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News Release
May 16, 2002
CONTACT: David Fish
(202) 289-8928

Lessig's 'Fixes' Would Harm Digital Content
Adkinson Takes Issue with Stanford Prof's New Book

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The dire warnings of one of the digital world’s most touted thinkers, Stanford Law professor Larry Lessig, that content owners are “dinosaurs” using copyright to control innovation and stifle creativity on the Internet, are essentially baseless according to Progress & Freedom Foundation Senior Policy Counsel William F. Adkinson, Jr. Worse yet, Lessig’s proposed remedies would inhibit the development of a robust market for rich digital content and slow down broadband deployment.

In the wake of generally uncritical reviews of Lessig’s new book, The Future of Ideas, Adkinson has published a concise critique of the professor’s assertions and proposed policy solutions in the new issue of the American Spectator. Adkinson observes that Lessig does not credit the extent to which “copyright leaves a rich public domain” by keeping ideas in that realm. He chides Lessig for emphasizing the protection of “simple copying or its close cousins.” Indeed, Adkinson argues, such “[p]iracy is in fact the central problem facing digital creations” and the “greatest threat” to getting content online: “The future of online content “depends crucially on the existence of clear, enforceable property rights.” Similarly he challenges Lessig’s “dinosaur” contention, pointing out that the content owners are not trying to “suppress technology,” but are simply attempting to combat the pirating of their works.

To Adkinson, the “ultimate” difference between himself and Lessig is that he would rely principally on the marketplace – competition among the producers of music, movies and other works – to promote online content and consumer interests, while Lessig relies on regulatory fiat. A prime example is Lessig’s “fatally flawed” call for compulsory licensing of online music. “Congress can neither adequately anticipate fast-moving technological and business developments, nor design compulsory licensing flexible enough to adjust to them…” Adkinson maintains. “Government has a key role in defining and enforcing the property rights (especially copyrights) involved, but should let competing private firms design and test business models, and set prices,” harnessing the “process of ‘creative destruction’.” In addition, Lessig’s proposal to place restrictions on the types of technological protection measures that will receive legal protection from hackers “could gravely impair the efficacy of technological protection.”

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation