Monday, September 8, 2008

Summary on Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture (Chapters 1-2)


Chapter one kicks off with creators and how they create by use of other people's ideas. For example, the first cartoon with synchronized sound, Steamboat Willie was made by Walt Disney. Synchronizing sound with with animation was an idea that someone had already done with non cartoon movies Disney just copied that idea and applied it to his cartoon which wasn't unique either. Steamboat Willie was very similar to a non-sound cartoon released named Steamboat Bill Jr. Disney just made a close replica to that cartoon and added some music.

This kind of borrowing wasn't new nor was it considered "wrong" at the time. Most creators borrowed ideas of others and built upon them to create newer and better versions. Lessig calls this "borrowing" for creating "Disney Creativity". This type of creativity is argued to be the only creativity.

Back when Disney was creating, copyrights lasted 30 years before expiring and putting their content into the public domain, which was a "lawyer-free zone". So people were able to take material who's copyrights had expired and use them to build upon. But as time goes on copyright times are increasing and there is less and less material in the "lawyer-free zone".

The "Disney Creativity" was not just limited to Disney or even the U.S. Today this type of creativity is still widely practiced. For example, in Japan people are crazy about a type of comic book/graphic novel called a Manga. These comic books are widely produced and distributed around Japan. Then there is another kind of parody Manga called a doujinshi. These doujinshi are almost exact copies of their Manga counterparts with new things added onto them from their artists. Technically doujinshi are illegal given Japan's copyright laws, which are almost identical to the U.S.'s; but they are allowed to exist without penalty; one reason for this is because these doujinshi compete with Manga sales and encourage Manga artists to create more rich and compelling stories, so the doujinshi are a sort of healthy competition to the Manga's.

Lessig finishes with a definition of free culture and how our culture is slowly growing away from that idea.

"Free cultures are cultures that leave a great deal open for others to build upon; unfree, or permission, cultures leave much less. Ours was a free culture. It is becoming much less so."
-Lawrence Lessig

Chapter two entitled "Mere Copyists" discusses concept of copying something and distribution of ideas related to the copies.

The first process for taking and producing photographs was arduous and expensive so only a few people where able to indulge in this field. This limiting factor is what pushed inventors to make the process simpler and cheaper so more people could use this new technology. Over the years the process became easier and easier until the first Kodak appeared for the general public to buy and use. The Kodak allowed the average joe to take pictures of his life and have them as a keep sake. The portable camera had created another way of expression, just like the pencil or paintbrush, people could take a picture by playing with the lighting and camera lens and it would be art.

Picture taking, as we know it, may have been very different had the camera been invented a little later. There were many cases that disputed whether a photographer needed permission to take a picture of a building, person, artwork, etc... The decisions of these cases went in favor of the photographer, thus no permission was needed to take pictures of buildings, people, art, etc... Later special case laws where made for certain cases, like with celebrities and paparazzi. Had the decision went in favor of the object being photographed then photography would be significantly different.

Lessig goes on to talk about "media literacy" and the importance that kids of future generations be literate in this field.

The was children should be taught to understand, make, and add to the media is to learn with practice, to create there own media.

The future generations becoming literate, in the sense of technology, is crucial to whether our culture develops into a "Read-Only" culture or a "Read-Write" culture. If future generations learn to understand and use the culture, but not reproduce and add onto it, then the culture will become a "Read-Only" culture. However if future generations do learn to understand and contribute then the culture will be "Read-Write".

Finally Lessig goes on to discuss blogs vs. main stream media.

The mainstream media will show a story for a time relative to its importance then that story is gone and may never be brought up to add upon or discuss. With blogs, however, a story will continue to grow and be discussed about indefinitely.

Blogs also allow people to argue more openly then they would in real life because blogs allow, to a certain degree, a sense of anonymity. So people may be more open about their opinions.

Finally blogs allow for a more diverse amount of topics and discussions. Small niches may be addressed in a blog that someone might never be able to find on the main stream media.

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