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The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World
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The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World [Format Kindle]

Lawrence Lessig
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Descriptions du produit's Best of 2001

If The Future of Ideas is bleak, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Author Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor and keen observer of emerging technologies, makes a strong case that large corporations are staging an innovation-stifling power grab while we watch idly. The changes in copyright and other forms of intellectual property protection demanded by the media and software industries have the potential to choke off publicly held material, which Lessig sees as a kind of intellectual commons. He eloquently and persuasively decries this lopsided control of ideas and suggests practical solutions that consider the rights of both creators and consumers, while acknowledging the serious impact of new technologies on old ways of doing business. His proposals would let existing companies make money without using the tremendous advantages of incumbency to eliminate new killer apps before they can threaten the status quo. Readers who want a fair intellectual marketplace would do well to absorb the lessons in The Future of Ideas. --Rob Lightner


Davis Guggenheim is a film director. He has produced a range of movies, some commercial, some not. His passion, like his father’s before, is documentaries, and his most recent, and perhaps best, film, The First Year, is about public school teachers in their first year of teaching–a Hoop Dreams for public education.

In the process of making a film, a director must “clear rights.” A film based on a copyrighted novel must get the permission of the copyright holder. A song in the opening credits requires the rights of the artist performing the song. These are ordinary and reasonable limits on the creative process, made necessary by a system of copyright law. Without such a system, we would not have anything close to the creativity that directors such as Guggenheim have produced.

But what about the stuff that appears in the film incidentally? Posters on a wall in a dorm room, a can of Coke held by the “smoking man,” an advertisement on a truck driving by in the background? These too are creative works. Does a director need permission to have these in his or her film?

“Ten years ago,” Guggenheim explains, “if incidental artwork . . . was recognized by a common person,” then you would have to clear its copyright. Today, things are very different. Now “if any piece of artwork is recognizable by anybody . . . then you have to clear the rights of that and pay” to use the work. “[A]lmost every piece of artwork, any piece of furniture, or sculpture, has to be cleared before you can use it.”

Okay, so picture just what this means: As Guggenheim describes it, “[B]efore you shoot, you have this set of people on the payroll who are submitting everything you’re using to the lawyers.” The lawyers check the list and then say what can be used and what cannot. “If you cannot find the original of a piece of artwork . . . you cannot use it.” Even if you can find it, often permission will be denied. The lawyers thus decide what’s allowed in the film. They decide what can be in the story.

The lawyers insist upon this control because the legal system has taught them how costly less control can be. The film Twelve Monkeys was stopped by a court twenty-eight days after its release because an artist claimed a chair in the movie resembled a sketch of a piece of furniture that he had designed. The movie Batman Forever was threatened because the Batmobile drove through an allegedly copyrighted courtyard and the original architect demanded money before the film could be released. In 1998, a judge stopped the release of The Devil’s Advocate for two days because a sculptor claimed his art was used in the background. These events teach the lawyers that they must control the filmmakers. They convince studios that creative control is ultimately a legal matter.

This control creates burdens, and not just expense. “The cost for me,” Guggenheim says, “is creativity. . . . Suddenly the world that you’re trying to create is completely generic and void of the elements that you would normally create. . . . It’s my job to conceptualize and to create a world, and to bring people into the world that I see. That’s why they pay me as a director. And if I see this person having a certain lifestyle, having this certain art on the wall, and living a certain way, it is essential to . . . the vision I am trying to portray. Now I somehow have to justify using it. And that is wrong.”

This is not a book about filmmaking. Whatever problems filmmakers have, they are tiny in the order of things. But I begin with this example because it points to a much more fundamental puzzle, and one that will be with us throughout this book: What could ever lead anyone to create such a silly and extreme rule? Why would we burden the creative process–not just film, but generally, and not just the arts, but innovation more broadly–with rules that seem to have no connection to innovation and creativity?

Copyright law, law professor Jessica Litman has written, is filled with rules that ordinary people would respond to by saying, “ ‘There can’t really be a law that says that. That would be silly’ ”–yet in fact there is such a law, and it does say just that, and it is, as the ordinary person rightly thinks, silly. So why? What is the mentality that gets us to this place where highly educated, extremely highly paid lawyers run around negotiating for the rights to have a poster in the background of a film about a frat party? Or scrambling to get editors to remove an unsigned billboard? What leads us to build a legal world where the advice a successful director can give to a young artist is this:

I would say to an 18-year-old artist, you’re totally free to do whatever you want. But–and then I would give him a long list of all the things that he couldn’t include in his movie because they would not be cleared, legally cleared. That he would have to pay for them. [So freedom? Here’s the freedom]: You’re totally free to make a movie in an empty room, with your two friends.

