back to article Lessig gives up on Free Culture

Well, that's it. You'll never have to listen to Stanford professor Larry Lessig talk about Free Culture again. Lessig is moving on - to fight the good fight against "Corruption". The technology-leaning lawyer announced this last year, but has continued to discuss Wikipedia, the Creative Commons and the like. That is until …


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  1. Don Mitchell

    Lessig Schmessig

    When someone makes a forture in cash, like Bill Gates, it is easy to arouse jealousy and accuse them of being greedy. But people are much poorer at recognizing other forms of greed, like the greed of the demogogue.

    The philosopher Eric Hoffer described this well in his book "The True Believer". Intellecuals who try to start mass movements and engineer society claim to act out of altruism, but more often they are simply acting out their frustrated desire for status. They denounce property and capitalism and political institutions, because they failed to become a player at that level of achievement.

  2. Paul Johnson
    Thumb Down

    Missed the point

    Lessig hasn't abandoned his copyright reformation attempts, its just that he doesn't see any real hope of progress on this issue until the corruption problem is fixed. At present The Mouse can effectively buy (via campaign contributions) enough legislators to push through almost anything they want. We can't fix the copyright problems until we can fix the corruption problems.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How smart men act dumb

    Lessig seems to miss one massively fundamental thing; copyright is not a mere point of law -- in a culture founded on the ownership of private property the two are absolutely indivisible. You can't have the ownership of property without copyright and vice versa. The value of nearly any and all material goods is in the intellectual property otherwise nearly everything can be reduced to a small subset of commodities the majority of which have only minor value.

    Unless you challenge the concept of private property then you can't divide it from copyright; the idea of capitalism without protection of intellectual property is absurd.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    @ Don


    You do realise that by the same logic one could easily argue that everyone does things for selfish reasons. Hoffers' explanation is certainly plausible and maybe in some cases correct. However what he fails to point out at all in that book is the fact that those who have Achieved the heights of selfish & greedy behaviour such as Bill Gates all perform the role of Demagogue and even worse it's the people with the money who can act without the consent of the people.

    Intellectuals have to have a humanitarian, ethical bent on their views because they require the consent of the people as they neither have the political or financial power to corrupt the mechanisms of society to their will. I'm sure i could waste time quoting from Hoffer and his ilk in order to impose a sense of legitimacy in my attempt to divert people from the real problem of inequality.

    As far as I can tell the world is in a shoddy state because of bill gates types not renaissance men.

    Lest we not forget that Hoffer himself has stated that he wrote that book in order to have a go at other intellectuals because he himself was jealous of their ability to come up with genuinely useful solutions to societal problems. In closing i would also like to point out that some of the most altruistic outcomes come from selfish acts, take the creating of the GNU toolset, that was all because Stallman <praise be his name> wanted to have a bunch of free tools he could use. I wonder also like to see you explain away how Copyleft and other altruistic movements have somehow given Richard Stallman an ego boost, If you've ever met these types of intellectuals you'd realise that most of them are no more than potters or tinkers the kind of personalities your suggests only exist in big business ;)

    <\Tweed Jacket with the pens in the breast pocket please\>

    Tux because he's not pigopolist :D

  5. Mike Powers

    Did he actually, seriously compare the internet to tubes?

    Because I seem to recall a government figure being roundly mocked for doing that a few months ago.

  6. Ashlee Vance (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Missed the point

    I realize this is what Lessig claims but have a look at his blog these days. He's obsessed with politics and now firmly part of a much less interesting clan. I'm with Don. This man is more concerned about being a religious leader than change.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Jealous detractors prove the value

    "I realize this is what Lessig claims but have a look at his blog these days. He's obsessed with politics and now firmly part of a much less interesting clan. I'm with Don. This man is more concerned about being a religious leader than change."

    Religious leades or intellectuals craving for publicity quickly get addicted to their craving and make blunders. CC is a blunder?

    If you think LL is a seasoned intellectual publicity craver, you should probably do some thinking about the list of bugs he perceives and is tying to fix. He's probably feeling helpless and has realized that this isn't going too far and that thing over there - it's becoming worse by the passing hour. So chuck this and go there (greed & white house). OTOH, he could also have installed a stable trustworthy leadership hierarchy and moved on to fix a bigger bug.

    In any case, from the point of view of **even-higher** statured observers like youself and Don, you should be happy that this publicity craver is doing a lot of the dirty work of reform - talking, taking shit, talking, taking shit, talking - on a daily basis, without *you* having to move a finger. He's *your* servant, if you like it that way. Order him around correctly. He'll keep seeking publicity and keep doing good things.

    There! I've told you how to make good use of him, in true political fashion.

    LL, keep up the good work!

    Free Culture Fanboy

  8. Dr Stephen Jones

    So whoever you vote for, Google gets in?

