The Ethics of the Free Culture Movement


“[T]he critical thing to recognize […] is that the legal code is not free culture – you are free culture. The legal code is just the ‘plumbing’ of free culture, it’s code”. 

In the plenary session of Wikimania 2006 Lawrence Lessig explains his notion of the difference between “read-only” and “read-write” cultures. Subsequently he addresses Creative Commons and the above mentioned idea of legal code as foundation – as the “plumbing” of free culture. Most importantly might be the statements of bringing the licences Creative Commons and Wikipedia’s GNU Free Documentation License closer together to provide people broadest possibilities.

  • Date of recording: Sat, 2006-04-08
  • Language(s) spoken:

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00:00 Welcome to this plenary session of Wikimania 2006! [Applause]

I was thinking earlier today this is kinda like Woodstock for the 21st century. [Laughs] It’s raining, several babies were had earlier in the day and Jimmy Hendrix is playing later today. My name is Jonathan Zittrain, I teach cyberlaw here and at Oxford, I can say without exaggeration the most on what I know on the subject comes from Larry [Lawrence, ann.] Lessig, whom I have know as a colleague, a co-counsel and a law clerk. You can guess who was the law clerk to whom? [Laughs] So I’m very pleased to be able to introduce him, there’s a concept in the blogging world that appears to be having enough prominence that it might make it into the real world – of bridge blogging. People who actually take disparate insular circles of bloggers maybe seperated by cultural or language or other differences and actually runs interference between them. I think of Larry as a bridge lawyer, a bridge entity. He is somebody who can go to audience of engineers and speak their language and tell them difficult truths that they need to hear. He can go to an audience of lawyers and scare them – that’s no small feat. [Laughs] And basically place after place he has a message of hope, despair. He makes you laugh, he makes you cry, he makes you laugh some more. And maybe, just maybe you grow a little in the process. So, he is here, having arrived on the red-eye from the West Coast. He is a little sleepy, I think, so if he falls asleep, it’s not us, it’s him. But in the meantime in order to keep them awake we’ve encouraged him to use a few slides and visual aides to give you a presentation today. So without further ado it’s my joy to introduce Lawrence Lessig. [Prolonged applause] 

02:11 Thank you.

So, for about the last nine months I’ve been going around talking about the difference between what I refer to as “read-only“ and “read-write” cultures. I was inspired to start talking about cultures like this by something I read by Tim Woo, describing a story that happened exactly a hundred years ago: 1906. This man, composer of awful, awful music John Philip Sousa went to this place - United States Congress, to talk about this technology he referred to as the “talking machines”. Sousa was not a fan of the talking machines, this is what he had to say: “These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy, in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together, singing the songs of the day or the old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left” Sousa said, “the vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape.”

03:28 Now, it’s this picture I want you to focus on: the idea of young people together, singing the songs of the day or the old songs. This is a picture of culture. It’s a picture of culture we could call using modern computer terminology “read-write culture”. It’s a picture of culture where people participate in the creation and the re-creation of their culture - in that sense it’s read-write. Sousa’s fear was that the capacity for this read-write culture would be lost because of these “infernal machines”. These machines would take it away, displace the practice, and in its place we’d have the mere image of the read-write culture: what we call the read-only culture; a culture where creativity is consumed but the consumer is not a creator, a culture which is top-down, where the vocal cords spread among the people have been lost. That was his fear.

04:33 As you look back, the 20th century, at least in what we call the (quote) “developed world“ (end quote) hard not to conclude that Sousa was right. Never before in the history of human culture has the production of culture been as concentrated, never before as professionalized, never before has the spread creativity been as effectively displaced and displayed by these “infernal machines”. The 20th century was the century where this image of read-write got displaced by this read-only culture.

05:14 Now recently as I’ve been hearing myself talk about “read-only”/”read-write” again and again and again, I began to notice that in fact this is something much more general than a story about culture. That in fact, if you think historically, there were lots of contexts in which we’ve moved from “read-write” to “read-only”. Think about the context of labor. In the 19th century there was a party born, a party called The Republican Party – not The Republican Party of Jefferson but The Republican Party of Lincoln. Its first presidential candidate was a man named Fremont. Fremont’s slogan was “Free soil, Free labor, Free speech, Free men, Fremont”. The Free Labor movement is the part I want you to focus on. Now, in the 19th century people didn’t say “Free labor - what’s that, labor that doesn’t get paid?“ – they understood that free labor meant free not in the sense of free beer but free in the sense of free to engage your capacities as a laborer. This was the fundamental ideology of the movement: autonomy, the capacity for people to use the means of production to create; they were owners and producers both.

06:34 Now, this ideal of Lincoln and the whole movement that won the civil war was displaced by technology, by industrialization of technology, by the 20th century, and by the 20th century it has effectively killed this movement. But the 21st century has begun to see it return. This is the message of the extraordinarily important, indeed I think the most important book written in our field in the last 20 years, a book by Yochai Benkler: “The Wealth of Networks”. This is the whole theme of his book: how we begin to see the return of this kind of free labor throughout society using network; it is the lesson of the free software movement: people who are creating and are creators, not slaves to wage labor but are themselves empowered to produce. It is what Wikipedia is all about, this idea of labor, what we could call read-write labor.

07:36 So not just labor- also in the context of politics, the 19th century was born with the founding movements (what we would call a party) called the federalists; this was the party that was Washington’s party and all the original founders, we like to romanticize them but they were extraordinarily elitist aristocrats. They hated the idea of democracy. Really. Not the idea that we wouldn’t be responsible to the people but not really responsible to the people by the people voting on what things should be. That elitism was killed by a popular participatory democracy that was born, again, by another republican party – the party of Jefferson. And that movement expanded as Jackson, and then Van Buren, transformed what politics would be about - it would be party politics, which meant getting millions of people around the country to participate in spreading the message. They consumed the message and then they told their neighbors, in small groups, in small meetings, in writings, in letters to the other, in millions of pamphlets by thousands of different newspapers.

08:48 That read-write politics was again killed in the 20th century by a kind of broadcast politics: the 30-second commercial, where the whole focus of what it is to be political is about broadcasting a message that people consume. And, again, the 21st century has given us a chance to revive this earlier vision of what politics can be. [Joe] Trippi is the key behind this, and the original part of the [Howard] Dean campaign before it dissolved was an idea of political blogs meaning blogs where people engaged others and forced them to talk and explain their reasons. And by forcing them to explain their reasons - transform them from mere couch potatoes to troops, to people willing to fight to defend the ideas they were trying to push. This is what the net enabled, this active, participatory, read-write politics. And when you put these different spheres together, labor culture politics, we get to see how exactly weird the 20th century was. It was weirdly totalitarian. Because we had, in the 20th century, read-only labor, read-only culture, read-only politics. Weirdly powerful centralizing institutions, forces that tried to control and direct how culture, labor, politics developed. Massive images like these(…), and leaders like these(…) [Laughs][Applause] – massively powerful controlling centralized read-only society – that was the 20th century. Profoundly weird, if you look across history. The one century. No other century in the history of man had been like that. But fortunately, that century is over, that century is past. The 21st century is the revival of a different way to organize and produce within society. Some could say it’s the same as it ever was. Now, again, freer, read-write society, that’s the potential that we’ve began to see realize through the spread of this technology.

11:13 As you know, in this mix - we could imagine talking about read-write labor, read-write culture, read-write politics - I spend most of my time talking about this: read-write culture. Something that I celebrate as an idea under the name “free culture”, following the ideals and the ethics to demand freedom at its core, that Richard Stallman says it’s “Free Software”, not “Open Source“ software. I’m a believer in this way of getting people to focus on the values behind the movement, and it’s the Internet which has enabled the explosion of this new read-write culture.

But the critical thing to recognize is it’s not just one new culture that’s out there, they’re in fact two, two very different new cultures being produced by the Internet, these cultures are very important, and importantly different.

