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© June 2002 Tony Lawrence

The Future of ideas by Lawrence Lessig

  • Lawrence Lessig
  • Random House
  • 0375505784

Have you ever considered that if the telephone company had not been under monopoly constraints the Internet as we know it might never have happened? Did you ever think about how the rapid spread of the Internet was helped by the simple fact that most early web pages would reveal their construction through the ability to "view source"?

Lawrence Lessig has thought about these things, and more. Unfortunately, he is worried about the future, and sees many trends that could seriously change what the Internet is and will be. If you are at all interested in freedom, in copyrights, patents, and your own ability to survive in a world increasingly dominated by large corporations, you need to read this book. It's important: I don't think any of the people likely to be reading this review want the kind of future Lawrence Lessig envisions.

This isn't all doom and gloom: there are some positive notes, and still some real opportunities for change in the right direction. But it is vitally important that we all be aware of the trends. Too often we are just too complacent, and too unaware of how things like changes in copyright law actually affect us.

By the way, this isn't just a left vs. right issue. People on both sides of the political spectrum have reason to be concerned about these things, and in fact there are people we would normally consider "right wing" who agree with much of what Lawrence Lessig has to say here. This is not a rant against corporate power (not that I'd object if it were, of course).

Read this book. I know we are all pressed for time, but this is one of the most important books I've read in a few years. Buy it, read it, give it to your friends.

Tony Lawrence 2002/06/01 Rating: 5.0

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Compulsory royalties is garbage. I've asked every computer programmer I know if they would work knowing their only compensation was to submit a claim to a tribunal once a year and wait three years to see what piece of the royalty pool was theirs. They all just laughed and said, "what, are you kidding? That's what we want YOU to do!" But somehow Lessig thinks musicians, authors and filmakers will be happy to spend tens of millions creating their products, allowing them to be endlessly copied and distributed over the internet and then earn their living by filing annual claims with a royalty tribunal. And all those companies that claim a compulsory license - like they're all going to just line up and pay on time and account fairly to something over fifty thousand creators? They don't do it now and they have the threat of major corporations going against them - you think they're going to do it for me? You think Fox is going to put up $150mm to make Spiderman 2 hoping the royalty tribunal will give them back their investment - why doesn't Microsoft make its product public domain instead. This is one of those ideas that sounds so logical and sensible that it seems no-brainer until someone tells you that its YOUR job that is going to be paid this way instead of mine.

You say they "don't get it" - so we should steal your stuff! "You didn't react fast enough!" - so we should be able to steal your stuff! "Your services are poor substitutes for Napster" - so we should steal your stuff! "There aren't enough songs on your service" - so we should steal your stuff! "I want to copy them on more devices" - so we should steal your stuff! "You make too much money" - so we should steal your stuff! "You screw the artists (buying that hoakum lock stock and PR machine)" - so we should steal your stuff.

So an industry that employs millions of people and has created one of the greatest cultural and business models the world has ever known is now subjected to death by techno-babble. Why? For no better reason than THEY CAN! Free music is just sampling and actually grows record sales - my God you would believe there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Sadaam Hussein ordered the planes into New York. 35% drop in unit sales, over 500 bands released by their labels, thousands of layoffs and now the companies are giving up and merging what's left.

Congratulations idiots - but I guess it doesn't matter because it wasn't YOUR job downsized due to internet theft and Lessig's convenient arguments to justify theft.

Lessig says the old tries to control the new - I say the new wants a free lunch and should step up and earn their way just like everyone else before them.

Don't buy into this twaddle - it's only about one thing - the tech industry doesn't want to pay for the products it is exploiting. It's really that simple.

The rest of the book - all the scarry stuff - is just Lessig's fertile imagination watered by half a dozen or so anecdotes which he wants you to believe are just indicative of a huge wellspring of insane corporate behavior - but there is no fountain of litigation, there is no big brother, there is no corporation shooting itself in the foot by chasing stupid minor infractions because of a bizarre adherence to micro-managing copyright enforcement. Post Bart Simpson and Fox could sue you - but how many have they sued? Probably none, or one or two at most who probably tried to sell cartoons illegally. Last I checked every third web site was about The Matrix - zero lawsuits. Name any suits over this issue? Anyone? Anyone? Still looking.......

Technology moves fast - so we should be able to steal. Technology is cooler than writing songs - so we should be able to steal. Technology will defeat your efforts to earn a living - so we should be able to steal and you should find a new job.

And somehow, somewhere the mysterious fairy of goodwill and generosity is going to magically compensate songwriters, authors, composers, performers, the grips on the set, the musicians on the session, the printers, booksellers, video stores and theater ushers. Why? Because in the land of Silicon make-believe they can simulate logic and make you believe it just like they made you buy a Windows operating system.



Well, I strongly disagree with you but thank you for your opinion.


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