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CONTACT: Amy Smorodin
April 28, 2008
(202) 289-8928
"Free Culture" Akin to "Quasi-Socialist Utopianism"
PFF's Sydnor Shows That Lessig Would Replace Copyrights with a "Quasi-Socialist" System of Tax-Funded Art and Spyware-Powered Thought Police

WASHINGTON D.C. - Professor Lawrence Lessig and his book Free Culture, the manifesto of the "Free Culture Movement," support ham-handed government control of expression and pervasive government surveillance of what ordinary citizens read and watch, concludes Tom Sydnor in, "Tragedy and Farce: An Analysis of the Book Free Culture," a Progress on Point released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. In this paper, Sydnor makes two points.

First, he shows that Lessig "demonizes" copyright owners so incessantly that "Lessig's own writings brand him a demagogue and a hypocrite - one so terrifyingly self-righteous and hopelessly partisan that he could barely finish praising restraint before he resumed using the rhetoric of racism to brand the other side as the devil's own."

Next, he shows that Lessig and Free Culture "propose that the United States should eliminate copyrights by doing what the Soviet Union did - by nationalizing the production of expressive works." Lessig and Free Culture want our government "to make 'unavoidably vague' judgments about the value of our expression, impose a tech-tax on computer and Internet technologies, and then divide tech-tax revenues among worthy artists by deploying spyware that records everything that ordinary citizens hear, watch, read and do in their homes, cars and offices."

He reveals the path to this Orwellian scheme through Lessig's books and articles. He shows that when Lessig was not redefining the word "free" until it meant "costly and state-controlled," he was repeatedly praising or defending communism in gratuitous pronouncements like this: "'[Communist] Vietnam sets as its ideal the state in the service of the withering of the state; the United States sets as its ideal the withered state in the service of liberty.'"

Sydnor shows that Lessig's real goal is broader than the mere nationalization of expression: It is "to persuade America to embrace 'the idea of placing the design of the Internet into the hands of government.'" He concludes by noting that notwithstanding Lessig's relentless pessimism about property rights and people, the U.S. has been and continues to be a uniquely successful producer and exporter of art and innovation. "Only by ignoring this can [Lessig] conclude that... 'it takes a studied blindness for people to continue to believe they live in a culture that is free.'"

As Sydnor notes, "[I]t takes a far more 'studied blindness' to believe otherwise."

"Tragedy and Farce: An Analysis of the Book Free Culture," is available on the PFF website. It is the first in a series of papers that will critique Free Culture and the Free Culture Movement.

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