Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Future of Ideas is Now Free

In 2001 the book The Future of Ideas: the fate of the commons in a connected world by Lawrence Lessig was published, just two weeks after 9/11. In the book Lessig warns that a strict copyright for too long a period of time can destroy innovation. The book was published by Random House; now seven years later the largest publisher in the world has agreed for the book to be licensed under Creative Commons. The book can now be freely downloaded as pdf.

Lawrence Lessig was a professor of law at Stanford Law School and is well known for his critique on copyright. He is the founder of and the present CEO of Creative Commons International. In The Future of Ideas he is pursuing the copyright theme which he described in Code and Other laws of Cyberspace(2000).

The theme of Lessig is to demonstrate that copyright restricts ideas and innovation. In Code and Other laws of Cyberspace he argues that computer programs can restrict ideas in cyberspace. In The Future of Ideas he warns that a strict copyright regime with long period of validity will destroy innovation. He demonstrates that intellectual property can be restricted on three layers: the code layer (IP addresses), the content layer (file sharing), and the physical layer (wired or wireless).

In the printed and pdf book Free Culture (2004) he took a step further and argued that it is strange that companies like Westlaw (Thomson) and LexisNexis (Reed Elsevier) ask subscribers to pay for materials that are essentially in the public domain. The book has started a free culture movement with a manifesto: The mission of the Free Culture movement is to build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture, rather than a top-down, closed, proprietary structure. Through the democratizing power of digital technology and the Internet, we can place the tools of creation and distribution, communication and collaboration, teaching and learning into the hands of the common person — and with a truly active, connected, informed citizenry, injustice and oppression will slowly but surely vanish from the earth.

It is interesting to see that the largest publishing house in the world Random House, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, is allowing the books Free Culture and The Future of Ideas to be brought under creative commons licenses. Are the publishers moving from a strict copyright regime to a more relaxed regime. But it turns out to be an experiment, which should deliver some useful data to report about its effect. The publisher will still be marketing and distributing the printed editions and look after special licenses. It is not an earth quake, but a closed door is opened to let in a ray of sun.

Blog Posting Number: 982

Tags: ,

No comments: