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Free Culture
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Learn the key ideas of the book by Lawrence Lessig

Free Culture

Creativity and copyright in the times of the internet

The laws governing copyright and, consequently, the formation of the very culture of our society, have had to adapt to a new technology: the internet. The trend has been to favour the protection of copyright to the detriment of creative freedom. In his book Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity, Lawrence Lessig, staunch supporter of the reduction of legal restrictions on copyright and founder of the company Creative Commons, clearly explains the development of copyright laws and what the risks may be for a society in which a culture of permission is preferred over a culture of freedom, also proposing some solutions to the problem.

Free Culture
Read in 14 min.
Listen in 18 min.

The arrival of the internet changed the way cultures are formed

When their interests are put at risk by changes in technology, the powerful heads of industry work to defend them. Radio Corporation America (RCA) did just that when Edwin Howard Armstrong invented the frequency modulation transmission system (FM) in 1935, because this invention threatened the existing amplitude modulation transmission system (AM) on which RCA had founded an empire. After years of hiding, in the hope that this new invention would not take off, then stalling and engaging in legal battles to take over the rights without having to pay any royalties to its inventor, RCA took over the new FM system, backed by the government administration of that time, and subsequently leaving Armstrong bankrupt.

The internet does not have an official birthday, or even an inventor, but it has revolutionised our society in the same way, if not more, than the invention of FM radio did. Today, most people are connected to the internet, and its integration into our daily lives has brought with it radical changes. Some of these changes are technical, and are confined to the use of the technology, such as the speed with which we are able to communicate, and the decrease in the cost of data collection. There is also a change that has more of an impact on our daily lives, a subtle one, sometimes even imperceptible, that changes the way in which our culture is formed and develops.

Throughout history there has always been a big difference between commercial and non-commercial culture. Commercial culture is the part of our culture that is bought and sold, or the one which is produced for the specific purpose of selling it. This might be a novel, a poem or an essay. The rest is considered non-commercial culture, and this might include songs that tell the tales of old English battle triumphs that are passed on through generations but do not belong to anyone. Until now, the law has only been concerned with commercial culture, but now that the internet has erased the dividing line between the two, things are beginning to change.


The key ideas of "Free Culture"

The arrival of the internet changed the way cultures are formed
Copyright in modern times tends to limit even non-commercial culture
One of the key components that enables a culture to develop is freedom
Programming is taking the place of copyright rules
If it is not regulated, copyright could limit what is known as “Walt Disney Creativity”
We need to find a way to protect the rights of the artist whilst also allowing the sharing of their work
When it comes to file sharing, the line between legality and piracy is very fine
Creative Commons opens the gates to the “some rights reserved” formula
There are a few simple ways that copyright laws could be improved
Take-home message
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