A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense. Power runs with ideas that only the crazy would draw into doubt. The “taken for granted” is the test of sanity; “what everyone knows” is the line between us and them.

This means that sometimes a society gets stuck. Sometimes these unquestioned ideas interfere, as the cost of questioning becomes too great. In these times, the hardest task for social or political activists is to find a way to get people to wonder again about what we all believe is true. The challenge is to sow doubt.

And so it is with us. All around us are the consequences of the most significant technological, and hence cultural, revolution in generations. This revolution has produced the most powerful and diverse spur to innovation of any in modern times. Yet a set of ideas about a central aspect of this prosperity–“property”–confuses us. This confusion is leading us to change the environment in ways that will change the prosperity. Believing we know what makes prosperity work, ignoring the nature of the actual prosperity all around, we change the rules within which the Internet revolution lives. These changes will end the revolution.

That’s a large claim for so thin a book, so to convince you to carry on, I should qualify it a bit. I don’t mean “the Internet” will end. “The Internet” is with us forever, even if the character of “the Internet” will change. And I don’t pretend that I can prove the demise that I warn of here. There is too much that is contingent, and not yet done, and too few good data to make any convincing predictions.

From the Hardcover edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 826 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 384 pages
  • Editeur : Vintage (12 novembre 2002)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B000FBFM6G
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2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Une excellente suite à "Code" 27 mars 2003
Le livre est, comme "Code", très bien écrit, clair, bien argumenté et bien documenté. A lire absolument pour comprendre les implications de la législation actuelle et de ses évolutions sur l'innovation en général.
Code mettait en avant une idée originale, le fait que l'ouverture et l'absence de contrôle des protocoles de base d'internet ont permis à internet de se développer, et à des applications inédites de voir le jour.
Ce livre creuse l'idée en examinant davantage la législation américaine (la nôtre n'est pas très différente) et les structures de contrôles de la bande radio, des réseaux, des téléphones, ainsi que le mécanisme des brevets, pour montrer comment l'innovation doit franchir une barrière de plus en plus coûteuse pour se développer.
Très bonne lecture.
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70 internautes sur 77 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A sober awakening to the threats to innovation and freedom 19 février 2002
Par David E. Rogers - Publié sur
I well remember when I first entered the Internet. Even in those days of Gopher and early versions of Mosaic, I found an exciting and brand-new world, ripe with incredible possibilities. It was a world of free expression, rapid access to vast storehouses of information, instant contact with anyone who had the resources to connect.
But a dark thought always lurked in the recesses of my mind: What will happen when "Big Money" wakes up to the power of the Web? I luridly imagined mega-corporations somehow buying up the Web, tying up content, and crying up to Big Brother when they didn't get their way.
Those days seem to be closer than I ever imagined.
That's what I learned in this intricately arresting book by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig. It's an exultant yet sobering look at how the nature of the Internet sparked a new age of innovation--and how this is now seriously threatened. As Lessig writes:
"The original Net protected fundamental aspects of innovation. End-to-end meant new ideas were protected; open code meant innovation would not be attacked; free distribution meant new ways of connecting would be assured. These protections were largely architectural. This architecture is now changing. And as it changes, as with the threats to liberty, there is a threat here to innovation."
Lessig's purpose is awaken us to our untested belief in the value of control over commons before the Net is swallowed up.
The Future of Ideas is nicely structured to that end--but you'll need to strap on your thinking cap before you dive in. Lessig is unrelentingly brilliant and his text is richly loaded with concepts you may never have considered
He begins by introducting the concept of "commons"--most simply defined as a resource held freely in common for the overall good of society. He helps us understand that concept by repeatedly referring to the public roads and highways--they are held in common, we have free access to them, they bring value where they exist.
He then takes this idea of commons and beautifully demonstrates how the Internet rapidly emerged as a new commons for innovation. Against the historical backdrop of controlled innovation that he calls the "dark ages" (well typified by AT&T's former stranglehold over U.S. telecommunications), Lessig shows us how the Web provides a gloriously free field for innovation and ideas--something undeniable in light of its impact over the last several years.
