Lessig Gives A Well-Timed Speech To The Italian Parliament On Internet Freedom

from the internet-is-freedom dept

We have noted, recently, that Italian laws and politicians seem to have a somewhat troubling view of the internet, where they are quick to blame the internet for anything bad that happens, and then look to pass laws that would throw out plenty of good just to protect against the possibility of any bad happening. This, of course, culminated just recently in the ruling in an Italian court that three Google execs were guilty of criminal violations, over a Google-hosted video.

Given all that, it's quite interesting timing to see that Larry Lessig just gave a speech to the Italian Parliament about how Internet is Freedom. You can see it below (assuming YouTube doesn't take it down) and it runs a little over half an hour:
He does not address that particular case (or, actually, any of the stories coming out of Italy concerning the internet). However, he does an excellent job setting up the issues related to regulating the internet -- detailing how there is a generational divide going on here, and how the digital generation is effectively "waiting for the dinosaurs to die off," but are still worried about the damage they might do in the meantime. And, with that, he suggests a rather gentle touch when it comes to regulations -- a "regulatory humility."

Not surprisingly, there's plenty in the video that I agree with -- but also plenty that I disagree with. While he does a great job highlighting three areas (copyright, journalism and transparency), where the internet does both good and bad, I disagree with his suggestions for "minimizing the bad." I do agree that we should always look to see if there are ways to minimize the "bad," but I'm not sure I agree with what he considers to actually be "harm" in all three of those cases. What he calls "harm," looks to me an awful lot like disruption. And you can't minimize disruption (at least not successfully).

Still, it is a worthwhile video to watch, with especially interesting timing and audience, given all that's been happening in Italy lately. It would be nice to know how the audience reacted and responded to the speech as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:01pm

    sodja boy FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:08pm

    lets just say im waiting for the dinosaurs to die...

     

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    EdB (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:24pm

    Harm to content creators who do not want their work shared freely is sharing their work freely. It doesn't matter if you or anyone else can make an argument you or anyone else deems sound regarding potential benefits of that sharing. The simple fact that the content creator chooses to not share it and it ends up easily shared is 'harm'.

    Think of the harm done by forcing someone who's religious beliefs to not eat certain foods to eat those foods. They will still digest them and poop later, and (hey - bright side!) they might find they like these foods. But clearly forcing them to partake is just wrong.

    Waiting for the dinosaurs to die is a really nice thing. Taunting them isn't. Nor is enabling them, which is where the guvamint is at. THAT is major harm done to the future, but I digress. And digest so I'm gonna go share some previously used food.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:48pm

    Simple fact is we have people in power that are dead set in their ways. They aren't looking for reasonable compromises, just derivatives of what they know. The only good news as i see it is we only have to wait 15~ more years before they will have to step down, and then we can see some more meaningful reform and change, assuming their successors haven't been too indoctrinated to closed-minded thinking.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 10:05pm

    Re:

    Harm to content creators who do not want their work shared freely is sharing their work freely. It doesn't matter if you or anyone else can make an argument you or anyone else deems sound regarding potential benefits of that sharing. The simple fact that the content creator chooses to not share it and it ends up easily shared is 'harm'.

    How so? Look, people do stuff that other people don't want done all the time. That's not harm. You could say bad things about Techdirt. I wouldn't like it, but it's not "harm." Saying that just because I created some content it harms me if you do something I don't like to it or with it, is wrong.

    Think of the harm done by forcing someone who's religious beliefs to not eat certain foods to eat those foods. They will still digest them and poop later, and (hey - bright side!) they might find they like these foods. But clearly forcing them to partake is just wrong.

    Right, that's a direct infringement on their own *personal* space. Someone sharing someone else's song, which does not have any direct impact on the content creator is entirely different.

     

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    Drew (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 11:02pm

    Some slack...

    I hear what you're saying when you point out that what's harm to him is simply disruption to you, but to some degree, you have to take into account his audience.

    He's making this speech to the dinosaur generation. A group of Italian lawmakers... It's not like he's got a snowball's chance in hell of converting them into open culture fanatics. He's trying to make some incremental progress by saying, "Look, I understand your perspective. And given the choice between giving a radical speech and having you ignore it completely, or toning my message down a bit so that you might, just might take it to heart, I'll do the latter."

