Creative Commons Founder to Tackle the Opacity of American Politics

26 06 2007

Lawrence Lessig is shifting gears and backing off as a leader working to rebalance the world of copyright, trademark among others.

He sees a new challenge. One that in his view has made American politics and government less effective and efficient.

The American Political Process…

Lessig is currently professor of law at Stanford Law School, founder of its Center for Internet and Society and founder and CEO of Creative Commons. He started the “free culture movement” that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works, using the Internet as well as other media. Their position is to object to overly restrictive copyright law which hinder creativity. They refer to the copyright and trademark status quo as the “permission culture” (more on creative commons and free culture in another post). Creative Commons is a major driver of open innovation, business models and product co-creation.

So you can imagine why he might be eager to improve the transparency in American politics.

Here is an excerpt from his blog explaining his motives.

In one of the handful of opportunities I had to watch (Al) Gore deliver his global warming Keynote, I recognized a link in the problem that he was describing and the work that I have been doing during this past decade. After talking about the basic inability of our political system to reckon the truth about global warming, Gore observed that this was really just part of a much bigger problem. That the real problem here was (what I will call a “corruption” of) the political process. That our government can’t understand basic facts when strong interests have an interest in its misunderstanding.

This is a thought I’ve often had in the debates I’ve been a part of, especially with respect to IP. Think, for example, about term extension. From a public policy perspective, the question of extending existing copyright terms is, as Milton Friedman put it, a “no brainer.” As the Gowers Commission concluded in Britain, a government should never extend an existing copyright term. No public regarding justification could justify the extraordinary deadweight loss that such extensions impose.

Yet governments continue to push ahead with this idiot idea — both Britain and Japan for example are considering extending existing terms. Why?

The answer is a kind of corruption of the political process. Or better, a “corruption” of the political process. I don’t mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean “corruption” in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can’t even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.

If you want to read the entire post click here.

Keep an eye on Lessig.

Opensource may be coming to American politics.

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