@NeilTurkewitz: My Weekend With Larry Lessig

[Editor Charlie sez: Our old nemesis Lawrence Lessig is pressed back into service to lead Google’s charge against justice for pre-72 recording artists. True to form, Lessig trots out his own opinions about copyright masquerading as law–opinions that have been shot down twice by the US Supreme Court as Neil Turkewitz teaches us. Ever the victim, Lessig gets cranky when he’s called on it.]

My issue with Larry Lessig is that he is fighting to preserve injustice while claiming to represent the public interest, and that he has such little regard for the truth. Like most zealots, he believes that the ends justify the means. And since the ends he seeks are, from his perspective, so important, they justify extreme means. I find fault with both his desired ends, and with the modalities he is prepared to adopt in pursuit thereof. His defense of the worst aspects of the exploitation economy are both incomprehensible and inexcusable.

Let’s explore. On May 18, Larry Lessig published an article in Wired entitled: CONGRESS’ LATEST MOVE TO EXTEND COPYRIGHT PROTECTION IS MISGUIDED. In it, Lessig sets out the World According to Lessig, (hereafter referred to as WAL), and boy does it bear little similarity to the world the rest of sentient life occupies. Lessig was responding to a bill passed by the House of Representatives and currently in the Senate entitled CLASSICS that would address a gap in federal law that allows certain music services to avoid paying performers and labels for music created prior to February 15, 1972 (the date when federal copyright law first protected sound recordings). Now I say he was “responding,” to the legislation, but that is a bit generous, since his criticisms suggest that he in fact did not read the legislation, or more importantly, take the time to understand the surrounding legal environment in which the legislation is situated. And of course, it goes without saying that Lessig was unmoved by the actual injustice of the present situation.

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@neilturkewitz: To Cerf With Love

Last week, Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet (sorry, “Internet”) and chief evangelist of arguably the most powerful and mysterious company in the world (Alphabet/Google), published a piece in Wired entitled: “In 2018, we will tackle the internet’s dark side.”

Given that Cerf is essentially Willy Wonka if he were in the information business, including the fact that Mountain View may well be home to an army of Oompa Loompa coders and hackers, I immediately took notice — ready to devour the latest thinking of the man guiding us to, or from, the Singularity. After all, he was about to own up to the irrational exuberance surrounding the development of technology without having considered how it might be used, and how an economy based on achieving optimization of attention would end up distorting public discourse and the economy in ways that were, how can I say this politely…less than optimal in advancing the stated core goals that Cerf and the other fathers of the Internet had espoused. The very title promised a less evangelical approach to internet governance — one that recognized that there was a “dark side” of the internet. And stated so boldly. 2018 as the year when the dark forces undermining the potential of the internet were defeated.

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@neilturkewitz: Re:Creating the world through sleight of hand: ALI Restatement on Copyright re:Visited

Amending the law — any law, through a democratic process is hard, and can frustrate even the most articulate, impassioned and committed advocates. The creative community knows. Our entire existence takes place within an outdated legal framework that encourages willful blindness and rewards the engineering of technical modes of delivery and storage that undermine the very purpose of copyright law. It would be nice to find shortcuts that avoided the messiness and compromises of democracy in order to achieve necessary reforms, but that kind of reform via executive fiat isn’t a tool available to mere mortals. Well, unless that mortal is Professor Pam Samuelson whose advocacy has led the prestigious American Law Institute (ALI) to undertake a “Restatement of Copyright” as a means to effectively achieve legislative reform outside of the legislative process.

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@neilturkewitz: Disruption, Fear and Slippery Slopes: Baby Steps in Building a Better Internet

The biggest story of 2017? To my mind, there is no contest — the broad emergence of an awareness that the irresponsibility masquerading as Internet freedom represented a threat to global societies and to cherished aspects of our humanity, and that a course correction was badly needed.

While recognition of the fact that rewarding lack of accountability would likely incentivize anti-social and illegal conduct took longer than it should have, such an awareness came to fruition throughout 2017. Whether motivated by concerns about sex trafficking or the prevalence of other internet-enabled crimes, fake news, foreign government interference in elections, monopoly or monopsony power, or the perceived political or cultural biases of platforms, the question at the end of 2017 wasn’t whether the current legal framework for platform responsibility should be amended, but how.

It became clear that the twin pillars upholding the current lack of accountability in the internet ecosystem — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the DMCA, each of which was adopted at the dawn of the commercial internet, would need to be reexamined and a new framework established.

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@neilturkewitz: Fair Use, Fairness and the Public Interest

In honor of Fair Use Week, let’s begin by unmasking the false premise underlying much of the celebration of fair use — that is, that the basic objective of the copyright system is to achieve a balance between the “public interest” on the one hand, and the interest of private copyright owners on the other. In this formulation, the “public” interest is exclusively defined as the ability to get copyrighted materials as cheaply as possible, with free obviously being the best (since it is the cheapest) option.

Many of the organizations celebrating fair use would have you believe that copyright protection and the public interest are diametrically opposed. This is merely a rhetorical device, and is a complete fallacy. Groups like EFF, Public Knowledge and re:Create employ emotive rhetoric in an attempt to demonize copyright, and to suggest that “copyright” protection is somehow a “special interest.”

Read the post on Medium.