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April 18, 2004
Wendy Seltzer on Free Culture
I've been working so hard getting the word out about matters pressing and urgent, I haven't had the time to truly listen. As a consequence, I've missed a lot of very fine thought and commentary entirely suited for highlighting @ Copyfight.
One such missed bit: fellow Copyfighter Wendy Seltzer's bloggish "review" of Larry Lessig's Free Culture. Succinct, near poetic, profound. A true pleasure to read.
"My father, a great litigator, taught me the value of analogies and stories to good lawyering: The right story creates a context in which your arguments make sense. For the past quarter century, copyright law has been dominated by a property story. Little surprise, because those telling the story -- the publishers, broadcasters, and entertainment companies to whom we've delegated the maintenance of culture -- use it to consolidate their control. In a property story, stopping 'theft' by any means necessary makes sense.
Lawrence Lessig gives us an alternative story, a story about Free Culture.
In the free culture story, copyright exists to promote culture, and culture benefits from sharing. When copyright's controls impinge on public discussion and subsequent creativity, copyright should be changed, not the public 'copying.' Copyright law didn't descend from the heavens fixed in stone. It came to American law from a group of founders who were deeply skeptical of monopoly control but saw cultural value in granting authors short-term, limited-scope protection from commercial appropriation. In the founders' tradition, we should reshape copyright so it continues to promote cultural progress; updated for today, that means giving copyright holders less control, not more."
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