August 15, 2006 11:41 AM PDT

An end run round copyright laws?

SAN FRANCISCO--What Linux has done for operating systems, the Internet should do for content, a prominent lawyer and activist urged Tuesday.

Lawrence Lessig railed against prevailing copyright laws and urged use of his alternative creation, the Creative Commons license, speaking to attendees of the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here. The license permits content such as music, video, photos or text to be reused and augmented by others in the same way that the open-source and free software movement permits programs to be copied and modified.

Lawrence Lessig at LinuxWord

Stanford Law School professor Lessig noted that Department of Justice lawyers attacking Microsoft for its Windows monopoly fixated on IBM's vanquished rival, OS/2. But Linux showed that decentralized, nonproprietary operating systems were viable, he said.

"The fight for free culture is harder than the fight for free software. There were no laws against free software, but there are laws that essentially block free culture," Lessig said.

In Lessig's view of the world, lawyers, lobbyists and politicians are building a world of "read only" cultural content. It's "culture that, like potato chips, is to be consumed, not created," he said. In contrast, the Internet is fostering "read-write" content that is collaboratively produced and remixed by groups of people exchanging information.

"Copyright presumptively conflicts with the read-write Internet. Every single use requires regulation permission to be granted presumptively," Lessig said.

The Creative Commons license is essentially an end run around that copyright law, and Lessig boasted of its success in the last four years: As of June, 140 million content items on the Internet link back to the license, and Google and Yahoo search engines can filter for content using the license.

Lessig showed a variety of videos that mix animations or news footage with music to illustrate how copyrighted material can be combined to produce political commentary or humor. Such remixing will happen whether or not there's a legal framework for it, but Lessig argued in favor of building one that doesn't label the activity as piracy.

"You must ask whether the values built into our society--to ignore the rule of law--are the values we want to raise our children to understand," he said.

Free networks
Linux has demonstrated that it's possible to build operating systems and software that lets customers bypass Microsoft's control. The Creative Commons, Lessig hopes, will do the same in letting people exchange content without reliance on entrenched media powers.

At a lower level, the technology that routes data across the Internet, TCP/IP, is an open protocol. But the physical networks used by TCI/IP give industry players another point to control the flow of information, Lessig said.

Lessig argued that networks need not be closed and proprietary, however, because wireless networks provide a way to bypass the "last mile" of networks that today link customers to networking companies.

"Everyone is focused on the only possible way to build broadband infrastructure, to turn over the soul of the Internet to Comcast and AT&T. I wonder if we're not missing something," he said. "There's an explosion of municipal and ad-hoc wireless networks. The people building them will have no incentive to control how people use the network. As you see these miniclouds exploding above cities, the last-mile problem is solved."

Networking companies have lobbied aggressively against government-funded wireless networks, arguing that it competes with private-sector services. But people need to look carefully at what the role of governments in supplying infrastructure before labeling supporters of publicly funded wireless networks as Communists, Lessig said.

Nobody complains that there aren't private companies competing to build streetlights to supply photons when it's dark, Lessig said. "We have this weird disconnect between what we take for granted about local infrastructure services," he said.

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Still Waiting To See
How a print author can make a buck using Creative Commons.
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not difficult...
Creative commons typically gives you more or
less the rights that people informally assume
for themselves. That is to say, if you publish a
book, there's little to prevent someone from
making photocopies, yet books still sell. With a
creative commons license you'd be granting the
person the right to make the copies, just not to
sell them -- which is just what people do
anyway, except the CC license actually grants
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
802.11N gives every citizen 500 megs. free.
one cooperative free networks like 802,11n reach the tipping point, the last mile becomes free.

and fast. i read the first prelim specs and figured 100 megs... equal to 100 base T... good target. Someone at a trade show told me it calculated to 128... Later, guys actually playing with this stuf said they are getting real world 500 Meg Data Paths.

Add bit torrent, or, better, Microsoft AVALANCHE, an example of throwing lots of money at the bit torrent idea.

Now imagine your computer and a hundred thousand of your neighbors, each with 3 megs of bandwidth. If your torrent engine is also connected to the 802.11N wireless side, you and the tiny percentage of your neighbors that want to watch the same movie, say 5%. 5,o00 3 meg connections is a 15 GIGABYTE vrtual connection to Internet 1 or Internet 2 easily filling the local 500 M. thats 20 live HDTV programmes.

it is not the end of telcos as we know them, but the survivers will be the backbone players and content providers that pump bits and bytes into the network.

santa please send me a sleigh full of SEAGATES.
Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Reply Link Flag
is going to design, build and maintain this "free" wireless network?

