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Why Free Culture is Important

What is a free culture�

Free culture is a grassroots approach to culture. Creativity and innovation do not happen in a vacuum; everyone builds on the work of the past. Along with other issues, a free culture will have sensible copyright right law to both protect creators but also to encourage them to continue their vibrant work.

Our tradition of free culture

The U.S. constitution contains the sensible appraoch to copyright: "the Progress of Science and useful Arts." The founders established a very clear system for promoting a culture of progress: creators could register a creation for copyright protection for a period of 14 years (and were granted one opportunity to renew the copyright for another 14 years) before their work would pass into the public domain. Once work is in the public domain, it is free for anyone to copy, alter, or build upon without permission of the original author.

Threats to our freedom

In the last century, free culture has come under attack. From academics to bloggers to film makers to scientists, creators are finding themselves slapped with lawsuits for building on and being influenced by the past.

Some recent (since 1976) radical changes in IP laws and how they affect us:

1976 Revision of the U.S. Copyright Act: Made registration for copyright protection automatic.
1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act: This law extended duration of copyright protection to life of the author plus 70 years.
1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act

As the founders envisioned, intellectual property scholar and lawyer Lawrence Lessig calls for a lawyer free zone in our culture where people can build upon past creativity without having to worry about being sued.

Take Action!

Resources The book (available for free online) by Lawrence Lessig An international student movement for free culture Free legal tools to help you build your own copyright The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for protecting digital rights