Sunday, May 22, 2005

Lawrence Lessig: The Importance of Remix Culture

(Also a series of links to the works he discusses at the bottom of the page.)

The Importance of Remix Culture
by Lawrence Lessig
IT Conversations

The freedom to comment on, critique and reference other peoples words, thoughts and ideas has enabled traditional broadcast democracy where journalists, commentators and critics analyses the world we live in. Such freedom should not be taken for granted. As a "bottom up" model of democracy emerges anyone with access to a computer can express and share their views through media remixing. While a future where bloggers becomes the new broadcasters offers exciting possibilities it also poses new challenges and risks. Currently, under the existing "opt in" based copyright regime the sharing of remixed media is illegal without consent from the copyright owner - a restriction which threatens free expression.

In an engaging and often humorous presentation Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford and a Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), presents the legal dangers faced by makers of new media and society in general. By presenting media remixing as the "creative writing" of the future he highlights the dangers of moving from a free culture where discussion and free speech are taken for granted, to a permission culture where permission to reproduce media messages will depend on the use of that media.

Arguing for a balanced approach to copyright law Professor Lessig uses a number of examples of remixed media where restricting permission to the original media threatened to restrict creativity. In a permission culture, access to copyrighted material is controlled by lawyers and permission is not being granted. Examples include the Cannes selected file Tarnation, created for US$218 dollars but requiring over US$400k for permission to distribute the music tracks used. Another example involved lawyers refusing permission for a parody video remix of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair because they did not see it as funny. He invites us imagine our current society if, in the late 19th century, courts had decided that permission was required to publish and share each image captured using the emerging technology of personal photography.

The presentation finishes with a haunting reminder that the freedom to remix text and express ourselves through free speech was earned should not be taken for granted - if we lose the freedom to remix media we ultimately lose the right to speak up and lose the power to express ourselves.

Listen to his Presentation

Also check out Corey Doctorow's All Complex Systems Have Parasites

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