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The Internet revolution has come. Some say it has gone. In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the revolution has produced a counterrevolution of potentially devastating power and effect. Creativity once flourished because the Net protected a commons on which widest range of innovators could experiment. But now, manipulating the law for their own purposes, co The Internet revolution has come. Some say it has gone. In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the revolution has produced a counterrevolution of potentially devastating power and effect. Creativity once flourished because the Net protected a commons on which widest range of innovators could experiment. But now, manipulating the law for their own purposes, corporations have established themselves as virtual gatekeepers of the Net while Congress, in the pockets of media magnates, has rewritten copyright and patent laws to stifle creativity and progress. Lessig weaves the history of technology and its relevant laws to make a lucid and accessible case to protect the sanctity of intellectual freedom. He shows how the door to a future of ideas is being shut just as technology is creating extraordinary possibilities that have implications for all of us. Vital, eloquent, judicious and forthright, The Future of Ideas is a call to arms that we can ill afford to ignore.


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The Internet revolution has come. Some say it has gone. In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the revolution has produced a counterrevolution of potentially devastating power and effect. Creativity once flourished because the Net protected a commons on which widest range of innovators could experiment. But now, manipulating the law for their own purposes, co The Internet revolution has come. Some say it has gone. In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the revolution has produced a counterrevolution of potentially devastating power and effect. Creativity once flourished because the Net protected a commons on which widest range of innovators could experiment. But now, manipulating the law for their own purposes, corporations have established themselves as virtual gatekeepers of the Net while Congress, in the pockets of media magnates, has rewritten copyright and patent laws to stifle creativity and progress. Lessig weaves the history of technology and its relevant laws to make a lucid and accessible case to protect the sanctity of intellectual freedom. He shows how the door to a future of ideas is being shut just as technology is creating extraordinary possibilities that have implications for all of us. Vital, eloquent, judicious and forthright, The Future of Ideas is a call to arms that we can ill afford to ignore.

30 review for The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nick Geiser

    This book is a great exploration of a "third way" in governance alongside private markets and bureaucratic control. Lessig does for the Internet what Elinor Ostrom did for environmental resources in _Governing the Commons_: both draw attention to the overlooked possibility of decentralized institutions for governing common-pool resources. As an introduction to the politics and law of the Internet, I often wondered how current or out-of-date some of Lessig's technical and factual claims were. To t This book is a great exploration of a "third way" in governance alongside private markets and bureaucratic control. Lessig does for the Internet what Elinor Ostrom did for environmental resources in _Governing the Commons_: both draw attention to the overlooked possibility of decentralized institutions for governing common-pool resources. As an introduction to the politics and law of the Internet, I often wondered how current or out-of-date some of Lessig's technical and factual claims were. To that effect, this book probably works best as an introduction to the history of Internet politics rather than a primer on contemporary issues. Lessig comes across as a moderate and temperate voice throughout the book--his refrain throughout on most policy questions is "Wait and see." Lessig seems most impressed by the danger of bad, sticky regulation that will undermine the fundamentally valuable aspects of common access resources. One of Lessig's most important points, drawn from an exceptional paper "The Comedy of the Commons" by law professor Carol Rose, is that in cases where we are 1) uncertain about the future value of a resource, we should be more disposed to treat a resource as a commons, and 2) resources that experience increasing returns to scale are most efficiently allocated as commons rather than as private property or state ownership. We have been too quick to see tragedies of the commons and diminishing returns and overlooked the role of increasing returns. It strikes me that Lessig and Rose's point here about increasing returns is a plausible and much clearer way to reconstruct objections to commodification made by people like Sandel and Walzer.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Felix Dacumos

    After watching an interview of Lawrence Lessig back on the old TechTV channel, I was fascinated by his views on copyright and the public domain. I immediately researched him on the internet and walked down to my nearby Borders to pick up this book. This book became the basis that helped me define my views on the public domain and digital rights management (DRM). Every time I see large corporations use DRM as a way for content control rather than the protection of ideas, it makes me cringe and thi After watching an interview of Lawrence Lessig back on the old TechTV channel, I was fascinated by his views on copyright and the public domain. I immediately researched him on the internet and walked down to my nearby Borders to pick up this book. This book became the basis that helped me define my views on the public domain and digital rights management (DRM). Every time I see large corporations use DRM as a way for content control rather than the protection of ideas, it makes me cringe and think of this book. Because of copyright, do you think all of our music today is going to be passed from generation to generation like the public domain works of Mozart or Beethoven? Would we have amazing hip hop beats if there were no grey area of mixing music? After reading this book it might open up your mind and think about supporting the Creative Commons rights management. Finally, this book is also a great foundation when discussing topics like the DMCA or net neutrality.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erika RS

