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Copyright Expert Lessig Copies Himself

Publication Date: 
October 23, 2008
Business Week
Spencer E. Ante

Professor Lawrence Lessig's new book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy is reviewed in Business Week:

"It is time we call a truce, and figure out a better way," writes Lessig. "And a better way means redefining the system of that ordinary, normal behavior is not called criminal."


Lessig argues that the copyright wars have created a false impression: that there can be only one victor--either Hollywood or the Internet. Instead, he says, the consumption-driven culture of the media and the interactive culture of the Net can prosperously co-exist. Problem is, most people who have spent time on the Net already understands and agrees with this point.


Lessig explains how giving things away can make money and why some hybrids succeed and others fail. The trick, he says, is to figure out the proper balance between the two models. Every successful hybrid must "frame its work, and the profit it expects, in a way that doesn't frighten away the community" of users that made it successful in the first place, he writes.

To help hybrids flourish, Lessig offers five reasonable reforms in Remix's final section, including requiring copyright holders to renew their rights after an initial period of protection. But this brief chapter feels tacked on. It would have been better had Lessig used Remix to tell the story of his Creative Commons. That system, which allows creators to surrender some rights to public use while retaining others through a variety of licensing and contract provisions, may ultimately be Lessig's most important legacy.