Monday Blog 5: How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law

“How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law” by Lawrence Lessig.

Lessig told three stories. Story one: the elite spoke Latin, the ordinary spoke English, French and German. The ordinary ignored the elite. Story two: the read-writer culture, where people create and re-create their culture, is replaced by the opposite, the read-only culture. Creativity is consumed, but the consumer is no longer the creator. Story three: in 1919, the US government waged a war against the dependence on alcohol, a war that eventually lost because the idea of using a war to fight the dependence on alcohol was proven vain in terms of how much it costed. Lessig makes the case that the meaning of forcing students to study serious literature that are mostly not meaningful in themselves is to enlighten people how hard this creativity is, and the respect for creativity is greatly meaningful in itself. Creative writing is an essentially democratic form of expression. We assume that we are free to take and use when we write. The difficulty with which we struggle to legitimately quote lines originated by someone in academic writing is proof of democracy in verbal creativity. However, the digital age calls into demand a digital copyright. The mashup or remix of songs create a gray zone in the digital creativity. Remix has nothing to do with technique, which has been democratized for any computer user since the beginning of the digital forms of expression. Copyright is triggered at every step of copy, turning remixing into a staggeringly expensive act to make it legal. Lessig explained the hybrid economy, the hybrid of commercial economy and sharing economy. Lessig expressed her agreement with Steve Ballmer that every single successful Internet business will be a hybrid economy. I very much agree with this claim based on my personal experience as a Douban user. Douban profits from promoting unknown writers and musicians through selling their online subscriptions. Douban also makes money though Online-to-Offline ticket sales. To navigate other users, numerous registered users rate the films and works of the writers and musicians. Lessig argues that to allow the hybrid economy and digital creativity thrive, we have to make copyright law focus on remix but not copy, and we have to give up fighting peer-to-peer piracy. Triggering copyright law every step of making a copy of a song prohibits an amateur from cultural participation on the Internet, though the amateur has no intention to turn the song into something new under his or her name, which a professional musician will do in a remix. Fighting peer-to-peer piracy makes it for musicians to profit and share with each other, while more competitions will arise since the rules will be clear.