Lawrence Lessig

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Lawrence Lessig
Lessig portrait.jpg
Born(1961-06-03) June 3, 1961 (age 52)
Rapid City, South Dakota, U.S.
OccupationFounder, Creative Commons
Founder, Rootstrikers
Founder, Stanford Center for Internet and Society
Professor, Harvard Law School
Spouse(s)Bettina Neuefeind
Website
lessig.org
 
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Lawrence Lessig
Lessig portrait.jpg
Born(1961-06-03) June 3, 1961 (age 52)
Rapid City, South Dakota, U.S.
OccupationFounder, Creative Commons
Founder, Rootstrikers
Founder, Stanford Center for Internet and Society
Professor, Harvard Law School
Spouse(s)Bettina Neuefeind
Website
lessig.org
Interview with Lawrence Lessig in 2009.

Lawrence "Larry" Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an American academic and political activist. He is a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications, and he has called for state-based activism to promote substantive reform of government with a Second Constitutional Convention.[1]

He is director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Previously, he was a professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of the Center for Internet and Society. Lessig is a founding board member of Creative Commons and the founder of Rootstrikers, and is on the board of MapLight.[2] He is on the advisory boards of the Democracy Café,[3] Sunlight Foundation[4] and Americans Elect.[5] He is a former board member of the Free Software Foundation, Software Freedom Law Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[6]

Contents

Academic career[edit]

Born in Rapid City, South Dakota, Lessig grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and earned a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Management (Wharton School) from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Cambridge (Trinity) in England, and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 1989. After graduating from law school, he clerked for a year for Judge Richard Posner, at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois, and another year for Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court.[7]

Lessig started his academic career at the University of Chicago Law School, where he was Professor from 1991 to 1997. From 1997 to 2000, he was at Harvard Law School, holding for a year the chair of Berkman Professor of Law, affiliated with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.[7] He subsequently joined Stanford Law School, where he established the school's Center for Internet and Society.[8]

Lessig speaking with Harvard internet law professor Jonathan Zittrain

Lessig returned to Harvard in December 2008 as Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.[9] In 2013, Lessig was appointed as the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership; His chair lecture was titled "Aaron's Laws: Law and Justice in a Digital Age."[10][11]

Political activism[edit]

Lessig is currently considered politically liberal. As a law clerk, however, he worked for both Judge Richard Posner and Justice Antonin Scalia, two influential conservative judges.

Lessig has emphasized in interviews that his philosophy experience at Cambridge radically changed his values and career path. Previously, he had held strong conservative or libertarian political views, desired a career in business, was a highly active member of Teenage Republicans, serving as the Youth Governor for Pennsylvania through the YMCA Youth and Government program[12] in 1978 and almost pursued a Republican political career.

What was intended to be a year abroad at Cambridge convinced him instead to stay another two years to complete a graduate degree in philosophy there and develop his changed political values. During this time, he also traveled in the Eastern Bloc, so acquiring a lifelong interest in Eastern European law and politics.

Lessig refuses to embrace conventional libertarianism. While Lessig remains skeptical of government intervention, he favors regulation by calling himself "a constitutionalist". In his blog, Lessig came out in favor of then Democratic primary candidate Barack Obama, citing the transformative nature of Obama's campaign as one of his chief reasons. On one occasion, Lessig also commended the John McCain campaign for discussing fair use rights in a letter to YouTube where it took issue with YouTube for indulging overreaching copyright claims leading to the removal of various campaign videos.[13]

In a speech in 2011, Lessig revealed that he was disappointed with Obama's performance in office, criticizing it as a "betrayal", and he criticized the president for using "the (Hillary) Clinton playbook".[14] Lessig has called for state governments to call for a national constitutional convention,[15] and that the convention be populated by a "random proportional selection of citizens" which he suggested would work effectively. He said "politics is a rare sport where the amateur is better than the professional."[15]

Money in politics[edit]

Lessig having a discussion with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff

At the iCommons iSummit 07, Lessig announced that he will stop focusing his attention on copyright and related matters and will work on political corruption instead.[16] This new work may be partially facilitated through his wiki, Lessig Wiki, which he has encouraged the public to use to document cases of corruption.[17] Lessig criticized the revolving door phenomenon in which legislators and staffers leave office to become lobbyists and have become beholden to special interests.[18]

