Lessig Defends His Controversial Ideas About Copyright

Harvard law professor and Creative Commons co-founder Lawrence Lessig has responded on Huffington Post to the brouhaha over his call for copyright reform two weeks ago at the Vimeo festival in New York.

As we reported here, Lessig  called on re-mix artists to push for changes in the law to make it easier to re-purpose, transform and re-mix the copyrighted works of others to make new works.  With criticism raining down upon him ever since, he used Huffington Post to elaborate on his provocative and–I dare say–not entirely unreasonable position.

As he points out, he’s not advocating for the starvation of photographers or other creators, much less the destruction of civilization. He’s appealing for changes to copyright law that enable a thriving culture of creativity in the digital age–especially by amateur artists–while still preserving the profit incentive of commercial artists, including photographers. (Creative Commons says its licenses “provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for creators, artists, and educators.”)

There are, of course, copyright hard-liners who see re-mix as a step onto a slippery slope. Some won’t tolerate so much as a discussion. Lessig called out a couple of them, citing their ad hominem attacks against him on Twitter. (The sticks-and-stones title of his post, though, is “The ‘Imbecile’ and ‘Moron’ Responds: On the Freedoms of Re-Mix Creators”.)

Lessig refers to our story in his piece, saying: “The inferno was ignited after the talk when a reporter covering the panel quoted the language I used… without making clear the context within which I was speaking.” Lessig also says his words were “ripped from their context and intended meaning.” For the record, the PDNPulse story explained the context (Ah hem. Link please, Professor Lessig!)

That said, his lengthy explication sheds more light on the nuances of his arguments. And it’s worth noting that “the inferno” he complains of no doubt helped him take his case to a bigger public forum, where it arguably deserve a lively debate.

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