Longtime readers of this blog know that I really, really respect and admire Lawrence Lessig who early on pushed my thinking in all sorts of directions with his presentations, books, and blog entries. I’m still a big admirer of his work, and I seriously think he will come to be known as one of the great change agents of our times. That’s why his new book about he cultural shifts that are occurring around copyright, intellectual property and art went to the top of the list when it arrived a couple of days ago. (I’ve got a long list to get to, but I’ve also got some long flights ahead of me…)
Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy is a treatise on how we need to start rethinking traditional copyright law in the context of these easy sharing and copying technologies. And what’s especially relevant to our conversation is that he frames it in the way this all shakes out for our kids. In talking about how the government continues to create laws that “wage war” against the copyright infringement that many youngsters engage in every day, he says:
…I worry about the effect this war is having upon our kids. What is this war doing to them? Whom is it making them? How is it changing how they think about normal, right thinking behavior? What does it mean to a society when a whole generation is raised as criminals?
And then he asks the central question:
In a world in which technology begs all of us to create and spread creative work differently from how it was created and spread before, what kind of moral platform will sustain our kids, when their ordinary behavior is deemed criminal? Who will they become? What other crimes will to them seem natural.
To Lessig, this is a war that can not be won.
What should we do if this war against “piracy” as we currently conceive of it cannot be won? What should we do if we know that the future will be one where our kids, and there kids, will use a digital network to access whatever content they want whenever they want it? What should we do if we know that the future is one where perfect control over the distibution of “copies” simply will not exist?
Lots of questions that he will no doubt answer in the book, and that I hope to get back to here. But no doubt, these are questions we should be asking ourselves no matter how difficult or disruptive they may be. If you are reading this, you are doing so on your own personal printing press. That is a different world than the one current copyright laws were written under.