The first is the new kind of read-only culture: culture of massively efficient technologies to facilitate the buying and consumption of culture produced anywhere. Its ideal is to make it possible that at any time, anywhere, you can buy the culture you want, culture created elsewhere. The poster-child for this form of cultural expression is the Apple Corporation, right? Apple iTunes: 99 cents, buy whatever song you want, play it on the iPod, and only on the iPod, right?[Laughs] but if you do that, in America at least you’re guaranteed to be cool.[Laughs] And it’s not just music now - videos too, download to your iPod, and it’s not just Apple, Amazon, experimenting with paper page ways of selling books, eBook Reader is experimenting with paper-read ways of selling books, the point is that all of these contexts were trying to find ways to increasingly perfect the power of the copyright owner to control how people consume culture. That’s the read-only internet.

13:11 But at the same time, there’s another Internet being created, Internet being created by companies like these (…), companies that are interested, of course, in people consuming culture, but not just in consuming creating and sharing their creativity. You live in this space. I don’t have to show you much of these things but some of them are fun so I’m going to show you some of them: How many people have heard of anime music video? I’m sure there’s a Wikipedia entry about it so these are the people who wrote it, okay? Anime music video? You don’t know what anime is? The Japanese cartoon spreading across American kid culture at least, anime music video is created by people taking these anime and re-editing them and setting them to music. So I’m going to show you two quick clips, all the artwork here is found art, just been re-edited and set to the musical track. (…) 15:22 So this is a remix, right? It’s a remix of culture [Applause] …that is built upon the capacity of this technology and, of course, it’s not just AMVs (anime music video) that are doing this kind of remix, you’ve seen it in the context of music: we all know this album by The Beatles called “The White Album” inspiring this album by Jay-Z called “The Black Album”, inspiring this album by DJ Dangermouth called “The Gray Album”, which synthesized the tracks of “The White Album” and “The Black Album” together to produce something “Gray”.

Or in the context of ordinary life, in 2004 this film “Tarnation” made its debut at Cannes, said by the BBC to “wow” Cannes – this is a film made for 218 dollars. Kid took video that he had shot through all his life, and with an iMac given to him by a friend, he remixed it to produce a film that could wow Cannes and win the 2004 Los Angeles International Film Festival. Or here’s a new favorite of mine, remix in the context of religion (…)

18:36 So this is the read-write culture that the Internet is producing. It is digital creativity, and, of course, what you see here is nothing new in the capacity of film-makers or television studios, this has been around since television or film was born. What’s new here is that these tools are democratizing the capacity for people to take sounds and images from the culture around them and remix them in a way that says something. Now, those of us who spend our life as academics writing texts, like to believe that people understand the world through the texts that we write. But we increasingly need to recognize that writing words is the Latin of our modern time. And the ordinary language of the people, the vulgar language of the people is not words, it’s this: video and sound. And what these technologies have done has spread the capacity for ordinary people to use this way of speaking to speak more powerfully. These are tools of creativity that are now tools of speech, it is a new potential to speak, it is a new potential to learn, it is a new literacy in this age. And it’s reviving the capacity of this read-write culture.

19:55 So there are two radically different cultures here produced by the Internet, and, of course, the point that none of you don’t know, is that the law’s attitude about these two very different cultures is radically different. The law, copyright law. Copyright law doesn’t like the read-write culture, copyright law loves the read-only culture, copyright law supports the read-only culture and weakens the read-write culture in the current way that it is architected. The current way that it’s architected says that to use culture in a digital context, because every single use produces a copy means every single use presumptively requires permission. A free society, a free culture shifts to a permission society merely because the platform through which we get access to our culture happens to make a copy every time we access and use our culture.

Now, that conflict would be bad enough, but it’s exacerbated by this war, the current war to protect the business model of the read-only culture. And that war will have the consequence – if allowed to run its course of killing the potential of the read-write culture. And it’s to resist this potential to destroy what the read-write culture is, that many of us fight to get a different balance in the law. Because the tools – or in the terminology of the time the “weapons“ being deployed to fight the (quote) “piracy” that happens on the network – in order to protect the read-only culture, the weapons of law and technology (law: new laws, and technology: digital rights, management technology, etc.,) will kill the potential here unless they are resisted.

