Lessig on Free Culture

At SXSW, Larry Lessig gave a stirring and eloquent speech about copyright and the freedom to create culture. And he explained to an audience of designers and bloggers how using the Creative Commons license can help.
Congress keeps extending terms of copyright, far beyond the limited terms specified by the founders. Today, most content produced in the last century is locked up, even though it is out of print and inaccessible.
Disney, a company that has led the charge to extend copyright, created its own popular works — Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Little Mermaid, Aladdin — from works in the public domain. New culture depends on free content, and content isn’t free.
One of the most striking points in the talk was Lessig’s explanation that we have free speech in the realm of politics, but we don’t have free speech in the realm of culture, since corporations now own most cultural content.
Lessig tried to clear the copyright logjam, by taking the Eldred case up to the Supreme Court, and lost the case. Creative Commons is an alternate strategy that bypasses the current extreme copyright policy, by creating a realm of moderate copyright law. Instead of the standard copyright, with “all rights reserved”, an artist publishes work using a license holding “some rights reserved.” For example, there’s a new music licence that forbids copying the entire song, but permits “sampling.”
The Creative Commons project intends to create a new reality in which large quantities of content are protected by more moderate licenses. I think this is a great idea, and will look at Creative Commons license for this blog.
But it’s not enough. More on this in the next post.

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