    "At present The Mouse can effectively buy (via campaign contributions) enough legislators to push through almost anything they want."

    Follow the money.

    Viacom market cap: $2.3 bn

    CBS market cap: $17.5 bn

    Sony market cap: $46 bn

    Vivendi market cap: $47 bn

    Google market cap: $161 bn

    Poor, poor Google!

    Professor Lessig knows where the money is, even you don't.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    @mike powers

    Indeed you are correct, although the Ted Stevens speech referred to the whole internet as a series of tubes. Lessig on the other hand seems to be trying to redefine the colloquialism 'tubes' as meaning only sites hosting swf based media player apps. I'd send him an internet noting my disgust, but these free content types tend to reply with yet more crap that noone wants to read.

  10. Eric Van Haesendonck
    Thumb Up

    Has corporate money become a problem?

    I remember when I was young and I was reading all these cyberpunk stories where megacorporations were keeping peoples in some kind of economic slavery, with the governements acting as their puppets.

    A the time I thought that this would never happen, that the democraticaly elected governements of the world would keep the control regardless of the money accumulated by corporation. That there would be a balance between the democraticaly elected governement power and the economic power of corporations. After all, you can't buy votes.

    When I look at the American political system now however it seems that you need corporate money to be able to be elected in the US governement. That is causing an huge problem, as this would mean that the peoples in charge of balancing the corporate money's power with the citizen's vote power is dependent on corporate money.

    I understand that this situation is concerning Lessig more than the copyright problem. If I was living in the US (which thankfully I am not) it would concern me much more also.

  11. Joe M

    @How smart men act dumb

    You have described clearly and succinctly the root of the problem. The problem is that many, many people like you haven’t got the foggiest clue about what constitutes “ownership” in our society. You glibly accept that the right to possess particular knowledge automatically gives one the right to deny others from possessing it.You also confuse “the right to make money” with the “right to own something”. Because of this you are able to make absurd statements like; “…in a culture founded on the ownership of private property…”.

    Private property has nothing to do with culture; it’s a social necessity! It exists because we humans have proved, over and over again, that we are unable to share things equitably and peacefully. I agree that it as a necessity, and I agree that we must protect it because the alternatives have been shown to be disastrous. But your implication to extend this protection to “intellectual property” for the sake of our society is rubbish.

    The whole concept of intellectual property is a manufactured notion, which has no basis in any fundamental rights and is a bad and corrosive concept. The original formulations of Western patent laws, for example, make it very clear that the legislators considered the associated monopoly rights to be a necessary evil, and formulated limitations in time and extent to mitigate it. They felt that the benefits of stimulating innovation by appealing to creative self-interest were worth paying the price. But this trade-off was never, ever conceived as a form of ownership. (Disclosure: I have my name on nine patents. They will never see the light of day—they are what's known as blocking patents; taken out by my ex-company to stop others innovating. Corruption on a grand scale! And don’t start me on patents…please.)

    Copyright hasn’t even got this small public policy element. The current copyright regime in the United States, which mandates lifetime plus 70 years, is a grotesque perversion of any notion of public benefit or fair play. It clearly illustrates that copyright has nothing to do with any social policy and is now simply here to enrich a layer of parasitic shysters. I note with interest that “copyright holder” has quietly replaced the words “artist” or “creator” in news and literature.

    So I’m afraid I don’t agree with you at all. Lessig is not nearly as dumb as you make him out. In fact, I think he understands ownership rights a lot better than you do.

    The Register is an excellent forum for airing these concerns because both creators and consumers of intellectual works read it. I am sorry about my strong views on this subject, I do not wish to offend anyone. But as a person who has watched the increasing corruption of the public domain over the decades, I think my contribution may be helpful.

  12. Mark SPLINTER

    ownership whatever

    As a "content creator" I have to say I don't give a flying fuck who "owns" my "content" as long as I am paid fairly for it. All I want to "own" is the money, i.e. the ability to get something back from my effort. If my work makes some noncreative middleman distributor a million bucks, I want more than $0.02. OK? Is that too much to ask?

    I am sick of this "if they were no huge clever capitalist distibutors then artists wouldn't have an audience" bullshit. Fact is, big media have shown how pathetic they are at coming up with content on their own, the audience has shown how little it cares for big media, so we should be saying "If there were no clever artists then capitalists wouldn't have a revenue stream".

    And copyright for life plus 70 years? that's just a fucking joke. If you can't make your money in 5 years, or write (god forbid) ANOTHER album, then fuck off.

    We just installed a vocal booth in our studio. Shall I pay the builders revenue from everything we record there? For life plus 70 years? Fucking bullshit. They are now doing another job, as opposed to buying an artificial island off the coast of Dubai.

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