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Interview With Lawrence Lessig On Future Rights 148

Posted by Zonk
from the weighty-issues dept.
tres3 writes "In an interview with the O'Reilly Network Mr. Lessig discusses many current issues that may have future legal implications. He starts with MGM's request for Certiorari in the Grokster case. His conclusion is that ReplayTV was forced out of business by a legal challenge, not a legal victory. Lessig continues on to discuss, among other things, The Creative Commons and their new Sampling License and how it may affect the way that some movies and music, that contain samples from other sources, are made in the future. From the article: 'So the same act of creativity in some sense, you know, taking, creating, mixing out of what other people do, is legal in the text world and illegal in the digital media world.'"
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Interview With Lawrence Lessig On Future Rights

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  • by Mr Ambersand (862402) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:12AM (#11792781)
    At this point it is the "copyright holders" who have the gold, and it is they who are making the rules.

    This is a state of affairs which has no hope of changing (look at what is going on with the supreme court and with the EU and the patent fiasco); learn to live with it.

    There's no alternative.
  • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @05:11AM (#11793037) Homepage
    At this point it is the "copyright holders" who have the gold, and it is they who are making the rules.

    Fortunately not. When a license says you can't copy stuff, or a storage medium is copy-protected, more people may pay up for an original. But at the same time, other people may get annoyed, and copy stuff precisely because it's forbidden. So you put something out, and it will be copied. Period.

    Funny: the reverse is also true. You grant some rights that people otherwise wouldn't have (I'm talking GPL or Creative Commons here), on the condition that they obey some rules, and guess what: those rules get ignored too. For software, the BusyBox Hall of Shame [busybox.net] is just one example.

    The only thing licenses, copy-protections etc. do, is keep lawyers busy, and (somewhat) influence the economics involved. But no matter what rules copyright holders come up with, most people don't care, and these rules are ignored. Just check how few people actually read licenses.

  • by blackest_k (761565) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @06:07AM (#11793144) Homepage Journal
    Artistic works and I think you can include software in that definition have a value which is determined by the user.

    As a content producer or copyright holder or patent holder your attitude to this ranges from I couldnt careless to sue the dead granny.

    The big problem in reality is corperate greed, any exchange of files that they originally produced they see as a lost sale that they should have made. This only makes sense if people have the morals of a corperation.

    What it means as a corperation is that your suppliers have no value to you. In physical trade thats seen as footwear manufacturers pay children 50p to produce footwear sold for £50 in supermarkets fixing a milk price below the cost of production, farmers being forced into contracts to supply one supermarket chain then being told the product isn't wanted and it gets left to rot in the fields, At least with our morning coffee we have an idea of how badly the producers are exploited. These are the morals of a corperate world- none what so ever and these are the standards by which we are being judged.

    We will never pay for anything which we can get for free only if punitive damages are made against individuals is there any hope for the copyright holders to scare individuals into paying for copyrighted products.

    Is this true are we just prepared to take and never pay for anything if we can get it for free or near free if we were corperations not people the answer is yes but we are not.

    lets take a look at a legal method of obtaining books software and music and films for free or near free the public libarary should the public libary be sued for damages for the millions of books it regularly distributes to millions if not billions, look at all the lost sales there, or TV perhaps millions of viewers watching films instead of buying them. Lets shut the TV Stations down lets shut the libarys down. These blatent leachers of corperate property.

    The reality is that TV Radio and libarys do in fact generate sales for the copyright holders and so does peer to peer file sharing.

    Artistic works have no value in themselves, what value has a sound or an image
    perhaps the sound of me breaking wind is mine copyrightable for all eternity it is mine I produced it you heard its exquisite tones its delicate textures. so pay me for it then! no perhaps it has no value for you.

    People pay for things they value and can afford simple as that the reality is that human beings have an appreciation of an artists labour and will pay for it without being sued if it has enough value for them.

