Last semester, in Communication Debates and Approaches, we studied a piece of academic text by American academic and political activist Lawrence Lessig. The passage is titled “Free Culture” and looks at “how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity” (Lessig 2004).
When Lessig speaks of a free culture, he’s referring to the creative culture surrounding the media that used to allow one person to develop and build upon the ideas and work of other people. Specifically, Lessig speaks of Americans who worked within the media industry at the beginning of the 20th century, including figures such as Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks and Buster Keaton.
The culture was free at that time as few restrictions were placed on these creative people or their work. Anybody was free to develop the work of another. However Lessig contends that in modern times this creative culture is becoming less free due to the implementation of strict and, in his opinion, absurd copyright laws that restrict artists from using and developing previous work.
Lessig contends that the introduction of these copyright laws “exploited” (Lessig 2004, pp. 25), and continue to exploit, the public domain for creativity. Thus the restrictions create a “world that celebrates “property”” (Lessig 2004, pp. 28) and inhibit the ability of artists to develop and expand upon the works of others. In Lessig’s view, copyright laws have a negative impact on creativity.
Lessig, L 2004, Free Culture, The Penguin Press, New York, USA.