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How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity
By Lawrence Lessig. New York: Penguin, 2004. 240p. $24.95 (ISBN 1-594-20006-8).
This is the third book by Stanford law professor Larry Lessig, and the third in which he furthers his basic theme: that the ancient regime of intellectual property owners is locked in a battle with the capabilities of new technology. Lessig used his first book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (Basic Books, 1999), to explain that the notion of cyberspace as free, open, and anarchic is simply a myth, and a dangerous one at that: the very architecture of our computers and how they communicate determine what one can and cannot do within that environment. If you can get control of that architecture, say by mandating filters on content, you can get substantial control over the culture of that communication space. In his second book, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (Random, 2001), Lessig describes how the change from real property to virtual property actually means more opportunity for control, not less. The theme that he takes up in Free Culture is his concern that certain powerful interests in our society (read: Hollywood) are using copyright law to lock down the very stuff of creativity: mainly, past creativity.
Lessig himself admits in his preface that his is not a new or unique argument. He cites Richard Stallman's writings in the mid-1980s that became the basis for the Free Software movement as containing many of the same concepts that Lessig argues in his book. In this case, it serves as a kind of proof of concept (that new ideas build on past ideas) rather than a criticism of lack of originality. …