    If your making a living using someone elses work and you do not pay them for it then punitive actions are reasonable, What is crazy is that the people who make money from selling fake products, selling 'pirated' copies of movies and cd's are operating freely the mpaa will not come after me for buying a copy of a movie from a guy in a market but will if i download it myself.

    Lets just look to the future where copyright is enforced vigourously everything i look at listen too I pay for. well whats going to happen then is i listen to and view a lot less.

    See p2p as a marketing tool that actually increases sales not a method of reducing sales.

    Does an author see a libary as a threat to sales or a method to gain a following a buying readership if the later what is p2p file sharing other than i big libary.
  • by whitespacedout (696269) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @06:18AM (#11793172) Journal
    Well, you and I seem to be of the same conviction. I am sure there are many more people around like that on Slashdot

    What you seem to be suggesting is that evolutionary pressure works against this kind of prohibition, and hence it is dangerous. You did not elaborate on why it is dangerous, and I would be interested in hearing your take on it.

    I would argue that the reason restrictions are dangerous is because they fight against things that would otherwise naturally evolve. If you fight against evolution, you fall behind. If creative thought is restricted, then it will flourish elsewhere and your own culture will fall behind. If you restrict an economy, your economy falls behind. It is no coincidence that the countries with the best quality of life [economist.com] are also mostly the freest. (Actually, that link is a bit of a can of worms. it is a lagging index, where past achievements and good governance count. And Singapore is a remarkable and illustrative special case - free-market under a benevolent dictatorship. Let's not get into that tangent.)

    Anyway, so the danger of restrictions is that they cripple progress in the long run. So, because of this danger, I believe restrictions as government policy should only come about in the rarest of rare cases, AND then only with a safeguard of constantly monitored good governance, AND only in cases where progress may otherwise be impeded. Patents and copyright of derivative works are bad restrictions because progress in the long term is impeded by having them.
  • by turnstyle (588788) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @07:29AM (#11793293) Homepage
    Back during the hype over Danger Mouse's Grey Album, I noted this from the Creative Commons:

    "We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them -- to declare 'some rights reserved.'"

    Among the rights an artist may choose to reserve when configuring their Creative Commons license is "No Derivative Works," explained in cartoon here [creativecommons.org].

    Indeed, the Creative Commons' leading example musician is Roger McGuinn who: "chose the Creative Commons license that maximizes a combination of free distribution with artistic control and integrity." -- note that Roger McGuinn chose "No Derivative Works."

    However, Larry Lessig would take that right away, from a post to his blog [lessig.org]:

    "Should the law give DJ Danger Mouse the right to remix without permission? I think so, though I understand how others find the matter a bit more grey."

    "Should the law give DJ Danger Mouse a compulsory right to remix? That is, the right, conditioned upon his paying a small fee per sale? Again, I think so, and again, you might find this a bit less grey."

    So, what exactly does Creative Commons mean by "some rights reserved" -- would it perhaps be more accurate if they said: "some rights reserved until we can change the laws to take those rights away"?

  • I have a new site (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2005 @08:13AM (#11793398)
    I have a new website, we host in outside of the USA. Even the DNS we host outside the USA. We went to great lengths to ensure we didn't use a company with a USA parent, Rackspace was ruled out immediately.

    The reason is simple, it would take one bogus copyright claim from one hotmail account to bring the site down, or one spurious patent suit to bring the company down.

    It's pure defensiveness, I see things I did in the 80's being awarded as USA patents in the 2000's and I see those bogus patents being used to extract ridiculous sums from anyone who can pay.

    Those patents are junk, but I don't believe companies would reveal their prior art to protect my little company the way everyone did to protect Microsoft from Eolas.
    Without being able to show prior art how could I put up a defence?

    So to me the best defence is not to keep the substance of my company outside the USA and not to contract USA companies if possible.

