Looking at current copyright laws

By By Ted Thackeray

By Ted Thackeray

The “Elvis of Cyberlaw,” Professor Lawrence Lessig, rocked the ears of lawyers and law students alike at the 38th Annual William H. Leary Lecture Thursday night at the College of Law.

Lessig, a professor of law at Stanford Law School, spoke on the new frontier in legal courtrooms-copyright laws concerning the Internet. The author of The Future of Ideas, and Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lessig expounded on the issues of copyright law as it pertains to the expanding world of technology.

Giving a brief history of the 200 or so years that “the big C”-or copyright law-has been around, Lessig explained that as time changes, society changes as well.

Lessig explained that there will always be those who want to change the law, but as every action produces an equal and opposite reaction, there will always be those who will fight change.

The professor went on to explain how copyrights work. Once a work is produced, a copyright gives all the property rights and privileges to the producer, Lessig said. Somebody making a copy in any form would be infringing upon those rights.

For the past 200 years, the copyright laws have remained the same while technology has evolved. From cameras to copiers to the Internet, technology has come a long way, Lessig said.

“As time changes, so the scope of the law should change,” he said.

The introduction of the Internet now allows people to obtain information and copy it, change it, burn it and reproduce it in ways never before possible.

Lessig argued that today’s technology surpasses the scope that was conceived with the birth of copyright laws.

But, Lessig says, the balance can only be had if both sides agree.

“You can innovate in ways that the existing industry approves of,” he said.

As long as the big labels give it the go-ahead, then the balance will be reached.

Once that balance is reached, the problem of regulation comes into play, Lessig said.

Lessig said that the only way that it could possibly work is for the law to be changed. The professor of law even took it to the Supreme Court to have it changed, but says that the “Supreme Court had no will to do so.”

Lessig went on to explain that there are two main views: “all rights reserved” and “no rights protected.”

“But,” Lessig says, “most of us believe in something in the middle.”

Enter Creative Commons.

Creative Commons is a corporation designed to give people that “something in the middle” by making some rights reserved.

By registering a product with Creative Commons, the artist or producer can designate parts of the product that consumers can take and make their own changes to a “space that others can build upon.”

This type of middle ground is what Lessig is seeking.

“The best creative environment is produced at neither extreme-a balance that defines the tradition of free culture,” he said.

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