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


May 26, 2009

Woodmansee and Jaszi, The Law of Texts

Woodmansee, Martha and Peter Jaszi. “The Law of Texts: Copyright in the Academy.” College English 57.7 (Nov 1995): 767-787.

Woodmansee and Jaszi show how the history of modern copyright is aligned with 19th century literary theory that privileges the solitary autonomous author, a theory that is currently outdated. Even though this theoretical foundation has shifted, copyright has not shifted with it, instead becoming even more restrictive. They argue that compositionists need to take the lead on framing and arguing for balance in copyright protection through 1. taking public stances on educational fair use and the extension of copyright protections and 2. changing their pedagogy from one that depends on the solitary author to one that teaches students about the collaborative, social nature of composing.

Quotable Quotes

“What is needed, in short, is an ethos of collaboration which would encourage students to acknowledge their debts, and a corresponding rhetoric of attribution to help them identify and name these debts – in place of the punitive rhetoric that is typically found in the chapter devoted to the research paper in our current composition textbooks and handbooks” (784).

“The intellectual commons on which we may draw freely as writers and readers, scholars and teachers, is shrinking fast” (772).

“The enclosure of the public domain” (772).

fear of “worldwide uncontrolled piracy” (from “Controlling Electronic Rights” Rights 6.2 (1992): 3-4.)

Notable Notes

extending copyright and restricting fair use – Kinkos photocopying case (does not recognize authorship as arranging and selection, Romantic understanding of the author); absolute 1st publication right restricts the use of unpublished materials

academic writers don’t need the protection of copyright for financial reasons, they write books for status, tenure, not direct profit, so they can turn to copyleft protection

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