22:00 So how should they be resisted? Well in this very place, when I began to learn something about this, about eight years ago, my first instinct as a lawyer was “Oh there’s a simple solution, let’s litigate. Let’s file a law suit. Let’s go to the Supreme Court and say to the Supreme Court: «You conservative justices, look to your principles, your principles that say the original intent of the constitution should control, because we all know the framers would never have embraced the conception of control the copyright law has become”. So I raced to the Supreme Court, there I am, in the Supreme Court, standing in front of the Supreme Court, arguing case getting the Supreme Court to say “Yes, the framers values will control here” – because of course these conservative justices had said this in context after context… oh well, maybe just conservative context… but context after context before. This is about my last moment as a naive law professor, that’s me, do you see the kind of happy, powerful look I have on my face right there? Because shortly after this argument, on a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court said “Oops.. Framers-shmamers, who cares, congress gets to do whatever the hell it wants with copyright, gets to interpret the constitution however it wants”. So the idea that we were going to go to the Court so we can get the Court to defend the values of free culture was in my view just simply wrong.

23:25 What we needed was to excite a popular movement enough so that the politicians and the judges begin to recognize what the important values here are. And that’s when a bunch of us shifted our work to private means, to begin to demonstrate the value of free culture, so that the political system can wake up to it.

And there are two critical private steps that I think we need to take: one is that we need to practice free culture, building and demonstrating and showing people its value in a thousand different contexts, and the second is that we need to enable free culture. We need to make it possible everywhere, not just in the “hackers’ den“ – but in schools and in universities and in public places all over.

Now, this practice of free culture is what you do. It is the celebration of the Wikipedia success: this read-write encyclopedia, of course, was impossible to conceive in the 20th century’s mind: too complex, demands high quality, and the percentage of probability here that volunteers, uncontrolled by any central controller, could create something successful through such an experiment, is about the same percentage that volunteers uncontrolled could create something called an operating system. [Laughs][Applause]

And it was just about the time that the world was surprised by the GNU/Linux operating system, that the world began to see that these things that were impossible were impossible in the 20th century’s mind. And we began to see how it was possible now, in the 21st century, with this infrastructure of technology, to enable the freedom to create. You showed us how this was possible, building on an infrastructure and architecture that enabled this work, an end-to-end architecture of the internet, which enabled and empowered this read-write creativity.

And to come here, as you do in this conference, to celebrate that freedom, to celebrate that creativity, to celebrate this essential capacity of humans that you are teaching everybody in the world is the most exciting thing that could happen on such a miserably hot August day in this place called Cambridge.

26:02 Now, there are lessons though, that we should learn about how this extraordinary potential is made possible: things that we’ve learnt about the natural dynamic of institutions playing in spheres of creativity. Because if you look over the last fifty years there is a constant pattern repeated, and we should learn lessons from this constant pattern, or we should re-learn lessons – and the one I want to focus you on here is the lesson of interoperability.

There is a constant pattern of instinct in the development of technology: the proprietary instinct; it’s natural, people have this, I’m going to develop it, I’m going to control it, but the lesson is the lesson that freedom is a bigger, more important, value. We’ve learnt this again and again.

The Defense Department opened our thinking here – bizarrely – because of their strong resistance to the idea that computer companies were constantly presenting them with, which was: “You want to buy IBM equipment - everything you do has got to be IBM.”, “You want to buy Data General equipment – everything you do has got to be Data General.” The idea that these computers could talk to each other – not possible, right? This was an era of autistic computing. Very smart machines that just couldn’t talk, and the Defense Department said “Enough. We’re not spending millions of dollars on autistic machines. We’re going to end this” – and that began the movement to develop standards to facilitate interoperability among competing, competitive, platforms. 27:45 But, of course, the instinct doesn’t die with the defense Department’s decree. How many people recognize this little machine? The IBM PS/2? This machine, of course building on the success of the DOS operating system, had this weird trick where, at least a certain number of versions of this, the 3.5-inch diskette would only work on other IBM PS/2 machines, even though it was the same operating system running on Compaq, running on anything, it was coded to make sure you had to be using your disks with IBM PS/2 machines. Why? – Well “if we stop interoperability, we can protect our power”, that was their idea. Understandable, but stupid idea. Because market forces, and in some cases the government, and consumers in particular reject this idea of control. It’s understandable, and, of course, it’s good if you can get that power to control how people develop the platform that you have given them, but the thing we have to focus on is – good for whom? Because it’s much better for a society, for innovation, for what it is, to be human in this platform, that there is interoperability and free standards facilitating the widest range of competition and the opportunity for the widest range of people to build on this platform.

