Revolution Lullabye

June 8, 2009

Lessig, Free Culture

Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture. The Penguin Press, 2004.

Lessig argues that current copyright law, coupled with digital technologies that allow big media corporations to regulate how their copyrighted content is used, is quickly eroding the public commons and our national tradition of a free culture. He uses an anecdotal, qualitative approach in this book intended for a general public audience, centering his argument on how piracy and property are defined and argued about. He focuses on peer-to-peer file sharing, showing that only a percentage of the P2P sharing that occurs actually is copyright infringement. Lessig argues that copyright law must adapt to the new technology of the Internet and be reduced in term and scope. He has lobbied (unsuccessfully) for the adoption of the Eldred Act, an act that does not change the long length of copyright protection given in the Sonny Bono Copyright Act of 1998, but does require copyright holders to register and pay a nominal $1 fee to renew their copyright. Lessig argues that copyright law with more formalities (digital registration and renewal), required renewal periods, a reduced term and scope for derivative protection, and a regulated compensation system to pay artists through P2P sharing is a copyright law that will restore the balance between protection and freedom, a balance that has been lost. He also advocates for authors and other creators of IP material to choose to protect their work under a Creative Commons license, a license that allows creators to extend the fair use of their work by others.

Quotable Quotes

“the future will be controlled by this dead (and often unfindable) hand of the past” – the problem with long copyright terms with uncertain owners, no one wants to risk expensive litigation.

“That while the Internet has indeed produced something fantastic and new, our government, pushed by big media to respond to this ‘something new,’ is destroying something very old” (13) – the tradition of free culture, copyright law and balance

“Free cultures are cultures that leave a great deal open for others to build upon; unfree, or permission, cultures leave much less” (30).

Notable Notes

importance of balance

allow for copyright protection for works that have commercial value. Since most of the works that are currently covered do not have value, free them up for cultural use

we need to teach our students to be producers of culture, not just consumers – this is hard in an increasingly copyrighted American world

copying – a central theme of both copyright and plagiairsm

corporations are using their political power to change copyright law in order to stifle Internet-based creativity, which will democratize the creative process and competition

43 million Americans do P2P sharing. Are they all criminals? The four different kinds of piracy, of P2P file sharing. HOw can it be good?

anticircumvention provisions of DMCA is restricting how we use content and be creative

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May 8, 2009

Rose, Authors and Owners

Rose, Mark. Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993.

Copyright is a modern phenomenon, rooted in both the development of capitalism and the pervasive concept of the individual author/genius. These two forces – economic and philosophical – drove the development of copyright law in early modern England, starting with the 1710 Statute of Anne. Rose uses historical court cases, bills, Parliament and legal records, essays and broadsides arguing about copyright from the era, and other histories of copyright law to write his history, which focuses on the development of copyright law in 18th century England. Rose explains the evolution of copyright from a printer’s privilege that acted as a form of government censorship to an individual author’s free and independent right to his property, which was deemed original due to his personality. Copyright reifies both the individual author and the individual work/text, is equated with real estate/landed property, and is used to distinguish between public and private works. Though copyright now is extended beyond literary texts and prevents the rapid, affordable circulation of texts (what it was supposed to protect and allow for), it’s not going away any time soon because both our economic system and our vision of our selves as individuals are so tied up in the system.

Quotable Quotes

“Copyright is not a transcendent moral idea, but a specifically modern formation produced by printing technology, marketplace economics, and the classical liberal culture of possessive individualism” (142)

Why don’t we “abandon copyright as an archaic and cumbersome system of cultural regulation” (142) – explains why we can’t

“The institution of copyright stands squarely on the boundary between private and public” (140)

“The attempt to anchor the notion of literary property in personality suggests the need to find a transcendent signifier, a category beyond the economic to warrant and ground the circulation of literary commodities” (129)

“The House of Lords bore witness to the radical instability of the concept of the autonomous author. After all, authors do not really create in any literal sense, but rather produce texts through complex processes of adaptation and transformation. Literary property is not fixed and certain like a piece of land…All forms of property are socially constructed and, like copyright, bear in their lineaments the traces of the struggles in which they were fabricated” (8)

Notable Notes

the modern marketplace as the “circulation of signs”, like paper notes instead of hard currency (129)

three levels of public/private covered by copyright: 1. unprotected commons v. privated protected 2. unprotected ideas (like patents) and protected expression 3. unprotected fair use and protected

copyright is cartography, not geography – a perspective, an orientation to look at the world (141)

perpetual v. limited copyright

comparision of copyright to patents (14 year limit) – is authoring like inventing? Hierarchy of mental and manual labor, mechanical v. divine inspiration, ideas v. expression

18th century emergence of paternity metaphors…plagiarism (kidnapping)

copyright is actually a compromise – either authors should have perpetual or not, so a limited term seems arbitrary

English booksellers holding on to guild system (Stationers’ Company) vs. Scottish printers wanting to compete in a capitalist model….

16th century- texts as actions (needing censorship), society bound by fidelity, patronage
18th century – texts as objects (someone’s property), society ruled by capitalism

dual concepts of property and propriety…why copyright was necessary

Donaldson v. Becket (1774) – copyright not perpetual

John Locke

move to establish authorship beyond the materiality of the pen and ink. What does it mean to author a work? To own a work? What do you author or own? Removing the work from the social fabric from which it was made reifies the author (88)

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