Monday, July 25, 2005

Free Mickey!

I'm not a radical.

Lessig's tone rubs me the wrong way, as does his narrow fundraising pitch at the close of his lecture. But Lessig gets it.

It's big versus small and power vs. powerless today, but the future has always been on the little guy's side. Modern technology breathes hope into this fight, streamlining creativity and bringing about a convergence of minds that should yield something worthy of being called a renaissance. The past has always fought the loss of its creations, but every past has been built on by the creative minds of today.

Think about it: Would there be a Locke without an Aristotle? Would there be a United States without a Locke?

He's right. As long as corporate interests prevent their creations from entering the public domain (or patents restrict the public use of a product, as in the case of the documentarian whose film was ruined because the Simpsons lawyer threatened legislation if the film didn't pay $25,000 for the rights to use a few seconds in the background of the film, barely recognizable to viewers), the creative forces of the future are hindered.

The terrible reality is that Lessig is not the only one who gets it. Disney gets it. Bill Gates gets it. They all reaped the benefits of a free society when their careers were budding, but it's in their best business interest to stifle competition.

I believe in artists' rights. I believe in reaping the benefits of what you created. But there needs to be a point at which we acknowledge that our culture needs to be ours -- all of ours. There needs to be a point that, just like Aristotle, Mickey Mouse will belong to all of us, as the cultural icon that he is.

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