That’s the lesson that we’ve learnt – I think we’ve learnt – from the last 25 years, of how this network has developed. And that lesson is something which we should remember as you practice free culture.

But the second thing I think we need to be doing is to work to enable the platform of free culture. It’s not enough to build the infrastructure, we have to make it possible for this infrastructure to encourage the kind of freedom that we think is essential. And there is a clear and present danger, a threat, to this freedom. It’s a threat waged because of this fight against (quote) “piracy” in the context of the copyright wars, wars which my friend Jack Valenti [Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association] refers to as (quote) “terrorist wars”, where apparently our children are the terrorists in these wars. [Laughs]

30:03 Right now the point that we see, that nobody… well, ten other people outside of this room understand, the point that all of us understand, is that when they build the locks to protect the read-only internet, when they finally layer that into the infrastructure, that will lock out the potential of the read-write internet. And so to enable this freedom is to enable it technically by joining the fight of the Free Software Foundation and many others against DRM [Digital rights management] by supporting free code access to allow content of freely flow across different platforms, to support free culture, free software (meaning free software that is enabling free culture too). These are important steps each of you can take should take to facilitate the spread of free culture here. That’s at the technical layer. But we should also enable it at the legal layer; we need to enable a platform, one that protects the freedom of free culture.

31:10 Now, here at Harvard we, when I was here, came up with this idea of trying to do this through boring legal tools that began the Creative Commons movement. It’s a movement that stole a little bit of the genius of Richard Stallman, using copyright law to carve out a space of freedom. It was a movement that said “Give a simple way to authors for them to mark their content with the freedoms they intend their content to carry.” Shifting the default from All Rights Reserved to Some Rights Reserved lots of important freedoms granted – and that’s what the ground in Creative Commons license is about.

31:50 These licenses, as you know, come in three layers: one designed to teach ordinary humans what the freedoms here are – that’s the human-readable Commons Deed, one designed to teach the lawyers what the freedoms here are – a billion page legal document called a license, and one designed to speak to computers about what the freedoms here are: the machine-readable RDF, which makes it possible to identify content on the basis of the freedoms, a facility which Yahoo! and Google have now used to create special search-portals, where you can search the web filtering on the basis of the freedoms associated with the content.

32:27 This movement began in the United States and then immediately we saw it had to be spread internationally. So we took this three-layer model and we said “Let’s create at the legal layer ports of a license.” Porting the code from one jurisdiction to another (just like you would have to port if you wrote code for the GNU/Linux operating system and then on to something like the Windows operating system) – you port: you’ve got to radically change it but you want it to function in the same way on these different platforms. That was the objective, there are now more than 70 countries in the process of this porting.

This is a picture of the free world as it exists right now: green countries have launched CC licenses, yellow countries will launch in the next 6 months, red countries are yet to be “liberated” in this process.

33:18 And as these licenses have been ported, the growth in the uptake of the licenses has increased. We launched in December 2002, in a year there were about a million linkbacks to our licenses, in a year and a half there were 1.8 million, at two years there was about 4 million, two and a half years there was about 12 million, at three years there’s 45 million linkbacks (three years is last December). In June we announced there are 140 million linkbacks to our licenses out there. This is the idea – to build this, spread this, support this platform of content that explicitly says “We’re free for you to use“ and protects it using the legal code.

34:04 Now, the critical thing to recognize in this story is that the legal code is not free culture – you are free culture. The legal code is just the “plumbing” of free culture, it’s code, like TCP/IP, implementing a free network but not itself the free network. The network is technical. The culture that gets built on top of it takes the real work and deserves the real praise, deserves the celebration of free culture – not the licenses.

34:41 Licenses are nothing more than tools we’ve developed to minimize the harm of out dated legal systems, to minimize the harm and the cost of these evil creatures called lawyers, to make them tiny in the process of building free culture, to make it seamless for people to do what they want to do - express the freedoms and build on freedoms of others – in a simple way. To make it simple for them to practice this free culture. That’s the read-write culture that we’re supporting.

