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What's Mine Should Be Yours

Publication Date: 
March 22, 2009
Source: 
The Boston Globe
Author: 
George Scialabba

Professor Lawrence Lessig is mentioned and Creative Commons, the non-profit organization for which he is a board member, is discussed in an article in The Boston Globe about intellectual property and patent law reform. The Bostong Globe writes:

A cadre of public-spirited law professors has formulated a powerful critique of this "second enclosure movement," a critique that has achieved considerable resonance among musicians, programmers, scientists, and other intellectual workers. The Ralph Nader of this movement is Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig. Another leading light is Duke professor James Boyle, whose new book, "The Public Domain," is a superb introduction to the subject.

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What to do? Along with Lessig and others, Boyle has pioneered the Creative Commons license. This new form of copyright allows the author of a work to reserve fewer rights than usual - or none at all - over its subsequent use but keeps others from taking it out of the public domain, or "commons." Though it was incorporated only seven years ago, tens of millions of books, articles, songs, photos, videos, and software upgrades now bear a Creative Commons license. The story of Creative Commons, Wikipedia, open-source software, the Human Genome Project, and other heartening developments is told in journalist David Bollier's "Viral Spiral," a lively history of the "public knowledge" movement.

The Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky warned the Western bourgeoisie that "you may not be interested in the Revolution, but the Revolution is interested in you." Likewise, you may not be interested in intellectual-property law, but intellectual-property law is interested in you, or at any rate in your children. Unless a determined public prevents free-market ideologues from fencing off our cultural and scientific commons and turning it into private property, available only for profit, our society will eventually be poorer, dumber, and less free.