I was in NYC last Thursday night to catch the New York Public Library “Who Owns Culture?” presentation by Lawrence Lessig, Jeff Tweedy, and Steven Johnson. It was well worth the trip. Observe the crummy camera phone photo—those three tiny, amorphous blobs among all the fuzz and JPEG artifact really are them, I swear. I was even briefly within pawing distance of David Byrne while waiting in line to get in. The New York Times write-up is here.
For me the most salient point of the evening was Lessig’s observations on the “collateral damage” of our current (and possibly future) IP regime. It’s cultivating an entire generation that feels, as he put it, “the law is an ass.”
The laws that have the most direct impact on creative culture are increasingly antithetical to how the creative process unfolds (influence, collaboration, and variation – throw in the occasional dash of genius here and there). An entire generation of creatives intuits this. They see the dissonance between how the creative process works and what the law tells them they can and cannot do. They take one look at the law and scoff.
The fellow sitting next to me was a junior high music teacher who put his dilemma to Lessig during Q&A. I feel for this guy. By the very nature of his job he’s charged with cultivating the minds of the next generation. What’s he to do? Tell them that the creative process that birthed jazz, kick-started the Renaissance, and gave Hendrix his licks simply doesn’t apply to them? He wanted to know what he could tell his students. Succinctly, Lessig said to tell them, “be creative.”
Remix, and damn the torpedoes.
Video of the event is finally available at Wilcoworld.