The Future of Ideas: Download Your Free Copy (and More)

thefutureofideas.jpgIn 2001, Stan­ford law pro­fes­sor Lawrence Lessig pub­lished The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Com­mons in a Con­nect­ed World. Here, Lessig launched a cam­paign against Amer­i­can copy­right law, argu­ing that it has become so restric­tive that it sti­fles cul­tur­al inno­va­tion and social progress .… which under­mines the orig­i­nal point of copy­right law. Back in 1787, the found­ing fathers includ­ed the “copy­right clause” in the Amer­i­can con­sti­tu­tion, look­ing to give authors a short-term incen­tive to inno­vate and ulti­mate­ly con­tribute to the pub­lic good. (Arti­cle I, Sec­tion 8 empow­ers Con­gress “To pro­mote the Progress of Sci­ence and use­ful Arts, by secur­ing for lim­it­ed Times to Authors and Inven­tors the exclu­sive Right to their respec­tive Writ­ings and Dis­cov­er­ies.”). At the out­set, copy­right law pro­tect­ed forms of expres­sion — and let authors prof­it from them — for a min­i­mum of 14 years and a max­i­mum of 28. Then, the mate­r­i­al went into the pub­lic domain. But over time, the pro­tec­tions placed on cul­tur­al expres­sion have been extend­ed, and now works are pro­tect­ed so long as an author is alive, and then anoth­er 70 years. That’s poten­tial­ly up to 140 years or more. All of this has hap­pened because Con­gress has been suc­cess­ful­ly lob­bied by large media cor­po­ra­tions (e.g. Dis­ney), want­i­ng to mon­e­tize their media assets (think, Mick­ey Mouse) indef­i­nite­ly.

Any­way, this is a long way of telling you that you can now down­load The Future of Ideas for free. Lessig per­suad­ed Ran­dom House to release the book under a “Cre­ative Com­mons” license, using the argu­ment that free e‑books will actu­al­ly stim­u­late sales of paper copies. (Do you real­ly want to read 350 pages on your com­put­er screen?)

This is not the first time that Lessig has worked with this mod­el. One of his pre­vi­ous books, Free Cul­ture: How Big Media Uses Tech­nol­o­gy and the Law to Lock Down Cul­ture and Con­trol Cre­ativ­i­ty, was also made freely avail­able in dig­i­tal for­mat. (You can down­load a free audio­book ver­sion or buy the paper ver­sion here.)

As a final note, I should men­tion that Lessig will be leav­ing behind his focus on these copy­right issues, and turn­ing his sights to cor­rup­tion in Wash­ing­ton. Below you can watch him out­line the prob­lem that he’s look­ing to tack­le.

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