    He has a very effective message here that I think would play well to an open minded person, even if you're a stuffy old legislator. "Don't regulate punitively. You're just waging war on your children. Find a way to keep the good while making the bad not quite so bad. If you focus only on ELIMINATING the bad, you will also eliminate the good."

    So yea, I cut him a little slack on moderating his message a bit. Consider the audience.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 11:19pm

    Jeff knows.

    "And if the whole world’s singing your songs
    And all of your paintings have been hung
    Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on"

     

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    FatGiant (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 12:13am

    A few things...

    There were a few things in this speech that I really disliked, and, some that I completely disagree with. As Drew said, we have to consider the audience, but even so...

    The thing that made me tweet him immediatly after seeing the video, was the decrease of the Music Market. Mike, here, as shown us the numbers several times. What as fallen is the CD selling part of the music businness. The overall music market has actually grown.

    Also, the way that he kept referring to P2P as a "BAD". P2P is neither good nor bad. It is. Simply. P2P is a technology allowing to share digital content. P2P doesn't mean "pirates". Because pirates don't share, they only take. By force.

    So, from someone that I consider a beacon, that has shown me how well informed and educated on these subjects he is, this, simply doesn't fit, and, it's completely uncharacteristic.

    There were a few things that I didn't like about the Transparency part of the speech. It is not Internet's fault that no one with a sane mind trusts politicians, it's their own fault, and the amount or lack of transparency will not change it, until the politicians change their ways. Yeah right...

    The waiting for dinosaurs to die, was quite good actualy and it sure reflects the reality. Let's hope for a way to speed up that process. (Metaphorically, of course).

    The rest of the speech was at Lessig level. Very good, very well paced and interesting and captivating. I do like his presentations and speeches. I only had trouble swalowing the above points, on this one.

    I will wait patiently for his answer to my Tweet. LOL.

     

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    Lessig, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 12:54am

    perhaps a bit too subtle

    but there was a direct reference to you YouTube case in the lecture, immediately after the YouTube remixes, where I stated the 20 hours of uploads in a minute and that any rule requiring review would end the service. The Minister picked up on it, and argued that there "must be an algorithm" since YouTube "pre-clears for porn." Lots of work to do.

    And sorry if I created the suggestion that p2p is "bad." It was the harm to some artists -- which I believe there is some -- which is bad. And whether or not "p2p doesn't harm people, people harm people," I support ways to minimize it.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 12:56am

    Re: A few things...

    The thing that made me tweet him immediatly after seeing the video, was the decrease of the Music Market. Mike, here, as shown us the numbers several times. What as fallen is the CD selling part of the music businness. The overall music market has actually grown.

    Also, the way that he kept referring to P2P as a "BAD". P2P is neither good nor bad. It is. Simply. P2P is a technology allowing to share digital content. P2P doesn't mean "pirates". Because pirates don't share, they only take. By force.


    Yup, absolutely agreed. Also agree on the transparency thing. I don't get why he thinks transparency is bad in that way at all. It's exposing problems with the overall system. That's not a bad thing at all.

    And, yes, even considering the audience... I'm not sure it helps the presentation to have those questionable points there.

     

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    Tor (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 3:49am

    Re:

    I recommend Could There be a Right to Own Intellectual Property? (pdf) written by James Wilson.

    What is to be considered harm depends on what baseline you choose. If you are trying to establish whether the currently law is justifiable or not then it doesn't make sense to use the provisions setup by the law as a baseline.

     

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    Sneeje (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 5:47am

    Re: Re:

    Mike, I bet you realize this, but I'm not sure EdB does. The harm that he implicitly assumes is from interference with the ability to create artificial scarcity.

    It's not the sharing or usage that is the harm, it is the inability to control whether or not others do those things. And I'm one of those that agree, that that control should be severely limited because the deliberate creation of artificial scarcity introduces inefficiency into the market, and as you've shown often, doesn't produce the benefits perceived to be created by the scarcity.

