[Politech] Two reviews of Larry Lessig's "Free Culture" book [ip]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Thu Jan 06 2005 - 06:47:18 PST

Here's an excerpt from David Post's review in Reason (which is generally 
quite positive):

For instance, Lessigís proposal for an Internet-wide compulsory 
licensing scheme -- a fixed, government-set royalty rate covering all 
music downloads -- strikes me as unwise. There are, to begin with, 
serious practical and theoretical problems with any scheme that sets a 
single (per-byte?) price to cover all musical works. More importantly, 
under a compulsory licensing scheme, the government is suddenly the 
arbiter of all transactions; every music download becomes, literally, a 
federal case. The potential for government snooping, not to mention the 
administrative nightmare, gives me pause.
And I have some other nagging doubts that Lessig never quite dispels. 
Itís undeniable that the scope of copyright has expanded vastly during 
the last few decades. But there is a respectable slice of opinion that 
views this expansion much more positively than Lessig does -- one that 
welcomes these developments.

The second follows.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Review of Lessig's Free Culture
Date: Mon, 03 Jan 2005 15:01:16 GMT
From: The Progress & Freedom Foundation <mail@private>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>


Review of Lessig's Free Culture

The December 2004 issue of the Virginia Law Review contains a
skeptical review of Larry Lessig's book Free Culture, entitled
Larry Lessig's Dystopian Vision, by Prof. Julia D. Mahoney of
the UVA law school. (Linked by permission of the VLR.)

Her conclusion:

It is easy to wish that Lessig had decided to write another sort
of book. Had he started from the premises that adjusting
property rights to technological and societal change has posed
significant challenges throughout U.S. history, and that it is
impossible to state with complete confidence that any regime
strikes (or has struck) the appropriate balance between
providing incentives to creators and innovators and ensuring
appropriate access to the fruits of their efforts, Lessig might
have produced a thoughtful meditation on intellectual property
in the Internet age. Instead, Lessig has opted to tell a dark,
sweeping tale of a nation that for most of its history adjusted
to societal and technological change with ease, but now teeters
on the edge of an abyss of corporate control.

The world depicted in the pages of Free Culture, however, is at
odds with Lessig's dystopian vision, for it is a vibrant place
where technological innovation, creative endeavors, and public
discussion of political issues flourish to a degree that would
have been scarcely imaginable to our forebears. That such a
society faces some perplexing challenges should come as no
surprise. Addressing these challenges will require a number of
difficult determinations, including whether the hazards posed by
various new technologies outweigh their benefits and how best to
ensure that property rights evolve to promote the overall public
interest. Regrettably, Free Culture promises to be of little
help in crafting useful solutions to these genuine problems.

Disclosure: Prof. Mahoney and I are related; she is my daughter.

- posted by James DeLong @ 11:39 AM

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