Free Culture

August 5, 2004 | Books I Read | By: Mark VandeWettering

Free Culture by Lawrence LessigI must admit, I’ve been a slacker. I haven’t read Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture, and since you can actually get free copies of the book off the web, there really is no excuse. Indeed, today I decided to download the audiobook version to my iPod before I hit the treadmill to exercise. The audiobook is actually very cool: because the book itself is licensed under a liberal Creative Commons license, several people each read a chapter of the book and they were all merged together to produce a 9.7 hour long version of the book. Good stuff.

It really is a great book. I find Lessig to be very accessible, and he presents his thesis in a very straightforward manner. He believes (as do I) that increasingly the manner in which we create and extend our collective culture is falling under government regulation. The issue isn’t as simple as whether you are pro-piracy or pro-property rights: Lessig himself believes in intellectual property. He believes however that legislation of heretofore unregulated aspects of our culture are increasingly falling under regulatory control, and that this regulation stifles innovation, creativity, and even democracy itself.

It’s good stuff, and there is no reason not to read it.

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Comments

Comment from Chris J. Davis
Time 8/5/2004 at 9:55 am

Hmm, I have found Lessig to be 50% spot on and 50% in the rough somewhere. I need to give this a look though.

Comment from Mark
Time 8/5/2004 at 10:25 am

To paraphrase Paul Graham, there would be little point in writing a book which was not controversial. If, after all, you say something that everybody already knows, you are probably a politician, not an author. Lessig’s views on intellectual property and the role of patents and copyrights are not conventional, but they are not uninformed or ill-stated. In fact, I think that he makes a powerful argument that the current situation is in some sense worse than it has ever been: that legislation has criminalized many means of expression which were previously unregulated. It is ironic during the Internet age, when so many people are able to publish their thoughts and to communicate with others the world over, that regulation threatens to stifle creativity and exchange with threats of lawsuits and criminal prosecution. Fair use rights are being eroded, and many previously unregulated uses are becoming regulated.

Powerful commercial interests are at work to change the tenor of the debate and to manipulate lawmakers against the interests of the public at large. Lessig is perhaps the most eloquent popularizer of this struggle.

Comment from Chris J. Davis
Time 8/6/2004 at 11:43 am

Good points, I was not arguing the validity of the premise of this book. I was stating that in the past Lessig’s conclusions and assumptions have not been founded or derived from data that resides on this planet, or so it seems to myself and others.

However as I stated above there are also many places I can point to and say “Yeah, right on.” That is what makes him an often read blogger in my mind; the anticipation of whether or not you will agree with him today.