Lawrence Lessig on China

Today’s portion of the J-School’s China and the Internet conference kicks off with a live webcast of Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, who has fought valiantly and eloquently against the world’s most overzealous copyright giants. Lessig is the author of “The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World” and helped create the Creative Commons license.

Update: Not sure who linked to the stream, but we suffered the /. effect — suddenly swamped with requests, which took out the streaming server. Back up with the rest of the conference now. Apologies to everyone who tried to connect to the Lessig stream – the archive will be online early next week.

My (incomplete) notes on Lessig’s keynote are posted behind the MORE link.

Notes from Lessig’s talk – not as complete as they should or could be – my time is split between this and running the webcast.

The camera’s invention did not make it popular — it took Eastman to make the Kodak camera cheap for the market to explode. Suddenly the courts had to figure out whether/how to regulate the capturing of images. If they had not deemed it acceptable from an IP standpoint, the market would not have exploded.

The stem cell: In the U.S. research into the stem cell is extraordinarily regulated and controlled. In China, not.

We have a “blindness” around intellectual property. The U.S. is obsessed with its war on copyright. It’s produced a radical change in the expression of free culture.

Terms: Once 14 years, now copyright lasts the life of the author plus 70 years. The average term was 33 years up to 1976. Since 1976 everything gets maximum term protection, up to 140 years.

Public domain was once 99% of cultural material. Now that we have unconditional regulation, 0%. – a fan site for Aibo owners – where owners went to talk about how to hack their pet. There was a hack on the site “how to train your dog to dance jazz.” The site received a cease and desist letter from Sony, reading essentially “This dog is not permitted to dance, under the DMCA.” But it’s your dog! It’s trainable!

Reach: Enter the Internet, which produces a copy regardless in which act you engage – read a book, you make a copy. Give a book, you make a copy. And all uses of material are covered and regulated.

Acts of creativity such as Dangermouse’s “Grey Album” are illegal. Illegal art.

Dissidence or compliance. These are the options.

Public domain is supposed to be a “lawyer free zone”.

The copyright regime is wildly out of control, and yet applied automatically to speech regardless of its democratic character.

The future need not be “us or theirs.” It could be free. WE need to recognize the common blindness.

There are now more than 3 million uses of the Creative Commons License. When China joins (which is happening), we go from 3 million to 100 million, we get critical mass. The idea is that a search engine, for example, will let you say “show me all images of the empire state building that are available copyright-free.”

We were born a pirate nation. For our first 100 years, we did not protect or even respect international copyrights.

The stakes at issue are wildly overstated.

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