Essay Resource: Lawrence Lessig: Laws that choke creativity

Another TED Talk (I’ve been watching a bunch for a different course).  We already encountered Lessig earlier, and now he discusses user generated content, which is relevant to fandoms and remix cultures.

There’s some history of the music industry and early broadcast, with the ASCAP creating a legal cartel, and BMI using music in the public domain and “remixing” it.

Lessig argues that the 20th century has been mostly a read-only culture, and that the internet, through user generated content, remix culture, and amateur culture (which is not necessarily low quality, but done out of love, not for money), will lead to a read-write culture (which we may have had a long time ago). The importance is that the technology and tools of creativity are now open to everyone with computer and internet access.

Lessig looks at the law and how it has not come along with common sense ideas – that they presume that remix is theft, because remix is a copy, and a copy is theft. Here, he looks at the extremism on both sides – taking down every remix that uses copyrighted material, or trying to give up copyright and ignore it altogether.

Lessig argues for a path somewhere in between. However, he says that government have failed.  He looks to a private solution, and the role of competition. He argues that content creators need to promote their work as being more open (allowing artists the choice of how their music is used), and that read-write culture enabling companies have to embrace it, creating a system of competition between free and not-free content.

Again, Lessig probably has a large body of work and writings on which to draw from that will be relevant to the discussion of fandoms and remix cultures.


DQ: Is $0.00 Really the Future of Business?

Is the internet really shifting towards a completely free model?

I think that it is interesting that Chris Anderson’s article in Wired uses the example of the New York Times going to a free mode of access circa 2008, while since then, they and other media outlets, such as Time, The Wall Street Journal, and soon the Washington Post, have created paywalls in order to access content. To me, Anderson’s statement that:

A decade and a half into the great online experiment, the last debates over free versus pay online are ending

does not seem to be entirely true anymore. Arguably, the paywalls are not just protecting “premium content,” but almost all content. Another example is that Hulu used to be completely free, but now access to older episodes and older shows now requires a paid account. What could be causing these trends, and what is the potential impact? Following Lessig’s 2 economies basis, have these media companies, many of whom also distribute content in “traditional media,”  been trying to navigate their way between commercial and sharing economies over the last decade (and settling somewhere closer to the former)? Does the need to create paywalls suggest that we are in a part of Tim Wu’s “cycle,” in the problem discovery stage? And what are the implications of the continuing free versus pay debate?