  • by ramblin billy (856838) <defaultaddy@yahoo.com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @08:40AM (#11793450)
    Wow, I envy your certainty. I've come to find this whole question much more baffling. I used to take software and find ways to use it anyway I wanted. It's incredibly easy to find lots of resources on the net that will provide everything from serials to professional quality reverse engineering tutorials. One day I made myself take a hard look at what I was doing. The truth is that if you are aware of the author's wishes, if you understand that in return for the value you receive from using the program he is asking you to abide by those wishes, and that downloading and using the software is your agreement to the exchange, then violating those wishes is dishonorable. I got rid of my jacked, hacked, and cracked programs. Now I pay if I can't live without the code or it's just so elegant I can't help myself. Mostly I use freeware. You know what? In most cases it's really not as good as the commercial solution. How often have you seen the first few versions of an app as freeware and the perfected product gone commercial. Look I know I have just committed /. heresy, but romantic notions of 'freedom of information' and 'the right to copy, share, and distribute information is a right!" are not tautologies. You make many broad sweeping statements, but most of them are lacking in proof or pertinence.

    You overstate your opponent's position by suggesting that they claim that there is "no incentive" to produce creative content without copyright rewards. How about less incentive? Can you deny that some very creative works were undertaken explictly to reap those rewards? Many creative processes now require a vast amount of resources - too many resources for individuals to provide. Groups that provide those resources usually do so with the expectation of a return on their investment. It might be nice if they did it with the intention of giving the knowledge away to benefit society, but that's just not the case. Shouting from the rooftops that it should be this way does not make it so. You make your arguments seem devious and weak by not acknowledging the reality that profits from copyrights DO create incentives. Moreover, often the people who possess the necessary personalities to amass the resources are motivated primarily by profit - that's why they have all the resources. Certainly a great deal of creative work is done for other reasons, maybe even the best creative work, but to ignore the motivating power of good old greed is ridiculous.

    You also seem to believe that creative content springs spontaneously into being without underlying costs. You say that information does not have natural limits of supply. I say we've got all the creative content we're going to get from Albert Einstein, he reached the natural limit on his supply of time. The fact that the cost of creating must be borne up front, during the process, does not lessen the amount required. It's hard for a man to be creative when he has to spend half his time feeding his family and has to decide between materials for The Project and health care for his kids. On a more selfish note, if I can do something you can't by applying my time and effort, why should you receive the same benefits without sharing the costs? The copyright only gives me the right to set the value on the material, it's up to you to decide if it's worth the price of admission.

    Posts gettin' a little long so.....How can someone who possesses 'artistic genius' require the use of someone else's material to express that genius? Isn't it more likely that those that " copyrights haven't helped a bit, hindered, or even destroyed". have more to blame on the quality of their work than their access to someone else's? What in the hell does saying bad things about the king have to do with modern copyright issues? Is it valid to compare the Renaissance, when copies were made at great expense by hand exclusively for the ruling class, and the case of Dave from Topeka, who has 2000 ripped songs on his hard drive and takes great pleasure in giving them to anyone in
  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @11:10AM (#11793881) Homepage
    And Lessig misses this point, as he is trying for compromise.

    Some related issues:

    If copyrights impose a burden on society (like real estate), why not tax them annually at some self-assessed buyout value (the cost the copyright holder would be content with to have the work in the public domain)?

    Oh, but copyright holders might protest they can not fairly evaluate the copyright as some copyrights make a lot of money, and most do not. But there we have it -- the notion of copyright as a lottery ticket which the essay touches on. Do we want creative works funded as lotteries?

    Also, with the increasing use of automation and robotics, people are less and less needed to produce things, so ultimately most people will become out of work in our society -- unless they get a guaranteed income in terms of a part of the production of the automated systems. If people had such a guaranteed income, then they would not need an incentive to create digital works, and they would not need to receive royalties from copyrights just to get the basics of food, water, shelter, education, manufactured goods, and medical care for themselves and their children.

