April 6, 2005 9:45 PM PDT

Lessig preaches openness to Flash faithful

SAN FRANCISCO--Copyright reformer Lawrence Lessig gave Flash developers an earful Wednesday about how their platform of choice is perceived in the free-software world.

"Flash is the enemy," said Lessig, a Stanford University professor and board member of the Free Software Foundation, as he described the opinions of leading free- and open-source-software advocates. These advocates "hate Flash. They think that by participating in the Flash community, you are feeding the devil."

Lessig, addressing attendees of the Flashforward2005 conference here Wednesday, sounded familiar themes in his talk, titled "The Costs of Copyright." He argued that the digital age has created new demands for the sharing of content that old-media copyright law cannot meet. As a result, he said, outdated copyright law is casting a pall over creative expression and education.

Despite the antipathy to Flash prevalent in open-source circles, Lessig called himself a Flash fan and implored designers and artists using the technology to free their work from conventional copyright protections.

Lessig chairs the Creative Commons organization, which offers a variety of intellectual property licenses less restrictive than the standard "all rights reserved." He cited a recent surge in Creative Commons licenses, as well as Yahoo's launch late last month of a search engine specifically for content released under such licenses.

The format for Macromedia's Flash animation software--.swf--has long been open. That means that other developers can create software tools that produce Flash content.

But the technology itself remains under Macromedia's proprietary control. And unlike HTML, which lets anyone inspect a Web page's underlying source code, Flash movies keep that information under wraps.

On that note, Lessig said Macromedia should study the explosive growth of HTML, which created a vast community of Web developers by allowing them to "steal" from one another and expand on each other's work, as compared with the less spectacular growth of Apple Computer's AppleScript scripting language, which hides its code.

"Flash has got to learn this lesson," Lessig said.

Lessig argued that proprietary platforms like Flash had a rightful place on the Internet, but that developers of such technologies ought to loosen restrictions on their creative property.

"It is absolutely critical that we begin to support the development of free content built on proprietary platforms," he said.

He applauded Adobe's Extensible Metadata Plaform (XMP), which allows developers to embed creative commons licenses in every format the company supports.

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The free XML-based Flash Markup Language
This is why I invented the Flash Markup Language (FML) and distribute the free FML to SWF compiler and the free SWF to FML decompiler - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.swfsoft.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.swfsoft.com</a>
Posted by bjorn.backlund (2 comments )
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The free XML-based Flash Markup Language
This is why I invented the Flash Markup Language (FML) and distribute the free FML to SWF compiler and the free SWF to FML decompiler - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.swfsoft.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.swfsoft.com</a>
Posted by bjorn.backlund (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stop Spinning
Paul Festa writes:
Lessig chairs the Creative Commons
organization, which offers a variety
of intellectual property licenses
less restrictive than the standard
"all rights reserved."

... and, then farther down:
Lessig argued that proprietary
platforms like Flash had a rightful
place on the Internet, but that
developers of such technologies
ought to loosen restrictions on
their creative property.

There is no such thing as intellectual "property" or creative "property."
Please stop using your media outlet to spread corporate propaganda.
I have a copy of the happy birthday song in my brain. It's copyrighted. Am I in criminal possession of someone's "property?" Can the holder of the copyright (AOL Time-Warner, I believe) demand that I return their "property" under force of the law? Can they "repossess" their "property" if I am unable to comply? I would certainly put up a fight if they tried, not because I love the song but because it's MY brain and because that song is NOT "property."

Don't believe me? Ask Thomas Jefferson:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody.
Posted by nealda (105 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stop misquoting Thomas Jefferson
You are comparing ideas to creativity which is not a valid comparison. Jefferson understood the value and need for Copyright laws, he was in Congress when the first ones were written!
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
intellectual property?
In all honesty, I'd never given the term "intellectual property" much scrutiny, simply because it's in such widespread use ("World Intellectual Property Organization," "intellectual property" departments at law schools all over the world, about 68 million Google search results and 2195 on News.com).

That said, I'm intrigued by arguments raised against the term. For further reading, see Stallman's page on this subject:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.xhtml" target="_newWindow">http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.xhtml</a>
Posted by (23 comments )
Link Flag
Stop Spinning
Paul Festa writes:
Lessig chairs the Creative Commons
organization, which offers a variety
of intellectual property licenses
less restrictive than the standard
"all rights reserved."

... and, then farther down:
Lessig argued that proprietary
platforms like Flash had a rightful
place on the Internet, but that
developers of such technologies
ought to loosen restrictions on
their creative property.

There is no such thing as intellectual "property" or creative "property."
Please stop using your media outlet to spread corporate propaganda.
I have a copy of the happy birthday song in my brain. It's copyrighted. Am I in criminal possession of someone's "property?" Can the holder of the copyright (AOL Time-Warner, I believe) demand that I return their "property" under force of the law? Can they "repossess" their "property" if I am unable to comply? I would certainly put up a fight if they tried, not because I love the song but because it's MY brain and because that song is NOT "property."

Don't believe me? Ask Thomas Jefferson:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody.
Posted by nealda (105 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stop misquoting Thomas Jefferson
You are comparing ideas to creativity which is not a valid comparison. Jefferson understood the value and need for Copyright laws, he was in Congress when the first ones were written!
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
intellectual property?
In all honesty, I'd never given the term "intellectual property" much scrutiny, simply because it's in such widespread use ("World Intellectual Property Organization," "intellectual property" departments at law schools all over the world, about 68 million Google search results and 2195 on News.com).

That said, I'm intrigued by arguments raised against the term. For further reading, see Stallman's page on this subject:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.xhtml" target="_newWindow">http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.xhtml</a>
Posted by (23 comments )
Link Flag
 

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