FREE CULTURE: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity

Editorial Review - Kirkus - Jane Doe

"A free culture, like a free market, is filled with property," writes a copyright expert. But, he adds, extremism in asserting rights in that property can kill a culture.Consider Disney Corp., which regularly clamps down on artists who use the likeness of, say, Mickey Mouse for their own purposes. Now, Mickey has been around since 1928, born, Lessig (Law/Stanford Univ.; The Future of Ideas, 2001 ... Read full review

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Lawrence Lessig is a top-notch lawyer with a calm wit and a big heart. I'm sure that there are other books that could succinctly teach someone interested in copyright history about the major arguments and legal traditions from Anglo-Saxon tradition to Eldred v. Ashcroft. The first 3/4 of the book is mostly argumentative: setting up the case for why free culture is important and demonstrating the historical shift from a free culture in America to a permission culture. The last quarter deals with the Eldred case and Lessig's close involvement with it, providing most of the original material for this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling in this part. As much as Lessig is careful to avoid legalese throughout the work it is here that we finally see Lessig as a narrator and not a lecturer (paradoxically these passages highlight Lessig himself as a lawyer). If you find yourself bogged down or uninspired by the historical lecture just skip ahead to the description of the Eldred case (although when reading the Afterword be aware that Lessig alludes to arguments and anecdotes presented earlier in the book).
I thoroughly enjoyed Lessig's introduction to the battle for free culture. Maybe I'm biased because I used to be into bittorrent and have seen the potential for technology to enhance culture (like discovering pilots for programs that never aired another episode). If you can make it through the entire book and remain unconvinced of most of Lessig's arguments I would submit that you too need to discover just how much potentially-free culture the big media companies are hiding from you.

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