Tuesday, January 26, 2010

For The Love Of Culture | The New Republic

A timely Google reality check from Lawrence Lessig; excerpt:

How might we do better? What would a solution to this mess look like, a solution that would not bury our culture in a morass of legal and technical code? The core problem here is not one of Google’s creation. It is not a problem that we should expect Google, or any other private company, to solve. Indeed, Google has gone a great distance in the settlement to mitigate the problems that the law (given digital technology) imports: the settlement has a special deal for libraries and universities, and it has the potential to offer a special deal for researchers. Google and the plaintiffs have tried to grant special favors of access, no doubt to avoid precisely the kind of concern I am raising here. And no doubt the settlement as a whole is an experiment that could teach us a great deal about how culture is demanded, and what access we need to secure.

But we cannot rely upon special favors granted by private companies (and quasi-monopoly collecting societies) to define our access to culture, even if the favors are generous, at least at the start. Instead our focus should be on the underlying quandary that gives rise to the need for this elaborate scheme to regulate access to culture. However clever the settlement, however elegant the technology, we should keep Peter Drucker’s words clear in our head: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

For The Love Of Culture | The New Republic

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