Maybe a bucgh of jobless software makers now that they have a bunch of free time.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
Umm, maybe not.
It is a review for a Pre-N one, but the bandwidth they list is FAR under your numbers:
<a class="jive-link-external" href=",1759,1668050,00.asp" target="_newWindow">,1759,1668050,00.asp</a>
Posted by mikebur (9 comments )
Link Flag
Pure communism. If you take away the financial incentive to make money in the world of software, innovation will slow down by 90%.

Most people that work in the software business because they can earn a decent living&.NOT because they love it.

Sure there the hobbyists that love it, but not enough of them to keep creating new software that does more to help society at the current pace we have today.

"You must ask whether the values built into our society--to ignore the rule of law--are the values we want to raise our children to understand," he said.

Sorry my children will learn the values of hard work and its rewards, respect for others work, and how THEFT is a bad thing. Most importantly they will learn that following so called society norms is not always the best thing to do.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not communism
I really disagree that free software of CC is tantamount to communism. I'm myself a firm believer in free market and "capitalism" as well as a Linux user.
In case you haven't noticed yet, there is a lot of innovation going on in the free software world.Just think about Amarok for exemple, and compare this wonderful, powerful yet surprinsingly easy to use software with Apple's Itunes.

Of course, I understand that some software cannot and should not be developped solely by hobbyists (that which is used only by a handful of companies with a very specific task in mind and whose mass-divulgation would neither interest nor benefit the general public).

Nevertheless, I believe that more people than you suppose are ready to develop software just for the fun of it and without any pecuniary consideration.
Posted by damienlittre (33 comments )
Link Flag
Good Comment!
Björn Lundahl
Göteborg Sweden
Posted by Björn Lundahl (253 comments )
Link Flag
Before you dismiss it as communism I suggest you go read some of the CC licenses. They don't require you to give up making money from the content. What a lot of the license do allow for is various degrees of use of that content for the purpose making new content.
Disney built their empire off the Grimm fairy tails, which where in the public domain. What Lessig doesn't seem to like is that Disney etc push for new laws (copyright extensions etc)that prevent more recent works from entering the public domain. The framers of the constitution recognized that there is a net social good in giving authors a high degree of control over their work for a limited time then allowing that work to pass into the public domain so others can use it make new works.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
Then why is most of the innovation being done today is in the realm of open source?

Besides, what makes you think that all these open source projects are being done by hobbyists? Sure hobbyists join in when they want to, but OSS is a multi-billion dollar industry. People are making very good livings writing open source software.

Ignorance about open source is astounding. Besides, open source is very much in line with copyright and leverages copyright law. It is not public domain. Who owns the copyright to Linux, Perl, Apache,ect? People and companies do. It is copyrighted.

If the CC does in fact do a run around copyright law it has nothing in common with open source.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
What Will You Teach Your Children?
"Sorry my children will learn the values of hard work and its rewards ..."

What will you teach your children about theft? Will you teach them how corporate American is stealing from the public domain that which our forefathers wished to create by onerous and long-lived copyright laws? If you don't understand why that's theft, you don't understand the purpose of U.S. copyright law at all!

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
We've seen that is not the case, and even today
there is plenty of very important software that
is a loss leader that is very actively
developed. The financial incentive for software
development is not disappearing, it's changing.

There are parts of the market that might be
adversely be effected, but we're already seeing
a shift from software being a product to it
becoming a commodity or a service. In both
cases, innovation seems to be much quicker
namely because there's a two-fold requirement
that you address niche problems while
maintaining standards compliance and flexibility
to adapt to other niches.

I'd also point out that most commercially sold
software has no objective to help society. As a
matter of fact, commercial interests are legally
required to act in the interest of investors to
garner a profit -- even if doing so is contrary
to helping society or even the economy as a
whole. If people wanted to help society, they'd
identify problems and solve them even when doing
so is not profitable or perhaps might eliminate
certain commercial markets for goods and

As for theft -- what you are railing on about
isn't theft (by US law), it's copyright
infringement. Philosophically and legally the
difference between the crime and the tort is
enormous. Don't confuse your kids by confusing
the two. And while it's good to teach your kids
to respect the law, you ought to point out that
corporate interests have influenced the legal
system to the point that copyright law no longer
serves the purpose for which it was created: to
exchange a limited monopoly on creative works in
exchange for their entry into the public domain
(originally, within 1/2 a generation so that
works would not be forgotten or lost). Your
children ought to recognized when they are being

