05 February 2004

My favorite legal theorist

Lawrence Lessig is a great American. A constitutional lawyer, with experience helping formerly communist countries create new legal systems, Lessig has been working on the deep questions of law in the era of software and digital media for the past several years. His book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace is one of the best books on any subject I've ever read. It's a lucid and readable work that is a good introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the fundamentals of legal thinking, open source software, or the intersection between the two.

Lessig gets it. Most importantly, he sees that our intellectual property law has become irrational, inconsistent, and counterproductive, and lays out what we can do to fix it. His energies have been devoted lately to Creative Commons, an organization creating the legal infrastructure for alternatives to copyright. You can now apply a range of creative commons liscenses to works that allow you to protect it in various different ways: allowing free use so long as you are attributed as the author, or so long as the use is non-commercial, or so long as it remains unmodified, and so on.

Whether you already know about Lessig or not, you should take a few minutes to check out this talk of his, which sums up a lot of the issues around how we handle copyright. The site provides a very cleverly done animation to go with the talk.

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