Having only just begun this book the following comments relate in the main to the first chapter of Lessig’s book, which is available here.
Lessig’s comments in his opening chapter convey the passion with which he views his argument and the real crisis that he sees modern societies legal claims having on the future of our creativity as a society. This is no small thing and thus I am relieved to have someone present the case with such fervour.
The issue here is that we as a society have allowed the control of our artists and free thinkers to be given to the estates and lawyers for these individuals. This does not seem like a poor decision until one looks at how this system works in an environment where the availability of these creative constructs is key to our developing further as a species.
The argument is posed by Lessig that should our musicians not have access to past masters or our film makers to be allowed portray a mise-en-scene without first contacting anyone remotely involved in the initial creation of this space or the music, then we become stilted and unable to further our creative understanding of the world.
Were I to describe a young man in Cork, wearing casual, sport related attire and sporting a fuzzy top lip entering a well-known fast food restaurant at the top of Patrick Street, many people would understand the character that I am referring to. I cannot however film this as a background to a story in which these actions and characteristics can be shown without first consulting the fast food company, the clothing manufacturer, etc..
Likewise were I to describe here an older gentleman in Dublin, dressed in a three-piece suit go about his daily commute in his vehicle driving from his home in the hilly suburbs down the coast to a large financial district purpose-built on the banks of the Liffey, I could not show you this as there would be car companies, the property developers, the estate owners, the suit vendors and designers etc. all to contact and clear this with before I could show it.
This control of images is not limited to the film and music industries but it is a good way to show the way in which this control works. We have recently had a scare with these control measures being sought by corporate lobbyists for the internet in the form of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA. Not only are these measures being orchestrated by people who clearly love acronyms, but by the very corporations who will gain most from more stringent copyright laws who are strong arming the worlds governments into it, in many cases by scaremongering the older members of government who do not understand the issues.
Lessig is right to be concerned, and we all should be. He is making a stand and his insistence that his book on these issues is available “free” helps the argument no end. Were it not free for example then there would not be as many people discussing his views.
I have pointed out the word “free” here as Lessig does when he says:
“A resource is “free” if (1) one can use it without the permission of anyone else; or (2) the permission one needs is granted neutrally. So understood, the question for our generation will be not whether the market or the state should control a resource, but whether that resource should remain free”
I very much look forward to reading more of these ideas.