Archive:Lessig's free culture

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It was culture, which you didn't need the permission of someone else to take and build upon. That was the character of creativity at the birth of the last century. It was built upon a constitutional requirement that protection be for limited times, and it was originally limited.

--Lawrence Lessig

Free Culture, according to Lessig, is a culture where you don't have to ask permission to create something. Where you are free to take your car apart and add improvements, to create your own versions of art and literature, to look at the source code of software and create your own modifications, in effect, to explore and expand upon the world as given, without paying tribute.

Lessig supports a limited protection of intellectual property, similar to what existed in the early 18th century in England. This protection was for 14 years in 1790. It has since been increased to life of the author plus 70 years, and with the recent Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act it may be increased indefinitely.

What does this mean? It means that when Alice Randall wrote her parody of Gone With The Wind,The Wind Done Gone,telling the classic story from the slaves' perspective, she was "slapped with a lawsuit that cost more than $100,000 to overcome. Lawyers for Gone With the Wind's publisher were even demanding that all printed copies of The Wind Done Gone be incinerated." [1] It means that with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act companies can try to sue other companies over innovations that are rudimentary and basic. Furthmermore, the DMCA can be used to silence professors or imprison software programmers. And this is only the beginning.

Those who have power will seek to maintain power, and they will use whatever resources are available. If they can control ideas you have access too via trusted computing, or the DMCA, or through copyright, they will, and if they succeed, we, the enslaved, won't even know about it.

Lawrence Lessig's freeculture is about community. It's about sharing good ideas without paying tribute. It's about taking things apart to see how they work and improving on them. It's about cooperation and self-empowerment. It's about freedom.