Web 2.0 – Larry Lessig, Stanford Law School

Web 2.0 High Order Bit
Larry Lessig, Stanford Law School
10/7/04 I wrote a book on free culture.

Stephen Manes said it was horrible. He wrote about it in Forbes – it was #2 on Google.

Text journalists take advantge of the freedom of speech. The freedom to remix without permission. Remix is changing the democratic culture. It is the power to speek. It is about a bottom up democracy, not a NYTimes democracy. It’s a blog democracy, or p2p democracy. The architecture of this form of creativity was enabled by technologists, by you.

The problem is that it is illegal to remix in other types of media. All content is inherently copyrighted and requires permission. Text journalists say it’s simple to get permission, but it never is.

This is a new problem. The potential is new and the restrictions are new. Technology has changed. And restrictions have massively changed. Before 1978 we had a opt-in copyright system, now we have an opt-out system. Before 1978 some content was controlled in some places. After, it was all controlled everywhere.

We’ve gone from a free culture to a permission culture.

There are consequences… for politics: Robert Greenwall wrote a movie called Uncovered. It included a nbc interview on Meet the Press with the President during which they asked why he went to war. NBC said Greenwall couldn’t use the clip because it was very unflattering to the President. In an environment with less Press conferences and more single interviews, there is an incentive for the news organizations to be nice. We’ve privitized the presidency.

After Greenwell’s movie Outfoxed in 2004, it was said that quoting journalists and criticizing them puts them at risk. They have a huge exposure and no protection. Is this free speech?


Text-heads think “it’s simple”. They’re oblivious. What’s the harm? “terrorists” Without remix, we can’t teach.

The Induce Act is a huge threat to our free speech – don’t think it’s dead.

You can’t sell anything – it’s a lawyer’s culture.

In 1839, Lous Daguerre invented photographs, which were expensive and small. George Eastman made Kodack photography, which was inexpensive and the market took off. The question was asked, do you need permission to capture images – to pirate someone’s image? No. Images are free. Free results in market explosion. But what if they weren’t free? And you needed permission to take a photograph? What if they passed the Daguree Machine Control Act (DMCA)? Photos would be unfree, and you’d have a slow market.

Remember. Free speech makes Manes free. Brilliant or juvenille – commenting on something is a freedom worth fighting for. Make the digital culture free.

We need balance.

We need sanity.

We need an end to apologists extremists taking us from free to unfree.