Lastly, "social norms" with regard to copyright
are very important because those norms define
the "fair" of fair use with regard to the access
and use of copyrighted works. So in this
particular case, "social norms" are the only
reasonable guide they have since the law
intentionally avoids a concrete definition.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
End Run Around Copyright? -- Nonsequitor
An author automatically holds a copyright to their writings,
period. But the holder of that copyright, then, by statute (Title
17 of the United State Code, Section 106) has the following
exclusive rights: (exclusive means only the author has these
rights -- no one else).
1) Make reproductions
2) Make derivative works
3) Distribute copies to the public by sale, rent, lease;
4) Perform the copyrighted work (where that makes sense, of

Copyright law creates a property right to your intellectual
property. Since this is your property, you can pretty much do
what you want with it. How much and what rights, if any, you
want to grant to others is up to you. However, history has shown
that many copyright owners (musicians, writers (including such
folks as professors in the publish or perish world of academia)
are required to give up most of these rights to publishers in
order to have them published in the first place.

The Creative Commons License and other licensing contracts of
a similar nature, simply, by contract, grants to
others, the above 4 rights subject to restrictions (this is just
plain old contract law). The authors under these licenses hold
strong control of their intellectual property rights, unlike most
other licenses dictated by large publishing houses (magazine,
journals, book publishers, etc). To be specific, these licenses do
not place the works in the public domain, and do not require
others to place their works in the public domain either -- a
common misconception.

So, contrary to Lindy01, "to ignore the rule of law", is precisely
not what is happening. These licenses demand that the rule of
law be enforced. If I, as an author, decided, on my own volition,
to allow you to use, perform, or derive works from my property,
you have to abide by my contract conditions. If you don't like the
conditions I place on your use of my property, then you may not
use it.

Standard rule of law contracts and my property rights under the
Posted by lawrencewinkler (56 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, following the society norm is not always the best thing to do!
Violation of copyright is a violation of contract and theft of property and this regardless of state laws. If someone sells his property to a person under the condition that the buyer has no right to copy it, the buyer has all rights to the property except the right to copy it. That is, as long as the property is a physical object and is alienable. To find out more on this position go to; (<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>).
Björn Lundahl
Göteborg Sweden
Posted by Björn Lundahl (253 comments )
Link Flag
You are provably wrong
All of the innovation that made the internet in the first lace was done by "commie" govt. grants and DARPA research apid for by the US taxpayers. If you had had your way, we woudl be hearing about how the internet is such an advanced and expensive systme to maintain that it will never be practical for the average citizen to use.... only big corporations can afford it... and of course we wouldn't have all the economic activity and vibrancy and all the capital and information that we have now, either.. it would be locked inside whatever wall gave the COMPANIES OF THE DAY the most profit....there's s difference between being pro business and pro- THIS SPECIFIC BUSINESS... business and capitalism are flourishing because we the people got together and decided to invent something FOR THE COMMON GOOD and make all those protocols and all themillion other things that make an internet available for FREE.... we want to keep going in that direction .... economic activity and prosperity follows.. AS WE HAVE PROVEN.... Narcissic Captialists with infantile notions of reality into which they dogmatically shopehorn every event and situation GAVE US NOTHING .... go read another (bad) Ayn Rand novel and stop using OUR FREE protocols paid for by the taxpayer....
Posted by asdf (241 comments )
Link Flag
Advertiser-Supported Copyright is a Better Model
A copyright permissions system that locks down all content is not conducive to creativity, innovation, or the free-flow of ideas. On the other hand, creators need to make a living and they certainly deserve full credit (attribution) for their works -- too many people "borrow" the ideas, images and sounds of others and pass them off as their own. A new model being tested by is advertiser-supported permissions. It allows users to "freely" use (repurpose) content created by others, with advertisers compensating the original creator. This hybrid model between free uses and paid uses promises to work to everyone's benefit.
Posted by Mike_L_ODonnell (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You're simply shifting the cost from...
... you to someone else. It's like going to mom and dad -- after you've left home and gotten a job -- and asking them to buy you a car in exchange for putting a plaque on the dash that says "Courtesy of John and Mary Smith." The notion of advertiser support is just another way to avoid taking the responsibility to pay for the things you want. And consider how ludicrous it would be to ask Warner Music to buy ads to pay its own artists so that you can listen to their music.
Posted by peteraltschuler (19 comments )
Link Flag
Open source is by far not enough!
Businesses need all sorts of softwares. Just think of it! Just think of what, for example, General Motors needs! Open source is by far not enough. If some people are motivated in making softwares for other motives than money, that is fine. If some people are motivated in making softwares for money, that is also fine. If enough people are willing to make enough amount of demanded softwares for free, no one will pay for any softwares either. That is good! In a free market, people with different motivations are allowed to work and to be creative. Everyone is therefore motivated! Society benefits! So let the markets decide, but empirically, as mentioned, open source is by far not enough in supplying all demanded softwares. I myself, though, cant really understand what the point is in making softwares for free. I am not talking about commercial freeware (which are made for the motivation of making money), but, generally, the open source ones. Why not build cars, houses, hardwares and everything for free. Why be so focused on softwares? What is the point? We all need money to make a living and the market need prices to guide production to those areas where it is most demanded, and society as a whole can not truly, therefore, rely upon the open source philosophy. In other words, it can not guide all production. The system of profit and loss can and does that all the time.
Björn Lundahl
Göteborg Sweden
Posted by Björn Lundahl (253 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's not about software!
Either you or I is completely missing the point of the first part of
the article. The open source, Free software Linux model was
just an analogy for the actual object of Lessig's talk, which was
*content* - music, word, video, images, etc. The Creative
Commons license is designed for those types of creative works.
The adjectives "read/write" and "remix" apply to those types of
cultural works, NOT the software. Now, your argument about
incentive still applies, but it is much weaker here. Artists expect
to be poor to begin with :). P.S. the plural of "software" is
Posted by scottk0640 (23 comments )
Link Flag
Creative Commons: Science Commons to stabalize the future world
What's needed mostly now is Data freedom. Trading information and ideas, like science. There are too many inventions like Faster then Light science that are being worked on now very privately that others need to know about or companies and governments hide it away and use it agasint us.
We will never havea faster then light spaceship if the tech isn't opened up becase government will deem it to unsafe.

