Monday, October 03, 2005
COPYRIGHT: In 2002, Larry Lessig unveils new copyright concept
Thumbnail backgrounder: Lessig is the Stamford law professor who was the
court-appointed expert in the Microsoft antitrust case until MSFT got him
booted. He has a new book out and is seen as one of the most enlightened
thinkers about the Internet and intellectual property.
February 11, 2002
Lessig plans digital rights organization
John Borland, CNET News.com
Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, one of the most articulate critics
in today's online copyright battles, is kicking off a project he hopes can
serve as neutral ground in the digital rights debates.
Dubbed the Copyright Commons, Lessig's project aims to spur sharing and
use of works ranging from software code to music in a way that he and
other critics say has been stifled by copyright laws. Drawing on the
experience of open-source software programming, the group hopes to create
new digital licenses that will cut out painful legal wrangling and rights
At its simplest level, the new license system would let people who stumble
across a piece of music, art or software online know quickly how it can be
used. In much the same way that an MP3 file might have the song name and
artist encoded in the file itself, a work using the Commons license would
include information on where the song could be used, in what form, and who
needed to be paid as a result.
But the Commons, which Lessig plans to launch officially in early May,
will also serve as a kind of rights clearinghouse for a limited number of
works, ranging from software to poetry. While the scale of this project is
still unclear, the group plans to defend the legal rights and integrity of
whatever public domain content is put into this "conservancy."
"Both of these are (ways) to use existing...intellectual property law...to
facilitate broader use and innovation," Lessig said in an interview.
Lessig has been one of a small group of academics who have joined
programmers and entrepreneurs in saying that movie studios, record
companies and other corporate copyright interests have used the legal
system as a blunt tool to squelch new ways of sharing and distributing
copyrighted works online.
While stopping short of saying that companies or services like Napster,
MusicCity, or Morpheus should be allowed to run unchecked, he has warned
that the lawsuits targeting those companies threaten to put a clamp on
technical and artistic innovation. Creative as well as technical
innovation depends on the free sharing of information, Lessig has argued.
The copyright repository portion of the project is initially aimed at
encouraging people or companies who had been leery of putting works in the
public domain to do so, by providing a group that will defend any legal
rights and will ensure that the original work isn't corrupted by others'
Lessig isn't yet saying how many works--or what mix--will be included in
the early days of the repository. But there will be a budget and a
mechanism for defending the authors' or artists' rights, he said.
"We'll only accept (works) when we're strong enough to defend the
rights," he said.
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