Lawrence Lessig thinks there’s a war against innovation going on. Back in February 2007, at the TED conference, he presented a remarkable talk on the topic. The champion of copyright reform and founder of Creative Commons began his rapid-fire talk by noting how John Philips Sousa, the master of American march music, was chagrined a century ago by the invention of the phonograph because he feared it would end entertainment as a form in which amateurs could be the stars. It limited choices, he fretted: an argument one could make about large media companies today. During a tour de force presentation, Lessig galloped through a century of the battle between rights holders and innovators, inexorably moving to today’s ascent of user-generated content. Thanks to such mashups, we’ve got a high-tech realization of Sousa’s dream , amateurs getting heard.
Especially when he examined how BMI killed the ASCAP monopoly on music copyrights back in the 1940s, Lessig made a point worth noting now: The technology may be different and the money in question may be larger, but the current battles between rights holders and innovators are mirrors of ones that have played out over at least the past century. But don’t take my word for it: See the talk for yourself:
Lessig has just published a new book, Remix, that extends his TED presentation. Tomorrow in this space we’ll talk to him about it.