    I am a Lessig fan. That said, I think this was a very good book and would be a good read for anyone interested in intellectual property especially as related to technology. Two good issues discussed in the text were the idea of the commons verses ownership and the idea of regulation in advance. The first issue discussed the illusion that just because it is better to have some things as property (controlled by the market) it is better to have everything controlled as property. Thus, the illusion c I am a Lessig fan. That said, I think this was a very good book and would be a good read for anyone interested in intellectual property especially as related to technology. Two good issues discussed in the text were the idea of the commons verses ownership and the idea of regulation in advance. The first issue discussed the illusion that just because it is better to have some things as property (controlled by the market) it is better to have everything controlled as property. Thus, the illusion continues, more control is always better. Furthermore, the illusion states, if you fight against more control, you are against control completely. Lessig pointed out that this is not the case. We have things owned in common (highways were a common example) and things owned privately. Balance must be achieved even in the physical world. Even more so in the digital world. More so because in the digital world resources have little to no possibility of being used up. Thus, we must consider them as separate from physical property. Ownership will not disappear in the digital world, however, it should not be given a priori; its benefits should be demonstrated by those who want to claim it as property. The second issue was in response to the fact that many laws and regulations are being made in relation to the expected consequences of new technologies. However, these things limit the use of new technologies and stifle innovation in favor of existing (usually large) companies. The existing parties that are in favor of these regulations thus shift the burden of proving usefulness onto new technologies. Yet if a technology cannot play around in the real world, how is one to determine whether or not there is a use/market for it? This book is thought provoking and well written. There were some things (mainly the proposed solutions to existing problems) that I felt would have some bugs in implementation, but that did not distract from the book. In fact, they rather prove the point. They were brainstorming, innovation. We cannot know if those methods are right without looking into them more deeply. Similarly, digital technology and intellectual property cannot be treated like physical property. There may be some analogies, but there are also profound differences.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Y

    "The experts didn't get it", the book starts by giving you the history of the internet from the ground up, always reminding you that freedom drives innovation because the few at the top, might not get it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    EAL

    I didn't actually finish this book; I just cannot bring myself to finish it. What is it about the writing that makes it so infuriatingly slow-paced? It's just like The World is Flat.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Arnaud Vigouroux

    After 15 years, the landscape of the Internets changed a lot and this book sometimes look outdated. But, it lays the basis for a reflection on what fostered innovation in this field, how intellectual property laws play a role and what changed when the Internets went commercial. This book is still worth reading and I would like to get a hand on an updated version, where the power of the gafa would be taken into account.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    A small and petty mind exposing its plan of Taking Over the World. A larger version of Brain from Pinky and the Brain. Okay. Things are going to be wonderful in that sort of Total Control. I get that. How about if someone else, even more petty and complex ridden than Lessig takes over this beautiful institution? Another mystery.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hanjun

    A good number of theories and perspectives. That said, after the first 20%, the author iterated on very similar opinions again and again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Lucid and persuasive, Lessig gives history lessons intertwining commerce, morals, politics and law. We get to understand in lay terms how we got to be where we are in copyright and patent law and why it is important that we're able to build on the assets of others' ideas