35:15 More than anyone else in the world, you have ignited the imagination around this extraordinary and exciting possibility of free culture again. The best evidence I have of this is, again, this book by Yochai [Benkler], which just “spores” unbelievable amounts of praise on top of you guys as he talks about what the future is going to be. He’s obsessed with the genius of what you guys have done. And he’s not a guy who gets easily obsessed by things, and he doesn’t praise people too easily, but he is symbolizing what the potential here is by teaching the world in this – I think the most important – book how this network will enable a certain kind of creativity. His praise is praise you should feel and be proud of. And it is in part to praise you that I climbed on a plane at midnight last night and didn’t sleep until… maybe in 10 minutes, to come here and talk. But not just to praise.

36:22 For I come here also to make a plea, a plea to you who built free culture to see what you’ve done and to see the power that you now have and to use it to do good, to enable free culture generally.

And there are two ways (there are many others too but there are two ways I want to identify here): one is to help others spread the practice that your extraordinary demonstration exemplifies. And we’re beginning cooperation between Creative Commons and you to do this through a project that we call the PDWiki Project. The idea of the P(ublic)D(omain)Wiki Project will first launch in Canada, where a company that has the full database of all published works in Canada since 1900, has agreed to turn over that database. That database has all published works and all authors obviously of those published works, and this Wiki Project will invite a Canadian community to begin to build Wiki entries around these authors and the works – reviews, criticisms, other works in the public domains maybe links, whatever the community wants to build. But one part of this process will be to add the information about the authors necessary, so that we can begin to determine what work is and is not in the public domain. A determination which no government has yet decided is important enough to make to make it possible for people to build upon the public domain. And eventually, on top of this Wiki an API will be implemented, so anybody in the world can pin and for free get information about what work is in the public domain and what work is not in the public domain.

This is to take the practice you’ve demonstrated in this impossible context, and to now do it in the what most people would think of as an extraordinarily boring context, the boring context of just figuring out tiny little details about what authors of Canada are like, but it excites more people to this idea of free culture that you demonstrate.

38:32 And the second thing, the second practice I come here to make a plea for is that you demand a usable platform for freedom here. Now, my understanding of what this demand should look like came from a conversation I had with Jimbo [Wales][co-founder and promoter of Wikipedia] someplace in Europe) I know it was Europe cause the coffee we were drinking was so awful, but I can’t remember exactly where it was)… [Laughs]

– Budapest!

…No, it wasn’t actually, I can’t remember – anyway, so we’re walking around a park and talking about the problem that all of us recognize – the lack of interoperability among free culture projects.

Islands of freedom: yours, Creative Commons [CC], The Free Art Licenses (which have produced, again, artistic freedom) – content that can’t talk to each other. Great freedom, great cultures, great islands but that can’t interact; can’t take Wikipedia content and mix it with the Creative Commons Share Alike picture of movie without violating the terms of the licenses.

Now, all of us recognize this is a bad design. But I confess my first instinct was the instinct of my profession: control. I identified the limitations in the FDL [Free Documentation License] and I wanted to find a way to convert all users of the FDL to the CC licenses. So we’d have a hundred billion licenses out there that were CC.

40:00 But as I listened to the quiet, repetitive message from the words of Jimbo [Wales], and more importantly, the ethic that he was trying to push in this conversation, I realized that that instinct was a mistake. We don’t need more monopolies here of anything, what we need is a layer (like the TCP/IP-Layer) which facilitates interoperability of content, allows content to move (between quotes) “equivalent – let me quivel about that in a minute – licenses”, where what we mean by equivalent is licenses where people mean the same thing. So, the FDL and the Creative Commons by ShareAlike is saying the same thing: use my content however you want, to copy them, modify, as long as you give me attribution, as long as the modification is distributed under an equivalent license. It’s the same thing as what the FDL is doing, what the GPL is doing, all of them.

So the derivatives from one license under the existing system can’t be used under another, can’t be re-licensed under another.

