I know, I know. I should just start a Lessig blog. So sue me. The man is inspiring, at least to me. So inspiring, in fact, that after listening to his most recent talk from the 4Cs conference last week, I decided to transcribe the whole thing for further study. (I know…I have no life.)
“Writing Not Allowed?” basically asks whether or not the freedoms we have always enjoyed in terms of “remixing” content through writing should apply when writing changes from just text into audio, video, digital photography, etc. It’s a typically well crafted, impassioned plea from someone who just gets it more than most, and I would urge you to carve out 40 minutes to listen to it. I’ll leave you with a snippet from the end.
Now you have a connection to this debate that is much more important, I think, than even the profits threatened by this war. You have a connection to the literacy that these technologies comprise. Because when we live in a world that is constituted by these forms of media, we live in a world where our ability to participate in this world depends upon the capacity to critically understand an express in this form of media.
Now we never had that opportunity growing up, in an age where the cost of doing it was so high. But our children will. And you in this context need to become engaged in a single objective which is consistent with the objectives of academics since the beginning of time. You have to defend the freedom to write. You have to defend a world where the expression of ideals using the tools of the age is again free. Because if we allow this issue to be defined and determined by the extremes that now occupy the few, that freedom will be lost to our children. And that loss is much more significant than the loss of profits to one very small segment of the American economy. It’s a loss that will ramify not just in the capacity to speak, but in the ideal of what it means to be member citizens of a democracy. You grew up with the freedom to obey the law, and our kids grow up in a world where that freedom is in so many places, taken away from them.
So I’ve come here to ask you to help in this battle. First to redefine it, not as a war, but as the continuation of the struggle that began when Guttenberg released free speech first in our tradition. You need to enter this debate, and speak with the authenticity of your position, not as promoters of piracy, because no one world believe that you are promoting piracy, but as promoters of the tradition of knowledge that we inherited, and that we have an obligation as academics to pass down to our children in as a robust a form as we inherited.
As teachers, we need to get our brains around these issues. And then we need to do some serious teaching.