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    Fascinating examination of what makes the internet tick, in terms of innovation, and what kinds of things could stop that innovation. He sets forth the idea that there are three layers in the internet for control: physical (that is, the wires and such that the signal travels on), code (the system that lets the network do its thing) and content (the stuff that goes over the wires). While he touches on the physical layers, his main focus is on the code and content layers, where the philosophy behi Fascinating examination of what makes the internet tick, in terms of innovation, and what kinds of things could stop that innovation. He sets forth the idea that there are three layers in the internet for control: physical (that is, the wires and such that the signal travels on), code (the system that lets the network do its thing) and content (the stuff that goes over the wires). While he touches on the physical layers, his main focus is on the code and content layers, where the philosophy behind the creation of the internet has had the most impact. The internet, according to Lessig, is currently built on an architecture that, much like the highways, allows for a commons. Anyone can get access, and put new things on the network, without having to get permission. He argues that it should remain this way, and makes a compelling case that the current laws regarding Intellectual Property (IP) are far too strict, some because of recent law changes, some because of the increase in control that has come with the digitization of content. A good, balanced look at the issue, albeit a little behind, since it was published in 2001.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Interesting book, if a bit repetitive. The big fight over net neutrality happened after this book was published. While this book didn't precisely predict this issue, it certainly foreshadowed it and showed the progression of increasing levels of control over the internet. Still, there is some hope of Congress officially passing a net neutrality bill. I wish that there were some hope for copyright and patent reform, which is seriously broken. This book highlighted the problems with copyright and Interesting book, if a bit repetitive. The big fight over net neutrality happened after this book was published. While this book didn't precisely predict this issue, it certainly foreshadowed it and showed the progression of increasing levels of control over the internet. Still, there is some hope of Congress officially passing a net neutrality bill. I wish that there were some hope for copyright and patent reform, which is seriously broken. This book highlighted the problems with copyright and how the internet is making "perfect control" more attainable. I used to work as a software developer and had to avoid some ridiculous software patents, so I knew first-hand that the copyright/patent system was broken before. What I didn't realize was the extent, which is truly frightening. This book was a depressing read. It laid out many of the system's problems and then only gave overly optimistic solutions.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    Our children will have no problem parsing this book, whatsoever. When I read this book, I would actually get angry at Lessig at being too moderate. After describing in such nuance the way things have been horribly messed up in copyright and spectrum laws, my reaction was "well, then burn the FCC to the ground, loot Disney World, and put Les Moonves' head on a stake". Lessig, however, usually provides a more moderate solution. Sometimes it looks like compromise, but in the end, the reader cannot Our children will have no problem parsing this book, whatsoever. When I read this book, I would actually get angry at Lessig at being too moderate. After describing in such nuance the way things have been horribly messed up in copyright and spectrum laws, my reaction was "well, then burn the FCC to the ground, loot Disney World, and put Les Moonves' head on a stake". Lessig, however, usually provides a more moderate solution. Sometimes it looks like compromise, but in the end, the reader cannot help but conclude that this guy has just really thought it through. Let this guy write the Iraq withdrawal plan.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    I think this is the book where Lessig truly became one of the most essential public intellectuals of our time. Reading it in 2008, years after its initial release, it has turned out to be stunningly prescient. He writes about the social, economic, and political ramifications of our misguided intellectual property and technology policy with clarity and wit here. This is probably the most essential of Lessig's three books. Code 2.0 can be pedagogic at times and Free Culture is the work of a defeate I think this is the book where Lessig truly became one of the most essential public intellectuals of our time. Reading it in 2008, years after its initial release, it has turned out to be stunningly prescient. He writes about the social, economic, and political ramifications of our misguided intellectual property and technology policy with clarity and wit here. This is probably the most essential of Lessig's three books. Code 2.0 can be pedagogic at times and Free Culture is the work of a defeated, discouraged warrior. I still highly recommend both, but if you have to pick only one of Lessig's books, this is it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    Still relevant six-seven years on, the book is highly informative and well-constructed. I just had a hard time motivating myself to finish, I don't know if that's because the subject can at times be dry, that the book has been kind of upstaged by Lessig's later efforts, or just my own failings with slightly academic texts. But for those interested in technology, The Future of Ideas is definitely worth checking out for its broad sentiments about the nature of control and innovation.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dave Peticolas

    Lessig explores the benefits that the open architecture of the Internet has brought to innovation and creativity. He then turns to the reaction against this architecture by the entrenched stakeholders of the pre-Internet era, such as the music and film industries. His conclusion is pessimistic -- the old is fighting successfully to protect itself against the new and stifling innovation in the process.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Keith Klein

    Lucid and persuasive, Lessig gives history lessons intertwining commerce, morals, politics and law. We get to understand in lay terms how we got to be where we are in copyright and patent law and why it is important that we're able to build on the assets of others' ideas. Important reading for intellectual property owners and purveyors. Regards, Keith

  17. 5 out of 5

    G

    This is probably the most wide-ranging of Lessig's three books that I've read (I'm going backwards, I suppose), which means it's also the least successful (in part because it's the oldest). Still, he as always makes good points. I think Free Culture is probably the best of his books that I've read (still have to get to Code 2.0).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Dense but interesting. Lessig's ideas are still valid but I think he greatly underestimated how much people will be drawn to quality ideas. Even though Microsoft and AOL-TW had every competitive advantage, they still blew it by not innovating. Innovation seems to emerge, even in the face of highly controlled systems. I still prefer Lessig's idea of an intellectual commons, though.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karan

    I tried. This is a book that's truly written by a lawyer - many hundreds of pages of analogies and examples to prove his point, presented in a very bland way. I read the quarter of the way, but Larry's writing could not hold my attention. He takes a long time to get to this point. His ideas are big and important, just not written in a way that appealing to a lot of people.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark Schomburg

    Copyright and control issues in realms of data networking and broadcasting are compared in detail. The emphasis is on being mindful of software and legal developments that will affect what a U.S. citizen can access in the public domain.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eddie

    Well presented and thorough, the author has presented a compelling argument for limiting copyright and patents. We've forgotten the original reason (to encourage innovation) and shifted to indefinitely protecting existing ideas. It's not a terribly exciting read, but it was interesting.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lolakay

    yes, i was once a member of the Lawrence Lessig cult. (still respect his ideas, just not as zealous. remember when copyright was a top concern? ah the good old days.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Adage be damned. The hardcover edition of this book may have the best cover I've ever seen. Now, I just need to finish reading it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    It breaks down who runs the web, how it runs, and the decisions and biases that determine the rules of the internet.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This is a very informative and interesting take on the history and future of ideas on the internet. Not a light read, but then it's not a light subject.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    this book crystallized my thinking about the significance of Open Source and the power of collaborative development of ideas.

  27. 4 out of 5

    'stina

    bought in Cambridge in 2002, when I was attending a conference at Harvard)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike Hendrickson

    Not sure I buy this hook, line and sinker. But it does make you think, and that is what Lessig wants, I am pretty sure.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Emery

    Behold open source software

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Amazing book, it will make you re-think the foundations of property and copyright

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