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this is only an ok-ish intro book to the digital world of "appropriating" others music + images remixing them for "amateur" use, but nothing to do with the art world whatsover as depicited on the cover - so beware. directed at teens + twentysomething's burning others copyrighted music or video files on-line + how copyright might be reedefined for the future to offset the present use of such on-line creativity. the altruistic element of fileshare sites , as well as wikipedia + amazon is discussed also - where online reviewers (hey such as myself) enjoy sharing not only files but opinions online with others - as part of the burgeoning hybrid economy. certainly a zeitgeist subject + expanding soical mode of expression but this book over fixates on the copyright legalities without much flourish or wider view of where the ne wopportun ites offered on line for creative file sharing is taking us.
'Remix' continues Professor Lessig's discussion about the role of copyright in contemporary Western societies. This time he is focusing on how digital tools are used by children and adults alike to 'remix' pieces of culture. 'Remixing' involves taking images, music, speeches, and video (for example) and manipulating and arranging them to create entirely new cultural artifacts. You see this in homemade music videos, funny YouTube clips that use music to mock or praise politicians, and in blogs where people appropriate content from various locations to create the narrative of each posting. These amateur cultural artifacts are significant, both because they are creative expressions and because they leverage the weight of the symbols that are used in remixing to create the new cultural artifact. There is very real value in the referential elements of remix culture.
Lessig distinguishes between 'Read Only' (RO) and 'Read Write' (RW) cultures. RO culture has been the traditional realm of copyright - here intellectual property is carefully fenced off from the public commons, and individuals must ask permission to use it. RW culture, on the other hand, thrives off of sharing and creatively adapting (and re-adapting) media. Neither is necessarily better or worse than the other - they are each useful in particular domains. The problem, however, is that the laws governing RO culture are now preventing RW culture from legally thriving; digital technologies enable culture to be remixed, while the laws of the land outlaw creating remixed digital artifacts without first asking the permission of rights holders. Lessig associates the RO and RW 'culture models' with commercial and sharing economies, arguing that the advent of digital technologies and spaces can drive a wedge between commercial and sharing economies to create hybrid cultures and economies. He points to wikipedia, craigslist, YouTube, Slashdot, and last.fm as operating within a hybrid economy between RW and RO culture. This economy thrives off of individuals' shared participation that can stimulate commercial profits. If a company upsets the balance that makes possible this hybridity - by paying people when payment would be an insult, or mishandling the sharing of people's contributions - there is a risk that the financial success of a company that operates in the hybrid economy will be (financially) endangered.
The final solutions that are offered in the book (as you will read) follow naturally from the evolution of Lawrence's thoughts. There really isn't anything terribly surprising in the ultimate arguments surrounding how copyright laws ought to be altered, but what is different is the process by which we get to these arguments, and the meaning that is invested in the revision of copyright itself. Even if you've read his other work, there is value in examining Lessig's attitude towards copyright reform through a slightly different lens. (If you haven't read his previous work on copyright, then the conclusions will likely be incredibly powerful.) Ultimate, the question that he is asking in this book is 'Do you think that we should continue the current copyright regime, which is criminalizing our children, or must we reform copyright so that it attends to how material is used, rather than whether or not it is copied?'
While there are various areas of the text where a reader might be disappointed (all it will take is a sufficient disagreement with core premises in the argument), I was unhappy to see the reliance on market mechanisms to (largely) hammer home the value of copyright reform. It doesn't feel like Lessig is patronizing individuals who approach copyright from a dollars and cents position because he honestly believes in the market as a way of resolving/justifying solutions to the copyright dilemma. That said, I (continue to) wish that he'd adopt a more principled approach (e.g. on the basis of constitutional rightness or wrongness) and move away from the almighty market.
All in all, I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in issues of copyright, digital culture, new economies of business, or just want to laugh - while Lessig is a law professor, he has a gift for prose that would make most fiction writers and comedians envious.
Lessig is an authority and thought leader in open-source community. I picked the book because of his reputation. It doesn't disappoint. Fast read, easily understandable, real-life examples. Great read on the changes Lessig argues are necessary to intellectual property law to bring it into the 21st century. His arguments are somewhat loosely made; I guess to keep the book readable by a general audience and short. Even if you agree with Lessig's general position, I found, for me, he dedicated inadequate space to cover the underlying legal, cultural and historical bases. Lessig chooses instead a more populist approach. With well-argued examples he'll make a convert of you, especially if your kid is recording sampled music and putting it out there for consumption by her peers. Good Copy Bad Copy (YouTube) is a good supplement to some of Lessig's points in this book - if you want to quickly digest the remix culture. Dive deep with another book: Adrian Johns' Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates - for a history and a more impartial treatise on intellectual property and what copyright reform means.
Read this book if you seek a conceptual structure and a well reasoned perspective on what's happening (or should be happening) around copyright law and the practical application of it in this digital age. Very well done. Having read this book its clear that improvements in copyright law could improve our world and advance our culture. I didn't start this book with such an understanding. However. Don't read this book if you're seeking economic arguments and business models for businesses centered on intellectual property.
More generally, I would advocate for a revised edition. Two reasons. First, as I read it, I wondered if we're really heading towards Lessig's vision and if there are more recent waypoints that illuminate progress towards (or away) from his vision. Second reason: Lessig appears to be a political person. Fine. But he unfortunately links his advocacy in the final chapter to the rather dynamic geopolitical lessons of a "failure" in Iraq ... and to our environmental(global warming) tipping point. His argument to paraphrase is that media conglomerates cannot win the copyright/sharing war for the same reason we cannot win in Iraq. Oooops. With the benefit of time it would appear that Iraq has been won using the wise application of power. So it would therefore it follow's that Warner Brothers (and the media giants will win too with their wise application of market power)? You can't make a conclusive argument and then tie it to an inconclusive parallel. His political analogies have diminished his own argument. Embarrassing. Time for a revision. (And time for the author to spend less time with politico ideologues.)
But. That said. Lessig's argument around his core subject is huge and redefining and this is a worthwhile read.
As usual, Lessig presents a convincing, easy-to-understand look at the importance of rewriting our copyright laws. His focus here is to stop making teens automatically into criminals as they "remix" their culture into their own forms of art. It's true: copyright law is strangling amateur creativity, and Lessig presents a number of ways in which the law could be rewritten in such a way that the original artist (and corporation who owns the IP) and the amateur can be protected.
The amazing thing about this book is that Lessig is getting at something bigger than just the parental worries of children sharing music and videos through the internet. He is pointing out the very serious question of where our culture is now heading toward. The World Wide Web and digital technologies has changed its course, and we now need to begin an open discussion of how we, as a community of artists, lawmakers, corporations, and the viewing (and hopefully remixing) public, would like to move forward in the 21st Century. Lessig makes an excellent contribution to this primal, immediate, and ultimately eternal conversation in "Remix".