Thursday, November 15, 2007

You Could Answer for Lawerence Lessig

Okay, I'm holding a contest of sorts: you, the reader, can answer questions for Lawrence Lessig, renowned copyright law expert and advocate for the continued creativity of people in spite of the severity of the copyright system.

Founder and chief advocate of the Creative Commons Public License, Professor Lessig has given numerous talks about the subject of copyright and why a private solution (such as the Creative Commons license) is necessary in today's harsh copyright climate. Though he doesn't advocate stealing of other peoples' works, he is nonetheless a strong advocate for the return of fair use and public domain works. The more I learn about the man, the more impressed I am that he's the one who has the answers.

The problem is, a man in his position is incredibly busy. I've managed to get a few words out of him here and there, but email is positively horrible when everyone wants to speak to you. He implied an agreement with me (one which I came up with), where I would get other people to answer the questions. These questions would then go through a filtering process and then the good Professor Lessig could then sign off on the answers that are closest to his position on each question. It's a creative solution to the problem of time.

The theory behind it is that if other people speak for Professor Lessig, then he can not only save time by merely having to read (I can't speak for Lessig, but my own typing speed is less than a quarter of my reading speed), and then indicate which ones are the most correct answers to the question.

The top winner of the contest will receive... a tee shirt. Completely free of charge. I'll even pay shipping. How's that for a prize? The tee shirt will say something like: "I answered Lawrence Lessig's questions and all I got was creative freedom... and this tee shirt.") And be aware that this prize comes out of my own pocket: Professor Lessig has nothing to do with this blog or its operations (other than continuing to inspire me to write, which he does without his consent).

The questions I'd like answered are below:

1) With copyright laws being enforced and changed to such a draconic level, is there any hope that they might be changed, or is the copyright system doomed to failure by abandon?

2) What differentiates fair use from infringing use under the law? Is there an actual determining factor, rather than simply the wording of the law itself?

3) It was implied at the TED speech that public domain no longer exists. What happened to public domain?

4) If the case is extremism on both sides, then what can determine prevalence? From a logical standpoint (as well as an historical one), if both extremes are wrong, then compromise is likely not going to be possible so long as the extremist voices continue. So how do we get the two sides of the equation talking to one another, if one side (or both) is offering its own olive branch?

5) This was after looking up your (CC) license, and because I'm interested in using the CC-GPL for a software package I'm working on. In the Creative Commons license, the site claims that there are no compatible licenses. However, I notice that the GPL is listed with what amounts to a Creative Commons rider. If this isn't compatibility, then by what standard is compatibility measured?

6) Using the perspective of history, we can see an equivalent to the "arms race" of the Cold War era brewing. From this same perspective, what was the most likely catalyst for change to lessen the escalation of arms?

6a) Could the same logic be applied to catalyzing a "leveling out" of the extremism in the copyright war?

Deadline: December 31, 2007 at 12 noon GMT. If you're a minute late, you won't get a prize, even if you nail the whole thing.

Entry: Drop a comment below. Each comment should answer as many of the questions as possible, and I do have moderation turned on to eliminate spam, but not stupidity. I am a firm believer in the right to speak, so even if you tell me "Your blog sux0rz, d00d!" it'll be published without changing a word.

Limitations: There is a limit of one answer per question. However, if you answer the same question multiple times, the last answer is the only on which will count.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines: Yes, I intentionally left the ladies out. But that doesn't mean that I'm limiting the field only to men. Please be aware that any comments seen to be sexist, racist, or otherwise offensive could be removed. And because I'm not really looking for them, these comments might slip past my amazing anti-spam technique. Speech which is offensive for a purpose related to explaining one of the questions might be okay, since I also believe in the right to offend (though I don't typically go out of my way to do so). But please limit your usage of the N-- word, the F-- word, and the rest of those to emotional outbursts and appeals to emotion.

Good luck!