Praise for Lessig and Free Culture

freeculture.JPGMany who follow technology and intellectual property know Larry Lessig’s work. His work has even inspired odd Austrians to compose odes to him. His books have already become touchstones for those fighting in the copyright wars. Nonetheless, one part of Lessig’s work, Free Culture, deserves special notice. (the link takes one to, of course, a free version of the book). It is the part about the Eldred case. For in it Lessig offers a humble and inspiring account of his work on the case. His retelling of what happened and most importantly of where he may have gone wrong in arguing the case offers a glimpse of someone willing to reflect on his acts and rather than rage against the Court direct his energy into seeing what went wrong. In addition, the tale shows how ideal law theory may not play out in the courts. It shows that sometimes the courts may not be ready for the case. It shows that policy and politics can and do animate decisions. Indeed, Lessig admits that whereas in other contexts he used persuasion regarding the urgency and importance of limited terms for copyright, here he chose to argue the pure Constitutional ideal at stake. Thus even if one is not interested in intellectual property law, take a read of the chapter on Eldred. It is an impressive lesson in litigation and policy advocacy taught by a brilliant instructor. If he could err in this way, so could anyone. So read it, appreciate it, and learn from it.

cross-posted at Madisonian

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Stokie says:

    I’m glad he lost. High-tech stealing is still stealing.

  2. Stokie says:

    I’m glad he lost. High-tech stealing is still stealing.

  3. Bruce Boyden says:

    Stokie, the issue in Eldred was extension of the term for copyrights, from 75 years to 95 years for films, and even longer for most books and other works. You can be in favor of anti-infringement measures and still oppose term extension.

  4. Deven Desai says:

    Thanks for the comments. Stokie, I think Bruce nailed a key point. In fact, you may enjoy the book and be surprised. Lessig explicitly states that he does not want anarchy (no property or contract). So given that the book is available for free, take a read. I am not saying you will agree with him but engaging with his or other arguments may sharpen your position. Here’s a quote to tempt you.

    “Instead, the free culture that I defend in this book is a balance between anarchy and control. A free culture, like a free market, is filled with property. It is filled with rules of property and contract that get enforced by the state. But just as a free market is perverted if its property becomes feudal, so too can a free culture be queered by extremism in the property rights that define it. That is what I fear about our culture today. It is against that extremism that this book is written.” Preface, xvi