He then explains--in what I found by far the most interesting part of the book--how the nature of the Internet itself, at its physical, code and content layers, created, enabled and empowered this new commons of innovation. I learned things I'd never known about the Net and felt that familiar leap of heart at what the Web could bring.
The book then takes a dark turn as Lessig explains how each layer of the Net is falling under systems of control--systems that threaten to take away the values, norms and architecture of the Net that make it such a free field for innovation. Behind this are the usual culprits--mega-corporations aided and abetted by politicians and the courts. The result is that the commons of the Net is seriously threatened.
But that's only part of the tale Lessig tells. He explains:
"The larger story here is not about dark forces. It is about a blindness that affects our political culture generally. We have been so captured by the ideals of property and control that we don't even see the benefits from resources not perfectly controlled.... This is not a conspiracy. It is a cultural blindness."
In short, it's a story about us, We the People, who are unquestioningly letting Big Money and Big Government erode the freedoms and commons of the Net.
Lessig concludes with some practical, common-sense and challenging recommendations to stop the growing avalanche. Yet the final chapter is chilling, Lessig's closing even more so:
"We move through this moment of an architecture of innovation to, once again, embrace an architecture of control--without noticing, without resistance, without so much as a question. Those threatened by this technology of freedom have learned how to turn the technology off. The switch is now being thrown. We are doing nothing about it."
Want to do something about it? You can begin by reading this book.
32 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A superb book with a few fatal flaws 13 mars 2003
Par Sandy Starr - Publié sur
Before proceeding to criticise this book, I want to give credit where credit is due. Lawrence Lessig has written a superbly clear and even-handed account of the erosion of the balance at the heart of intellectual property law - between public benefit from creations, and private reward for creators. With a wealth of references and a deft style, he illustrates how regulation of the internet is undermining this crucial balance.
Just as in his previous book, `Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace', Lessig upbraided cyber-libertarians for the lazy assumption that the internet will resist regulation simply by virtue of being the internet, so here he upbraids both sides of the intellectual property debate various for lazy assumptions that have disastrous consequences. Above all, the book is comprehensible to the lay reader while also being invaluable for the legal professional - the collection of references in the endnotes is alone worth the cover price.
Now, on to the flaws. The first and foremost flaw is that Lessig commits precisely the crime he railed against in `Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace' - technological determinism. He fetishises information technology, and ascribes to it vague autonomous powers, even going so far as to distinguish the internet from the `real' world and argue that it has its own `physics'. At one point, he catches himself doing this - after a reference to the `natural state' of cyberspace, he confesses: `I spend many pages in "Code" arguing against just this way of speaking.' But he can't wriggle out of it so easily - his over-dependence upon assumptions about the different nature of cyberspace undermine his (otherwise very good) argument.
A second, related flaw is that Lessig relies for his argument upon too vague a definition of `innovation'. Much of the time, he would do better to refer merely to `creativity' or `the free flow of ideas', which are precious enough in themselves to warrant protection. Inasmuch as Lessig is arguing for a rigorously experimental outlook when it comes to regulation, so that innovation might have the space to flourish, the book makes sense. But the fact is that there is a paucity of innovation today, and a cheapening of what the term `innovation' means, that goes beyond intellectual property disputes. Information technology, in particular, has conspicuously failed to live up to the many claims made for its innovative character. At no point does Lessig confront this fact.
Third, Lessig assumes too much about his readers' opinion of the US Constitution. As it happens, I believe that the Constitution is one of the best legal frameworks for the safeguarding of liberty and creativity that humanity has ever come up with. And Lessig's passion for Constitutional principle is infectious. But I am not American, and merely appealing to the historical origins of a legal principle does not suffice to convince me of the merit of that principle - principles also need to be defended in the abstract. There are many readers outside of the USA (not to mention a few within it) who - unlike myself - have no inbuilt respect for the Constitution, and will dismiss Lessig's argument out of hand rather than giving it a chance.
Fourth, Lessig's presentation could be better. Certain of his presentational choices - using environmentalist metaphors to make his point, using the word `Soviets' as a pejorative shorthand - are guaranteed to unnecessarily annoy portions of his readership. Conversely, despite Lessig's repeated (and correct) assertion that the intellectual property debate isn't about Left vs Right, he goes to unnecessary lengths to justify his argument in the terms of Left and Right. His tortured justifications for arguing against proprietary control often read like `I'm a Republican, get me out of here!'
