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Cyberlawyer 2.0

Publication Date: 
December 06, 2007
The Economist

Professor Lawrence Lessig, founder and director of the law school's Center for Internet and Society, was profiled in the Economist about his new focus on political corruption. Visiting Professor Jonathan Zittrain was also quoted in the piece.

...For years Mr Lessig has presented legal arguments against excessive copyright extensions. But he says lawmakers are so in thrall to big-media lobbyists that they do not even realise that counter-arguments to copyright extensions exist. Even though Britain's Gowers Review, published in 2005, argues against such extensions, and eminent economists such as the late Milton Friedman have declared the importance of copyright limits to be a “no brainer”, Mr Lessig says legislators are clueless about “an issue that any rational policymaker has no problem understanding.”


For people creating videos, digitising books and mashing up online content of all kinds, “it's impossible not to bump up against copyright,” says Mr Lessig. ... So in 2001 he founded Creative Commons, offering everyone an alternative to standard copyrights through various gradations of permission for use (right down to “no rights reserved”). “Before Creative Commons, there was no easy way to do all that,” says Jonathan Zittrain, professor of internet governance and regulation at Oxford University in England.


“If we mobilise people to think of [corruption] as a trackable problem, we can use this technology to change Washington,” he declares. His supporters reckon that if anyone can do it, Mr Lessig can. Whether speaking to a legal, policy or technology crowd, says Mr Zittrain, “Larry can take the incomprehensible debates from academia and put them on a bumper sticker.”