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April 22, 2004
CONTACT: David Fish
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Lessig Book Receives Tough
Review by DeLong

National Review Features Counter to Free Culture Movement Leader

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Larry Lessig and the Free Culture Movement he leads believe corporate America and the institution of copyright are stifling America’s creative spirit, and they want to do something about it. To the extent their assessment of the problem and chosen solutions are contained in the Stanford Law Professor’s new book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, a noted Movement skeptic, Progress & Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow James DeLong, wonders what the fuss is about and warns against destructive action. Moreover, in his review of the book published in National Review Magazine, DeLong suggests Lessig and his allies ignore the benefits of markets and the interests of both creators and consumers due, in part, to their “childish” obsession with “getting stuff for free.”

Emphasizing “stories rather than data” and “alternating between horror stories and polemical abstraction” to make his bleak case that creativity is declining, Lessig’s book is “a work for the faithful,” writes DeLong. Falling far short of Code, which propelled Lessig into the forefront as a big-thinker, he says the new tome is “thin gruel.” Branding the Movement’s rhetoric “elusive,” he says its aim is “to shorten copyright terms, drastically circumscribe copyright protections against derivative works, widen concepts of ‘fair use’ (and outlaw any method of digital encryption that would interfere with the expanded definition), and wipe out inhibitions on file sharing over the Internet.” According to DeLong, some of these are “genuine problems, but of a minor kind.” But there is no need for “blowing up the system.”

“One gets no sense in Free Culture of the fact that the copyright system is a mechanism by which consumers get together and agree on rules that will enable them to pool their resources and persuade creators to produce,” writes DeLong. “Obviously, I would like to get the stuff for free while others pay; you would like a similar system. Things cannot work that way, so consenting adults get together and agree that all will pay.”

Lessig’s new book was released on March 25, the very day he and DeLong debated the Free Culture Movement at the National Press Club in Washington. That debate was an outgrowth of the duo’s frequent blog exchanges.

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