Who Put the Right in Copyright?

For this weeks reading, we looked at sections of two books by Lawrence Lessig, a preeminent scholar dealing with the concepts of open-source, copyright, regulation, etc.  In this posting, I’ll talk about the section we read in Lessig’s Code 2.0, and the chapters in his later book, Remix.  In Code 2.0, Lessig discusses the idea of regulation and code as law.  Throughout Remix, he discusses the idea of a hybrid economy composed of a blend of commercial and sharing aspects.  I’m going to describe the topics he discusses in each section and then I’ll try to make sense of what they mean for the future.

I’ll start with Code 2.0, a book originally written in 2000, but was updated in 2006.  Throughout the first five chapters, Lessig emphasizes the regulation of cyberspace, what he describes as a deeper level of the Internet.  With the changes in the Internet, one of the main reasons he updated his book, there is an underlying presence of control.  This control isn’t inherently evil, but the idea of control or architecture is almost the exact opposite of what the internet was at creation.  Lessig sums it up nicely when discussing this profound change: “This book is about the change from a cyberspace of anarchy to a cyberspace of control.”  To him, there is control taking shape, but it is important that it remains relatively harmless.

Lessig’s argument has evolved in Remix to discuss a bit more about what effective control looks like in the future.  Acknowledging that an Internet void of control is impossible, he takes a realistic approach to what would be a healthy compromise between the commercial and shared.  A commercial economy relies on paid labor, ownership, potential exploitation, and structure, to name a few aspects.  An economy based on sharing emphasizes labor exchange, community, decentralization, etc.  Both of these economies have merit in themselves, but Lessig proposes we must have a hybrid of the two.  While Lessig leans on the idea of open-source, with limitations on the power of copyright, I find myself conflicted.  I like the idea of user regulated environments that make things like Wikipedia possible; however, I support George Lucas, who created the Star Wars franchise from scratch and has always been stringent about using its likeness.  I think Lucas is at the extreme, but Star Wars was his idea, and I think he should be able to dictate if other people can make money off of it.  When it comes to people wanting to make derivative ideas purely for fun, then absolutely.  My issue is when you could potentially be taking money away from the owner.  These issues are becoming more important and constantly rewritten with interactive media.




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