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The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected Worldby Lawrence Lessig
Synopses & Reviews
The Internet revolution has come. Some say it has gone. What was responsible for its birth? Who is responsible for its demise?
In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the Internet revolution has produced a counterrevolution of devastating power and effect. The explosion of innovation we have seen in the environment of the Internet was not conjured from some new, previously unimagined technological magic; instead, it came from an ideal as old as the nation. Creativity flourished there because the Internet protected an innovation commons. The Internet?s very design built a neutral platform upon which the widest range of creators could experiment. The legal architecture surrounding it protected this free space so that culture and information — the ideas of our era — could flow freely and inspire an unprecedented breadth of expression. But this structural design is changing — both legally and technically.
This shift will destroy the opportunities for creativity and innovation that the Internet originally engendered. The cultural dinosaurs of our recent past are moving to quickly remake cyberspace so that they can better protect their interests against the future. Powerful conglomerates are swiftly using both law and technology to "tame" the Internet, transforming it from an open forum for ideas into nothing more than cable television on speed. Innovation, once again, will be directed from the top down, increasingly controlled by owners of the networks, holders of the largest patent portfolios, and, most invidiously, hoarders of copyrights.
The choice Lawrence Lessig presents is not between progress and the status quo. It is between progress and a new Dark Ages, in which our capacity to create is confined by an architecture of control and a society more perfectly monitored and filtered than any before in history. Important avenues of thought and free expression will increasingly be closed off. The door to a future of ideas is being shut just as technology makes an extraordinary future possible.
With an uncanny blend of knowledge, insight, and eloquence, Lawrence Lessig has written a profoundly important guide to the care and feeding of innovation in a connected world. Whether it proves to be a road map or an elegy is up to us.
"This book is the Silent Spring of ideas. Lawrence Lessig is telling a prophetic story of how the media-corporate complex is fencing off American culture in the name of intellectual property. His indictment is clear and shocking: our cultural patrimony is being stolen. Lessig is sounding the alarm." Michael Wolff
"The public interest or 'the commons,' as Lawrence Lessig refers to it in this important book, has become an antique notion. The reigning assumption is that a free marketplace will protect the public and keep the Internet free and open. But as Lessig shows with eloquence and vivid clarity, an open Internet is menaced by commercial forces that are just doing what comes naturally?advancing their own business interests. So they use their control of the Internet's plumbing, or software code, or content, or the patent laws, to impede competition. This is neither another tome by a would-be guru, nor an ideological screed. As a thinker, Larry Lessig is as unpredictable as the weather. He is a modern-day Paul Revere. He doesn't shout, but his cool logic and clear prose produce a roar that should alarm every citizen, for he demonstrates the price citizens are paying in lost freedom of choice, lost innovation, lost competition." Ken Auletta
"Lessig's masterly account warns us about the threats to the diversity and openness of information on the Internet and to innovation itself. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of information technology and its impact." Mitch Kapor, cofounder, Electronic Frontier Foundation
"The Future of Ideas is the most important work yet written about the grave threat posed to innovation and creativity in America and throughout the world. Lawrence Lessig documents the rapid and largely undebated expansion of government-granted monopolies over broad swatches of the knowledge our society relies on, and compares this with the role common access to knowledge has always played in America's vibrant culture and economy. He has written a Rosetta stone to what is a highly technical, legalistic debate that explains this trend in words the rest of us can understand. This is a debate that finds today's largest global publishing and technology corporations on one side and Thomas Jefferson, the United States Constitution, and the rest of us on the other. If you are only going to read one thought-provoking book this year, this is the one to read." Bob Young, entrepreneur, cofounder and chairman of Red Hat, Inc., and the Center for the Public Domain
About the Author
Lawrence Lessig is a professor of law at the Stanford Law School. Previously Berkman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School from 1997 to 2000 and professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1991 to 1997, he is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Trinity College, Cambridge, and Yale Law School. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. He is a monthly columnist for The Industry Standard, a board member of the Red Hat Center for Open Source, and the author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace.
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