Saturday, January 21, 2006

free culture: introduction

I am reviewing / summarising Lessig's book Free Culture


New technology undermines old laws.

The law used to say that land ownership extended above the land and below the land. This law was changed after the invention of the aeroplane. A good outcome. "Common sense revolts against the idea" that owners of aeroplanes would have to negotiate the rights to travel over every property, despite the fact that a few chickens were harmed by low flying aircraft.

Edwin Armstrong invented FM radio in 1933 which threatened the established AM radio monopoly. This time the businesses threatened by this invention successfully lobbied the government (FCC - Federal Communications Commission) to block FM for years. Tragically, the inventor was defeated and committed suicide in 1954.

Nowadays, we enjoy FM radio, the law eventually changed.

Lessig divides culture into commercial culture and non commercial culture. Historically, the law has only bothered with commercial culture. The law has protected the incentives of creators by granting them exclusive rights to their creative work.

There was a balance between commercial culture (protected, regulated) and non commercial culture (free).

But now more and more culture is becoming digital and through the internet is effortlessly copied and distributed.

Powerful lobby groups (MPAA - Motion Pictures, RIAA - Recording Industry) are successfully lobbying to protect their property and in the process of the law being strengthened all internet culture is in danger of becoming regulated.

On the surface it appears to be a war for the protection of intellectual property against "piracy". But the beneath the surface reality is that the whole of culture is in danger of becoming regulated and unfree. There is a danger that the internet which has provided us with tremendous new freedoms could be used to take away existing freedoms. (the irony of becoming digital?)

The idea of property has the power to disable critical thought. Property is internalised by some as an absolute right, more important than ideas or culture. In a world where property is sacred, the very words that are used in this debate - piracy and property - gives the advantage to those who seek to protect their monopoly against new innovations. (there is a need to reframe the terms of discussion)


Anonymous Roland said...

Thanks for sharing this Bill. :-)

12:54 AM  

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