In February 2008, a Facebook group formed by law professor John Palfrey encouraged him to run for Congress from California's 12th congressional district, the seat vacated by the death of U.S. Representative Tom Lantos.[19] Later that month, after forming an "exploratory project", he decided not to run for the vacant seat.[20]

Lessig speaking before Change Congress and the Sunlight Foundation

Despite having decided to forgo running for Congress himself, Lessig remained interested in attempting to change Congress to reduce corruption.[20] To this end, he worked with political consultant Joe Trippi to launch a web based project called "Change Congress".[21] In a press conference on March 20, 2008, Lessig explained that he hoped the Change Congress website would help provide technological tools voters could use to hold their representatives accountable and reduce the influence of money on politics.[22] He is a board member of MAPLight.org, a nonprofit research group illuminating the connection between money and politics.

Lessig has known president Barack Obama since their days of both teaching law at the University of Chicago, and had been mentioned as a candidate to head the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telecommunications industry.[23]

At his talk at the 2009 Aspen Ideas Festival, Professor Lessig talked about Forbin Problems in a talk entitled Will Technology Change Our Lives?[24] and also about his idea that the American public has lost faith in the central institution of our democracy, Congress.[25]

Constitutional convention[edit]

In 2010, Lessig began to organize for a national constitutional convention.[26] He co-founded Fix Congress First! with Joe Trippi.[27] Lessig called for a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution[28] in a September 24–25, 2011, conference co-chaired by the Tea Party Patriots' national coordinator,[29] in Lessig's October 5, 2011, book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It,[30] and at the Occupy protest in Washington, DC.[31] Reporter Dan Froomkin said the book offers a manifesto for the Occupy Wall Street protestors, focusing on the core problem of corruption in both political parties and their elections.[32] Lessig's initial constitutional amendment would allow legislatures to limit political contributions from non-citizens, including corporations, anonymous organizations, and foreign nationals, and he also supports public campaign financing and electoral college reform to establish the one person, one vote principle.[33]

Rootstrikers[edit]

Change Congress, founded by Lessig and Joe Trippi, the Fix Congress First project, and the Rootstrikers project were created to help volunteers to address the problem of money in politics.[34][35] In November 2011, Lessig announced all three projects would become part of the United Republic organization, along with Dylan Ratigan’s Get Money Out campaign.[36][37]

Internet and computer activism[edit]

Lessig with fellow Creative Commons board member Joi Ito

"Code is law"[edit]

In computer science, "code" typically refers to the text of a computer program (the source code). In law, "code" can refer to the texts that constitute statutory law. In his book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lessig explores the ways in which code in both senses can be instruments for social control, leading to his dictum that "Code is law." Lessig later updated his work in order to keep up with the prevailing views of the time and released the book as Code: Version 2.0 in December 2006.

Legislative reform[edit]

Despite presenting an anti-regulatory standpoint in many fora, Lessig still sees the need for legislative enforcement of copyright. He has called for limiting copyright terms for creative professionals to five years, but believes that introducing the bureaucratic procedure needed to renew trademarks, by making copyright need to be renewed for up to 75 years after this five-year term, would mean that creative professionals' work, many of the independent, would become more easily and quickly available.[38] Lessig has repeatedly taken a stance that privatization through legislation like that seen in the 1980s in the UK with British Telecommunications is not the best way to help the Internet grow. He said, "When government disappears, it's not as if paradise will take its place. When governments are gone, other interests will take their place," "My claim is that we should focus on the values of liberty. If there is not government to insist on those values, then who?" "The single unifying force should be that we govern ourselves." [39]

Free Culture[edit]

Lessig and Aaron Swartz in 2002 at the launch party for Creative Commons

In 2002, Lessig received the Award for the Advancement of Free Software from the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and on March 28, 2004 he was elected to the FSF's Board of Directors.[40] In 2006, Lessig was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[41] Lessig is also a well-known critic of copyright term extensions.

He proposed the concept of "Free Culture".[42] He also supports free software and open spectrum.[43] At his Free Culture keynote at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2002, half of his speech was about software patents, which he views as a rising threat to both free/open source software and innovation.

In March 2006, Lessig joined the board of advisors of the Digital Universe project.[44] A few months later, Lessig gave a talk on the ethics of the Free Culture Movement at the 2006 Wikimania conference.

