I've spent way too much time this week arguing over email with lawyers whose views on intellectual property don't make sense to me. I've been resisting making a general statement about all lawyers when it comes to intellectual property, but Larry Lessig has done it for me. In describing a stunning email exchange between someone at Creative Commons and a lawyer at MP3.com, Lessig asks: "Is it impossible to imagine the lawyers ever on the side of innovation?" The exchange is pretty straightforward. Someone from CC sent a note to MP3.com pointing out that one of their artists was using a CC license, and asking if they wanted to team up to make it easier to offer CC licenses to their bands. The response from the MP3.com lawyer was basically saying how dare they offer anything other than the good old American standard copyright, and that they were to "cease and desist" from talking to any artists on MP3.com. I'm not sure what sort of legal authority the lawyers at Vivendi Universal (owners of MP3.com) think they have, but I don't think it covers them telling people not to talk to their clients. Yet another example of lawyers who may (or may not!) understand the law, but don't understand business.
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