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Book Review: 'Remix' Calls For A Truce In The Copyright Wars

Publication Date: 
December 05, 2008
San Jose Mercury News
By Elise Ackerman

Professor Lawrence Lessig is quoted in the San Jose Mercury News in a review of his book "Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy:"

For 10 years Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig has watched the entertainment industry train its legal guns on everything from Napster to YouTube, blasting away at children and their parents, college kids and remix artists.

In "Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy," a ferociously argued new book, Lessig calls for a truce.


The Mercury says: "A study by the Institute of Policy Innovation that calculated that $12.5 billion is lost every year as a result of piracy, or unauthorized sharing, along with $422 million in annual tax revenue and 71,060 jobs."

This is bad, and Lessig claims the copyright wars are making it worse.


Instead of treating these zealous consumers of culture as criminals, Lessig makes a convincing case that remixes of music and video can be seen as a form of speech. After all, human babies learn to talk by mimicking adults, artists learn to paint by copying the masters, and musicians learn to play by practicing copyrighted music.

Lessig's own book — and this review — build on the work of other people. Sources for this review include everything from e-mails from the Recording Industry Association of America, the Institute of Policy Innovation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, news articles by the New York Times and the Washington Internet Daily and blogs like

What Lessig wants is smarter rules (laws) and business models that provide creators of art, music and film with some compensation while allowing fans the freedom to engage with products they pay for.


Not surprisingly, Lessig also has a couple of ideas of how copyright law can be improved in ways that both promote the commercialization of artistic creations and limit the criminalization of fans. He believes the 266-page code should be simplified and that non-commercial uses should be exempted. Some of his suggestions, like decriminalizing the act of copying, arguably bring the law back into alignment with the intent of the writers of the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers wrote that authors and inventors should have exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries for a limited time to promote science and useful arts. It's a standard that could well form the basis of copyright peace.