    So the future you are talking about is bound up into issues like a guaranteed income or fair share of rapidly increasing industrial productivity. So essentially a "Star Trek" like society, with matter replicators -- which are at most ten or twenty years away, as people are using limited prototypes of them now. Remember, thirty years ago, for most people there was no such thing as desktop publishing or local printing. Now you typically get a printer bundled for "free" with a computer. Thirty years from now, it may seem as ludicrous to get something other than raw materials delivered or to go out to shop for an object as it would seem now to have one-off printing done at some remote computer center (as was typical thirty years ago).

    Related links:

    The Abolition of Work
    http://www.deoxy.org/endwork.htm [deoxy.org]

    Robot Nation
    http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-nation.htm [marshallbrain.com]

    The Dream Factory: Any product, any shape, any size - manufactured on your desktop!
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/view.html ?pg=4 [wired.com]

    Getting Paid in Our Jobless Future: Only a guaranteed basic income can ensure economic growth, technological innovation and social welfare
    http://betterhumans.com/Features/Columns/Change_Su rfing/column.aspx?articleID=2003-09-22-1 [betterhumans.com]

    US BIG: The basic income guarantee (BIG) is a government insured guarantee that no citizen's income will fall below some minimal level for any reason. All citizens would receive a BIG without means test or work requirement. BIG is an efficient and effective solution to poverty that preserves individual autonomy and work incentives while simplifying government social policy. Some researchers estimate that a small BIG, sufficient to cut the poverty rate in half could be financed without an increase in taxes by redirecting funds from spending programs and tax deductions aimed at maintaining incomes.
    http://www.usbig.net/ [usbig.net]

    More discussion of "BIG" - Basic Income Guarantee (source of some links)
    http://novogate.com/exco/thread.php?forumid=5374&t hreadid=79208 [novogate.com]
  • by Martin Taylor (861858) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @11:44AM (#11794022)
    You make the assumption that in a world without copyright content-creators will not be able to gain any monetary benefit from their works.

    I say this is flat out wrong. Creative people of all walks of life, in all societies have always been able to make a living. Artists who create things that people like will be elevated in status and supported by those who want to see them continue to create art.

    Money spend previously on the sham that is the record industry will be freed up, the same in many other areas. It no longer makes economic sense to continue to pay for records and things that are inefficient, and anti-free market. Imagine the amounts of money and resources spent on content. These resources will be allowed to be spent in new and better ways.

    Copyright restrictions on a song or a book are just ridiculous from a free-market perspective. If all of a sudden one day we found a method to create "free" energy, we should move to the new method. Keeping an inefficient production system around simply because it is the way we have always done things and you want to protect the jobs of people in the energy industry makes no sense at all.

    When textile mills and outsource-able jobs are no longer efficient or make sense, we simply move to a new system of doing things. Why must we continue to prop up a woefully inefficient system of IP rights that merely serves to restrict a more sensible method?

    If by punching you in the face I could cause no injury and also create grains of rice, then punching you in the face would be a grand thing to do.
  • by GMill (734492) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:54PM (#11794939)
    The worst problem with copyrights is not that they are by nature immoral, but that they are basically incompatible with multipurpose, user programable computers and free peer to peer communication. At the end of the day, in order to enforce copyrights, the state will have to eliminate one or both of the above. This is too high a price to pay for the principal of copyright. Copyright laws should exist as precatory laws to encourage people to pay for the intellectual property they consume and to punish flagrant abusers.
  • by argoff (142580) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:08PM (#11795412)

    If I seem certain, it is only because I come from the side that used to love copyrights as a true freemarket "property" right that "helped" artists. It is only after receiving tons of BS, and personal attacks for asking simple questions like "are copyrights property?" That it slowly became obvious to me that they are such a fraud and a lie. Which is why I question your sincerity, why aren't you asking those simple questions?

    I imagine, if I made an agreement with some one, and then boke it - then that would be dishonerable. But that's allot different than saying we should have massive federally backed restrictions on what people copy, and it is very dishonest to portray it as such.