Fifth and finally, while Lessig praises the creators of the internet for being `driven by humility to a system of non-control', he exhibits a little too much `humility' himself. When he slips in disclaimers like `I'm just a lawyer; I haven't the skill to model this counterfactual', you feel like shaking him by the shoulders and saying `For god's sake man, have the courage of your convictions!'
I've been a little harsh in my criticism, so allow me to reiterate. Whatever its flaws, this is an excellent book, and an important addition to a small but growing genre - [...].
26 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Important Book For Our Time 25 novembre 2001
Par Ron Dwyer - Publié sur
This book should be at least a candidate for the National Book Award. It is, I believe, an important book for our time. The author, Lawrence Lessig, according to the book's jacket, is a professor of law at the Stanford Law School; once a clerk for Judge Richard Posner; and is a board member of the Red Hat Center for Open Source, among other things. So he has the knowledge, experience, and judgment to write such a book.
What is the main concern of the book? Let me try to put it in this fundamental way: How do we want the Internet to develop? How do we create the conditions necessary to maximize the creative potential of the Internet and, for that matter, any new electronic technology?
These concerns leads us to the consider the laws that we have now--especially the patent and copyright laws, and perhaps to a lesser extent, the anti-trust laws.
I am familiar with some theoreticians who hold that there should not be any patent and copyrights at all. This is one extreme view, which the author does not hold. I believe that there has to be adequate reward to the innovator, and copyright and patents--which indeed does grant a limited monopoly--does that.
However, the author argues that the current laws that we have today go too far in the other extreme. These laws he argues hinder future creativeness. The laws we have today, he says, will lead to a future where "take the Net, mix it with the fanciest TV, add a simple way to buy things and that's pretty much it." (page 7) But the future can be better and greater than this, in ways we cannot fathom now.
It seems to me that concerning copyrights and patents, a utilitarian standard should apply: Pursue the policy that maximizes wealth in society as a whole. Granting patents and copyrights does that--for in the very fact of doing that--it gives a signal to members of society that innovation will be rewarded. However, perhaps the length of these copyrights and patents are too long.
After a patent expires, others copy or modify the original product--as can be seen in the case of prescription drugs--which thus increases the supply of such a good, and thus lowers its price. Consumers benefit.
Reducing copyright and patent protection would not only have this immediate economic beneit to consumers, but it would have the long-term impact of promoting creativity.
The author, argues, for example, that, concerning computer software, he would "protect software for only five years, renewable once. But that protection would be granted only if the author submitted a copy of the source code to be held in escrow while the work was protected. Once the copyright expired, that escrowed copy would be publicly available from the US Copyright Office server." (page 253)
Ideas like this are anathema to some companies. But if we had such a policy in place, I can readily imagine a reality where there would be less market dominanace by a few companies, and the innovation rate of software would have been better.
Of course, as with any author, one can disagree here and there. The author seems to side with Napster, for instance. I do think that the courts ruled correctly in that case. As the saying goes, "If you don't like the law, you take it to your congressman." Or to the reading public, who hopefully will influence public policy.
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Pessimism, with an Optimistic Bent 18 mars 2002
Par Christopher D. Helmkamp - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
The author of this great new book about ideas in the age of technology is no college kid touting, "I have a right to, like, copy MP3s!" On the contrary, Law Professor Lawrence Lessig's book provides a balanced, logical, and realistic argument for more careful Copywright and Intellectual Property legislation. In fewer than 300 pages, Lessig not only lays out the history of IP law, but also thoroughly examines the current move towards corporate favoritism.
This makes for a very discouraging read; however, the reader is left with plenty of ideas about how IP law could be shaped in the future. Lessig's suggestions would go a long way towards protecting innovation while still upholding the core principles of fair use and reasonable limits the Founding Fathers wrote into the US Constitution. (Buy a copy of this book for your Congressman!)
Lessig, a Liberal who clerked for the popular Conservative Circuit Court Judge and prolific public intellectual Richard Posner, also demonstrates why this issue cuts right across standard ideological lines. Even if you only read chapters 4 and 11, I highly reccomend this book for a thorough examination of this most pressing issue of current public policy.