Lessig claimed in 2009 that, because 70% of young people obtain digital information from illegal sources, the law should be changed.[45]

In a foreword to the Freesouls book project, Lessig makes an argument in favor of amateur artists in the world of digital technologies: "there is a different class of amateur creators that digital technologies have... enabled, and a different kind of creativity has emerged as a consequence."[46]

Net neutrality[edit]

Lessig and Jimmy Wales at the iCommons iSummit07 in Dubrovnik.

Lessig has long been known to be a supporter of Net Neutrality. In 2006, he testified before the US Senate that he believed Congress should ratify Michael Powell's four Internet freedoms and add a restriction to access-tiering, i.e. he does not believe content providers should be charged different amounts. The reason is that the Internet, under the neutral end-to-end design is an invaluable platform for innovation, and the economic benefit of innovation would be threatened if large corporations could purchase faster service to the detriment of newer companies with less capital. However, Lessig has supported the idea of allowing ISPs to give consumers the option of different tiers of service at different prices. He was reported on CBC News as saying that he has always been in favour of allowing internet providers to charge differently for consumer access at different speeds. He said, "Now, no doubt, my position might be wrong. Some friends in the network neutrality movement as well as some scholars believe it is wrong - that it doesn't go far enough. But the suggestion that the position is 'recent' is baseless. If I'm wrong, I've always been wrong." [47]

Combating sexual abuse[edit]

In May 2005, it was revealed that Lessig had experienced sexual abuse by the director at the American Boychoir School which he had attended as an adolescent.[48] Lessig reached a settlement with the school in the past, under confidential terms. He revealed his experiences in the course of representing another student victim, John Hardwicke, in court.[49] In August 2006, he succeeded in persuading the New Jersey Supreme Court to restrict the scope of immunity radically, which had protected nonprofits that failed to prevent sexual abuse from legal liability.[50]

Legal challenges[edit]

External video
Lawrence Lessig (10).jpg
Q&A: Lawrence Lessig (58:48), C-SPAN[51]
Larry Lessig: Laws that choke creativity (19:08), TED talks[52]
TEDxNYED - Lawrence Lessig (19:07), TEDx talks[53]

Lessig's political opinions on copyright law have led to legal challenges where he has attempted to put them into action without legislative change. In March 2003, he acknowledged severe disappointment with his Supreme Court defeat in the Eldred copyright-extension case, where he unsuccessfully tried to convince Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who has sympathies for de-regulation, to back his "market-based" approach to intellectual property regulation.[54]

Notable cases[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Lessig is married to Bettina Neuefeind, and is the father of three children (Willem, Teo, and Tess).[59]

In popular culture[edit]

Lessig was portrayed by Christopher Lloyd in "The Wake Up Call", the February 9, 2005 episode of The West Wing.[60]

Bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alesh Houdek (November 16, 2011). "Has a Harvard Professor Mapped Out the Next Step for Occupy Wall Street?". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 17, 2011. "Lawrence Lessig's call for state-based activism on behalf of a Constitutional Convention could provide the uprooted movement with a political project for winter" 
  2. ^ Maplight. "Board Members" at MapLight.org
  3. ^ Penn Alum Lawrence Lessig to Speak at National Constitution Center for Democracy Café Penn News, March 14, 2013
  4. ^ Board and Advisory Board Sunlight Foundation, February 14, 2011
  5. ^ Americans Elect. List of "Leadership" at AmericansElect.org.
  6. ^ Lessig, Lawrence. "In Defense of Piracy". The Wall Street Journal. October 11, 2008.
  7. ^ a b Lawrence, Lessig. "Curriculum Vitae". Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  8. ^ Lawrence, Lessig. "Short Biography". Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Lawrence Lessig named professor of law at HLS, director of Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics". Harvard Law School. December 12, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  10. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HAw1i4gOU4
  11. ^ http://harvardcrcl.org/2013/02/19/a-summary-of-laurence-lessigs-chair-lecture-at-harvard-law-school/
  12. ^ "YMCA Youth and Government Pennsylvania (PA State YMCA)". Ymcapa.org. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  13. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (2008-10-13). "McCain/Palin to YouTube: Get real (Lessig Blog)". Lessig.org. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  14. ^ Lawrence Lessig (Nov 16, 2011). "Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It". Google, YouTube, Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-12-13. "(see question & answer session near the end of the video; see 50:30+)" 
  15. ^ a b Lawrence Lessig (Nov 16, 2011). "Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It". Google, YouTube, Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-12-13. "(see 32.06 minutes into the video)" 
  16. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (2007-06-19). "Required Reading: the next 10 years (Lessig Blog)". Lessig.org. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  17. ^ "Lessig’s blog July 29, 2007 11:55pm". 
  18. ^ Lawrence Lessig (February 8, 2010). "How to Get Our Democracy Back". CBS News, The Nation. Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  19. ^ "Draft Lessig — Change Congress". Draftlessig.org. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  20. ^ a b Lessig, Lawrence (2008-02-25). "On why I am not running (Lessig Blog)". Lessig.org. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  21. ^ Previous post Next post (2008-03-20). "Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress | Threat Level from Wired.com". Blog.wired.com. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  22. ^ "Sunlight Foundation Webcast". Visualwebcaster.com. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  23. ^ Kumar, Vishesh; Rhoads, Christopher (December 15, 2008). "Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web". The Wall Street Journal. 
  24. ^ "AIF 09: Will Technology Change Our Life? (2)". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  25. ^ "Aspen Ideas Festival 2009". Aifestival.org. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  26. ^ "Call a Convention". Call a Convention. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  27. ^ About, Fix Congress First!
  28. ^ "The Movement to Organize the Call for a Convention" CallAConvention.org
  29. ^ Conference on the Constitutional Convention, Harvard University, September 24-5, 2011
  30. ^ Lessig, L. (2011) Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It (New York City: Hachette/Twelve) excerpt
  31. ^ Tackett, C. (October 19, 2011) "Could #OccupyWallStreet Become a Constitutional Convention?" Discovery / TreeHugger.com
  32. ^ Froomkin, Dan (October 5, 2011) "Lawrence Lessig's New Book On Political Corruption Offers Protesters A Possible Manifesto" Huffington Post
  33. ^ Hill, Adriene (October 4, 2011) "Campaign finance, lobbying major roadblocks to effective government" Marketplace Morning Report (American Public Media)
  34. ^ Who We Are, Rootstrikers
  35. ^ About Us, Rootstrikers
  36. ^ Rootstrikers and United Republic, Lawrence Lessig, United Republic, November 16, 2011
  37. ^ About Us, United Republic
  38. ^ Drew Clark. Software Freedom Fighters. The National Journal 33(30), July 28, 2001.
  39. ^ Elinor Mills. Domain games: Internet leaves the U.S. nest. InfoWorld Daily News. October 13, 1998.
  40. ^ "Leadership - Free Software Foundation". Fsf.org. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  41. ^ "Eight scholars elected to academy of arts and sciences". News-service.stanford.edu. 2006-04-24. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  42. ^ "free_culture". Randomfoo.net. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  43. ^ "Spectrum Policy: Property or Commons?". Cyberlaw.stanford.edu. 2003-03-02. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  44. ^ "Digital Universe Adds Leading Internet Expert Lawrence Lessig to Board of Advisors". California: Prnewswire.com. 2006-03-13. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  45. ^ Lawrence Lessig (January 8, 2009). Colbert Nation. Comedy Central. Event occurs at 2:16. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  46. ^ Freesouls Forward, Lawrence Lessig
  47. ^ CBC NEWS. Google accused of turning its back on net neutrality. December 15, 2008.
  48. ^ Heilemann, John (2005-05-21). "Lawrence Lessig and John Hardwicke Fight Sexual Abuse and the American Boychoir School". Newyorkmetro.com. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  49. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (2005-05-25). "living with ghosts (Lessig Blog)". Lessig.org. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  50. ^ a b "Hardwicke v. American Boychoir". 
  51. ^ "Q&A: Lawrence Lessig". C-SPAN. November 21, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  52. ^ "Larry Lessig: Laws that choke creativity". TED talks. November 15, 2007. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  53. ^ "TEDxNYED - Lawrence Lessig". TEDx talks. March 6, 2010. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  54. ^ Lessig Backs Away From Copy Fights In Courts, Congress. Washington Internet Daily 4 (42). March 4, 2003.
  55. ^ http://www.lessig.org/content/testimony/ab/ab.pdf
  56. ^ "USCA-DC Opinions - Released On 1/21/2011". Pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  57. ^ Lessig blog
  58. ^ http://www.lessig.org/content/testimony/dvd/dvd.pdf
  59. ^ [1]
  60. ^ Lessig portrayed on tonight's West Wing

External links[edit]