    Also, here requesting "proof" is totally hypocritical. The people who wish to impose copyrights are the ones screaming grand broad statements and ramming them down our throat, like "I have NO incentive", and "people who copy are pirates". If it's so obvious, then you prove that copyrights are beneficial, afterall it is your side that wishes to ram massive federal restrictions on what people can copy down our throats. IMHO, the burden of proof here isn't on me - I'm just refuting allot of the BS arguments I've herd over the years. Assuming the party line just isn't good enough anymore.

    It is true that the people who create information have natural limits on their time and resources, but that's also very dishonest to portray the limits on their time and resources as the same thing as artificially imposed limits on information distrubution. If anything it shows how getting rid of copyrights will take the focus off of hollywood industry and put it back on individual artists. Funny you should mention Einstein, I don't recall him receiving any royalities for his contrabutions to society, but he did quite well IMHO.

    How can someone who possesses 'artistic genius' require the use of someone else's material to express that genius?

    Ever hear the saying No man is an island

    Isn't it more likely that those that " copyrights haven't helped a bit, hindered, or even destroyed". have more to blame on the quality of their work than their access to someone else's?

    Microsoft/Britney/Madonna that's quality? In fact, IMHO they didn't even do much of their original stuff.

    What in the hell does saying bad things about the king have to do with modern copyright issues? Is it valid to compare the Renaissance, when copies were made at great expense by hand exclusively for the ruling class, and the case of Dave from Topeka, who has 2000 ripped songs on his hard drive and takes great pleasure in giving them to anyone in the world who asks?

    Copyrights exist to encourage information to be dissapated out into the open (see constitution). The fact that things are easier to copy is an argument for less restrictive copy controlls NOT MORE!

    How does calling someone who takes something that does not belong to them without permission a thief relate to "a cold and calculated lie, the one that says "copyrights benefit creative people"?" The copyright exists no matter what the reason - besides - surely copyrights benefit at least some creative people - wishing or screaming that it is a lie does not make it so.

    A thief is defind by another's property loss, not by their personal gain. And no matter how you word it, it is clear to see that copyrights only benefit a few people, eg Madonna. Once again, it is the media that is screaming, not me.

    And please tell me that the reason that "the right to copy, share, and distribute information is a right!" isn't simply that today "Information is so easy to copy and manipulate, there can be no "middle ground". I don't have the right to punch you in the face just because I can.

    Yeah, but if it was your photo copy of my face you have the right to punch it any time .... so please .... feel free. (eventually you'll get it)

    Finally, I know allot of people like me who spent 5K+ to get a RHCE, and others who spent 1000s to by hardware withouthat copy controlls. It's not about freebies, it's about freedom, and untill you get that right there, you'll never "get it".

  • by trehug (863251) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:29PM (#11795940)
    a few years ago, chuck-d announced a contest on napster to remix a PE song. the contest was the first of it's kind on napster, i believe. it was open, interestingly, only to US citizens.
    i wrote to chuck and stated my dismay, first about not being able to enter, since i like to create music and was a big PE fan, and secondly (to what i now give greater importance) about the inherent contradiction in what he was suggesting about the philosophy of freedom regarding sampling and remixing, but yet limiting the musicians who were allowed to enter the contest to the political border of the united states!
    in order to emphasize my point, i ended my note with a quote from one of PE's first - "false media, we don't need it do we? - no we don't chuck, no we don't" and i thought that made some sense at that time.
    i was surprised a day or so later when an aid of chuck's responded to me and said that he had spoke directly to chuck about my note, and that chuck had in fact agreed, and the rules had been changed on napster to reflect that the contest was now open to ANYBODY! also, shortly thereafter, chuck used the slogan "empowering the global hip-hop nation" - a slogan i feel i played an influence in him coming up with.

    to see chuck being involved in this creative-commons remix contest again today, with the support of several other commercially successful artists makes me feel somwhat inspired again today too, and i support it for what that is worth - greetings>

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