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A brilliant finale to _Code And Other Laws Of Cyberspace_ 23 janvier 2002
Par Stephen R. Laniel - Publié sur
The Future Of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence Lessig established his credentials as a civil libertarian and Internet advocate a few years ago with _Code And Other Laws Of Cyberspace_, his brilliant and vastly important work about the world of complete control toward which the Internet is converging. _Code_ was a highly pessimistic portrayal of the legal and corporate infrastructure that would eventually lead the Internet - in Lessig's view - to be a masterpiece of control more evil than George Orwell ever could have imagined.
Lessig's argument in _Code_ was manifold, but one of its most important points was that we miss the real bad guys if we focus all our attention on removing government regulation from the Internet. Control can come from many directions: corporations can control us, social norms can, and so can the government. From the Founding Fathers until now, we have focused all our energy on weakening the government, while beefing up the private sector. In _Code_, Lessig showed us that the chickens are coming to roost: we're careening toward a thoroughly controlled world in which corporations will be able to know everything about us, because we have placed our entire personas inside a world that is as malleable as computer code.
There is no ``nature" of cyberspace, said Lessig in _Code_: the Internet is nothing more or less than the code that controls it. The Net is not ``by its very nature" unregulable, because it has no nature - it merely has code. In fact, Lessig goes on to show that we can expect a world of more regulation, not less, as the Net becomes more and more dominated by commerce.
In The Future Of Ideas, Lessig focuses his energy on a different, but nonetheless still very important aspect of the Internet's development: the Old Guard's habit of constraining innovation. The point has been made before in varied contexts related to the Net. Jessica Litman's book Digital Copyright argued that copyright holders tend to stomp on new technologies because the latter normally don't have powerful interests behind them and the former do. (E.g., the Betamax copyright-infringement case in the 1980's.) Lessig goes further, showing that in many different cases (copyright-related and otherwise) the Old Guard have restricted innovation to the point that the Internet of the future will be just like every old technology. We'll get television all over again.
Lessig starts with his ideal, which many civil libertarians and hackers share: an Internet of totally open-source software and end-to-end (e2e) network design. Throughout the book, he shows why corporations - behaving, from their perspective, in a totally honest and right-headed way - are straying from that ideal into a world of more copyright restrictions, less openness, and more control. In many ways, this book is a continuation of _Code_, this time focusing on specific aspects of the future that Lessig foresaw in the earlier work. As with _Code_, _The Future Of Ideas_ is pessimistic, stating in strong terms that it expects nightmarish visions of the future to come true.
Much of the ground that Lessig covers here has been dealt with in greater detail elsewhere. For instance, Litman's book Digital Copyright is a great introduction both to the history of copyright and to its future. But few books tackle the expanse of material that _The Future Of Ideas_ discusses. Lessig covers everything from spectrum auctions to content licensing to patents to trademarks to copyrights, all while keeping his eye on the general notion that the laws have moved quickly out of our hands. As Litman pointed out in Digital Copyright, and as Lessig reiterates here, the few people who understand copyright law are all copyright lawyers. Those who must live in the law's shadow - ordinary citizens - have no idea what copyright law says, and when presented with incoherent copyright law, their first instinct is to say, ``It couldn't possibly say what you say it says." The law has moved past the point where citizens could control it.
While he's at it, Lessig manages to keep his head about him. He clearly has a well-formed opinion on the topics he covers, yet he manages to structure the book as a series of questions. Lessig suggests that a society is defined by the questions it doesn't ask - the ones it takes for granted. So during his analysis of electronic-law issues, he tries to get us to question things that we've forgotten were even questions to begin with - questions like whether more control is always better, whether more privatization of resources is always a good idea, and so on. And throughout his discussion, he manages to keep the discussion coherent: he has a few guiding themes, and his discussions of electronic law keep returning to those themes.
The result is a remarkably readable book that should worry anyone who has an interest in the future of the electronic world. Little of the material in _The Future Of Ideas_ will be new to Slashdot readers, but there is probably no single book that ties this issues together as well as this one does. The overall evil that it reveals is worth paying attention to.
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