41:09 And as this conversation evolved, in my mind at least I recognized that a solution here (maybe not THE solution) but a solution here, would be to facilitate an infrastructure where content licensed under one type of license can be re-licensed in a derivative form, when a derivative is made – under another equivalent license.

The virtue of this system is that it invites a diversity in the underlying legal code. Just like we have a diversity in the code implementing the protocols of TCP/IP, an ecology of this underlying legal code, different efforts to facilitate the same functionality in equivalently functional ways. Just like the way the web originally was architected, where no one architecture must control all implementations of the values here, so that there’s no single point of failure if one license gets deemed to be problematic by some legal court for some reason.

And more fundamentally, in a perfectly hierarchian way, that there’s a kind of market signal about which licenses are valued by the users of those licenses. So as we see people re-licensing from the BSA License to the Free Art License, we get a signal that there’s something about the Free Art license that people (at least in this market) value more. And that signal is a discipline to those who would compete to provide this plumbing, to make the plumbing as good as it can be. This legal code then would be signaling the strengths and protecting against the weaknesses of any particular license, through the competition that all commodity layers invites. The legal layer would become in this sense that commodity layer giving people the power to do what they want, without exerting any monopoly power over how they might do that.

43:25 Now, I don’t believe Creative Commons is the entity that should run this structure. What I think the structure should do is enable a process where we can certify licenses as “close enough”, and invite the license authors to add a clause to the license, a clause that says “content licensed under this license can be re-licensed…” – No, sorry: “Derivatives of content licensed under this license, can be re-licensed under any equivalent license“ – where “equivalent” is determined by some public body, so that you permit migration in the process of making derivatives.

We’ve proposed that we (I sit on both boards, so it’s a little bit disingenuous to say that we’re really giving it away, but) we’ve proposed that The Software Freedom Law Center, center of the Eben [Moglen] chairs – be the entity that tries to structure and raise the funds necessary to support this process, a process to facilitate federation of free licenses, in a way that will assure the kind of competition and security that competitive layers produce.

Now, depending on the day I’m optimistic about this process – maybe it’s the flights at the moment I’m not quite optimistic about – whether it will work at least not yet do we have a commitment from all of us involved, to the simplest, most efficient design for this project. Not yet have we rejected what I think it was an ethics that sounds more like the ethics of the IBM PS/2.

Now, it’s here where I think you have some influence, you have some power. You have the power to decide what is the best system here, and to demand it. Might be mine, might not be mine, but you have the power to demand that that be the platform; so it’s not just good for you and your work as you develop the free culture, the Wikipedia project, but all who would like to develop and support the free culture project. A platform that invites the kind of competitive innovation and use of this project.

The good you could do here is extraordinary, because if we don’t solve this problem soon it is an ecology, an environmental problem that we will face in three, five, eight years, as these islands of creativity find no simple way to interact and maintain the objective of the creator – which is not to spend his life tinkering with legal code, not to become plumbers but to become authors. You could do good here, you should do good here.

46:25 Now, Tom Brokaw told us that my parents’ generation was the greatest generation – I think we should also recognize they lived in the weirdest century. [Laughs] Not everyone in that century was weird in this sense, not everyone was a weirdo at least from our perspective there were certain people who “got it”.

Here’s one of my heroes, Dave Clark, this is what he wrote at early stage of the development of the Internet: “We reject kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code” – that’s an ethic. It’s an ethic about making the system work not through the exercise of power from one central place, but through the practice of creating. That’s one person who maybe was a weirdo in the 20th century but is not a weirdo in the 21st century.

Here is a second person who may have been a weirdo in the 20th century but is not a weirdo in the 21st century, he’s a hero of the movement that all of us participate in. In 2002 this is what he [Richard Stallman] said about this movement: “If we don’t want to live in a jungle, we must change our attitudes. We must start sending the message that a good citizen is one who cooperates when appropriate.”

You are good citizens, all of you are practicing this kind of citizenship. And you need to inspire others within this movement to practice the same kind of citizenship. It’s an honor to be able to address you, but I plead, I plead with you, that you use the great capital that you’ve built, to do good far beyond the particular place in which you happen to have demonstrated the success and virtue of freedom.

Thank you very much. [Prolonged Applause]