Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law Professor and my longtime intellectual heart-throb, has just released his new book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in a Hybrid Economy under a Creative Commons license. You and anybody else with an internet connection can download it for free directly from the publisher. Remix draws from the same subject matter of Lessig’s earlier work, Free Culture and The Future of Ideas, but this time he’s chosen to focus not upon the crimes of the copyright regimes but on current culture. Yes, that one, where your friends get DMCA takedown requests for posting links to copyrighted content and where crimes are committed to the tune of “have you heard the latest Andrew Bird album?”. Lessig’s writing is, as usual, concise, comprehensive, and clear. Read the preface at least, or if you’re truly lazy, just read this excerpt from the preface.
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?
In that world, should we continue our ritual sacriﬁce of some kid caught downloading content? Should we continue the expulsions from universities? The threat of multimillion- dollar civil judgments? Should we increase the vigor with which we wage war against these “terrorists”? Should we sacriﬁce ten or a hundred to a federal prison (for their actions under current law are felonies), so that others learn to stop what today they do with ever-increasing frequency?
In my view, the solution to an unwinnable war is not to wage war more vigorously. At least when the war is not about survival, the solution to an unwinnable war is to sue for peace, and then to ﬁnd ways to achieve without war the ends that the war sought. Criminalizing an entire generation is too high a price to pay for almost any end. It is certainly too high a price to pay for a copyright system crafted more than a generation ago.