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Stanford's Lessig Tackling Even Bigger Battle

Publication Date: 
February 01, 2008
Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
Author: 
Ellen Lee

The San Francisco Chronicle covered Professor Lawrence Lessig's final presentation on Free Culture, copyright and the future of ideas:

For some 10 years, Lessig, 46, has spread the message that corporations such as Walt Disney Co. need to loosen their hold on popular culture. Crisscrossing the globe, he has delivered his lecture, called Free Culture, to students, high-tech executives, filmmakers and world leaders. The unassuming professor has become one of the most widely known evangelists on the subject, particularly in Silicon Valley.

But under the bright lights of Stanford's Memorial Auditorium on Thursday, Lessig gave his last lecture on the subject. He is leaving the copyright fight to target another thorny issue: corruption in politics.

...

He hopes to take a page from the copyright fight and launch a grassroots movement. It would push political candidates to commit to three basic pledges: to abolish pork-barrel spending, to refuse to accept money from lobbyists and to finance their campaigns publicly.

"I have no idea if it will work," he said.

...

...Lessig spent an hour Thursday recounting how copyright laws have tightened over the years, even as new technologies have made it possible for most anyone, particularly the latest generation of children, to create and remix music, film and art.

Though Lessig doesn't advocate piracy, he has pushed to find a balance. He cited examples found on YouTube, playing a video mixing footage of President Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as though they were singing the duet "Endless Love." Such a creation shouldn't be considered criminal, he argued, because it is creating something new - not to mention making a political statement.

"This is increasingly what literacy is for our kids," he said. It's "creating a perfect storm for culture. Just as technology frees this extraordinary opportunity for creativity, the law increasingly locks that opportunity down."

...

Appropriately enough, his last lecture was taped as part of a documentary film about the subject, "Basement Tapes: The Making of a Pirate Movie."