successful solutions (the Hybrid Models of Part III), and gives us an actionable and reasonable policy platform. But the reason I give this book 5 stars is not because it agrees with me, but because it reaches out to the other side with arguments and answers that I believe they would be able to accept, because it clearly and cogently speaks to their self-interests as well.
Lessig also talks about sharing/commercial/hybrid economies, and elucidates the differences in each of them.
The anecdotes throughout the book are all enjoyable, interesting, and serve as profound, thoughtful backup to all of Lessig's main points, making the book easily readable for anyone not an intellectual property scholar.
Overall Lessig presents a compelling, well-reasoned angle on a situation that gets a completely inappropriate treatment nearly everywhere else.
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