The Science Commons is the biggest ticket for the future. Science today is not filtering into the communites health. Look at us all. We are fat and unhealthy. The Sciene commons will change all that and create an open fresh society.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Agree With Lessig, But ...
I Agree with Lessig's remarks about read-only cultural content. However, I also agree that authors need a chance to make money.

The problem isn't that there is copyright law. It's that copyright owners think they have some right to make every last penny out of this cultural content, until the public loses interest in it. Just look at the "Disney Law" change of copyright duration from 50 to 70 years.

What's needed is much shorter copyright duration--similar to patent law. Remember: The purpose of copyright law (as determined by our founding fathers) is to encourage new creation. Provide a profit, for a time, then wean the author from it so he provides us with another creative work. We've totally lost sight of that.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Relevant Article--Purpose of Copyright Law
Here's a relevant article about the purpose of copyright law:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
It's called intellectual PROPERTY...
... for a reason. According to Lessig, everything should, at some point, be owned by everyone. That's great if your name is Marx, but it doesn't work in a capital economy. Extending Lessig's logic, you can only own your house for a certain period. After that, anyone can use it. Same for your car. In fact, in Lessig's view, anything collaborative should be free for the taking -- the engineering specs of a laptop, for instance. Yet competition, rather than duplicate, forces improvements to what's already out there and renders the current "stuff" obsolete. In the cultural realm, though, there is no competition in the usual sense. Lessig, though, thinks it's OK to appropriate cultural property and do anything you want with it. Buy one CD or download one song and, he feels, you should be able to make copies for the world. By that reasoning, if one person buys a concert ticket, s/he should be able to invite a stadium full of friends who get in for nothing, record the performance, and distribute it worldwide. It's preposterous. If property -- land, houses, possessions, etc. -- can be held through generations, then intellectual property is no different.
Posted by peteraltschuler (19 comments )
Link Flag
No Single Solution
This is fantastic idea but I wouldn't conclude it is a better model, but rather an optimum model for certain authors. Information distribution will thrive under a multiple-model system with producers and consumers utilizing those copy-protection systems that best suite their needs.
Posted by johncwalker (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nice posts from all
After reading the majority of posts, I have to congradulate all of you. Seldom do I see a discussion that doesn't spew nonsense. The opinions I've seen here express valid concerns and mutual respect for others thoughts and ideas. Thank you all.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Reply Link Flag
wont work
That might work for comic books where making a color copy would cost more than buying it. But what about books with a limited distrubution. Take text books for example. A school or university could easily run off copies in a print shop for far less than a student could buy it for. The school could then include the cost of book into tuition and there would no longer be any incenive for text books to be updated or even written. How about the JAMA, one copy for a hospital and every doc would have one for next to nothing. Again, the incentive would be lost for publishing.

This would only work for content that has no interest to the public or private sector yet the author just wants it spread as widly as possible, so who really cares, or for works that are published to increase sales of a physical product.
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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