Lessig and money in politics.

July 1, 2007 § Leave a comment

A serious fellow, moving from a very serious issue to a very very serious issue.

By DAN MITCHELL, What¹s Online

HIS ideas and opinions aside, nobody has done more than Lawrence Lessig to help people understand the profound effects of technology on the laws governing intellectual property. He is, as Wired magazine called him in 2002, ³the Elvis of cyberlaw² (wired.com).

But now, Mr. Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School, is leaving the building, or at least the room. ³I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years,² he announced this week on his blog (lessig.org/blog) and last week in a speech at the iCommons Summit in Croatia (available via youtube.com).

His new mission, for at least the next decade, he says, is to combat the influence of money on politics, which yields bad laws ‹ and not just the bad laws governing intellectual property.

³Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide,² he wrote. ³In the United States, listening to money is the only way to secure re-election. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.²

Mr. Lessig rose to national prominence in 1997, when Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson appointed him special master in the federal government¹s antitrust case against Microsoft. An appeals court removed him from the case, but by then his expertise on the legal implications of technology had become widely recognized.

He went on to write several books about intellectual property, including ³Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace,² ³The Future of Ideas,² and his latest, ³Code Version 2.0.² In various ways, they all addressed the central legal conundrum presented by technology and new media: how to update the archaic laws and regulations governing intellectual property, while simultaneously maintaining the rights of content creators and content consumers.

He has railed against harsh corporate restrictions on copying and sharing music and movies, federal copyright extensions that give big media companies the power to sue over, for example, anyone depicting Mickey Mouse and corporate efforts to shut down peer-to-peer networks.

His book ³Free Culture² is available via a free download under a Creative Commons license, a concept he had a hand in developing (free-culture.org).

It allows the free use of copyrighted materials outside the purview of what he believes are the creativity-stifling copyright restrictions championed by corporations and protected by compliant, cash-besotted lawmakers (creativecommons.org).

Which brings us back to Mr. Lessig¹s new mission. He is not ³leaving Œthe movement¹ ,² he insisted. ³But I have come to believe that until a more fundamental problem is fixed, the movement can¹t succeed either.²

June 23, 2007

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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