    I agree that if someone doesn't want to share their content, they are perfectly valid in their desire (keep it at home, never show it to anyone, don't make it available for viewing). However, if they want that content to enter the *market*, then they are remiss in believing they should continue to have total control. They can't have it both ways. If you wish to be a market participant, then you must be subject to its raw rules without gaming the system through artificial scarcity. In other words, compete or exit.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 6:54am

    you would think lessig would get smart and put stuff where it can't easily be taken down. i think much of his stuff is done to bait others rather than to say anything important.

     

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    Greevar (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 7:52am

    Compensation through law?

    Did he just imply that? That there should be not control given to authors by law, but law that guarantees compensation? That's ludicrous! It is blatantly obvious that digital media can no longer the treated as a product that can be packaged, limited, and sold off in parcels like it was in the 20th century. Things like music, software, and movies cannot be looked at as a product that needs to be paid for, it just doesn't work that way anymore. Media needs to become the incentive that leads consumers to buy services that make this infinite supply of media better.

    For example, piracy of games is a significant issue to me. I want to , sooner rather than later, get into the games industry and make games. Unfortunately, games are a digital media that can easily be replicated ad infinitum at little to no cost. DRM doesn't work, it only reinforces the animosity between consumers and publishers. The current business model just doesn't work anymore and it rightly shouldn't. So the next logical step would be to offer these games for a price that consumers are willing to pay while creating something tangible and quantifiable that gamers will want to pay for in order to get the most out of their games.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    Re: perhaps a bit too subtle

    "It was the harm to some artists -- which I believe there is some -- which is bad."

    Found a flaw in your belief ... Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Lily Allen, and Metallica. ;)

     

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    scottbp (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 8:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The point of copyright was that the public made a deal with the creator.
    "Share you work and for a limited time you can mostly control what is done with it commercially"
    In those terms the sharing mentioned by EdB is a sort of harm if the sharing is done on an "industrial" scale. The big problem is that copyright was born at the birth of the industrial era and is best suited to that world.

     

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    "Harm to content creators who do not want their work shared freely is sharing their work freely."

    Harm to toolmakers who do not want their tools shared freely is sharing their tools freely.

    Harm to clothes designers who do not want their clothes shared freely is sharing their clothes freely.

    I mean, if you buy a nice blanket and someone asks you to share it with them, and the maker doesn't want you too, he also should be able to ask for a government ban or three-strikes-law on blanket-sharing. Because it's not like content creators should get any special treatment, right? What THEY want is all that matters, not what the buyer wants.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 10:11am

    I love Lessig's work and I think the conference was excellent. I recommended it to anyone who is interested in these subjects. That said, I think he commits the 3 deadly sins: equating the music industry to the plastic distribution industry, mistaking newspapers with journalism and stating that investigative journalism has anything to do with democracy. Also, I don't see how people suspecting Hillary Clinton to be corrupt is a bad thing. She can stand up and state her position... and I also think that using Obama as a milestone of transparency is kind of naive. Loved the conference and label me a radical if you want but I can't see the bad in the bad column. I do see the bad in malware and such, but that's a completely different issue. And I absolutely loved the "dinosaurs will eventually die" part of the conference and the absolute silence as Lessig said "We won't beat them".

     

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    Rooker, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 12:31pm

    the digital generation is effectively "waiting for the dinosaurs to die off,"

    Man, that is right on the money and not just on the subject of things digital.

     

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    Greevar (profile), Mar 12th, 2010 @ 2:21pm

    Piracy is not the only reason for dropping sales

    I just remembered that in that video, Lessig mentions the increase to digital music purchases and the continuing loss of sales total. More or less it is implied that piracy is to blame, which is entirely untrue. If you look at the sales of music compared to other media such as games, movies, and other digital media, you'll see that people are just spending their money on new sources of entertainment. Don't assume piracy is to blame for flagging sales before you look at how people are spending their money.

     

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    Dohn Joe, Mar 13th, 2010 @ 2:44pm

    Lessig's Gone Off the Deep End

    When did Lessig adopt this primitive good vs. evil philosophy? To top that off every example of "evil" was actually a problem which the Internet had identified, not caused. Was this just a crock he concocted so that these stuffed-shirt bureaucrats could comprehend the presentation?

     

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    Drew (profile), Mar 13th, 2010 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Lessig's Gone Off the Deep End

    In a word? Yes.

     

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