Home Lessig on the Read/Write Web

Lessig on the Read/Write Web

Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig has a thought-provoking essay on
about the perilous state of what he terms the Read-Write Internet:

“We are well on our way to perfecting the “Read-Only” internet –
that network in which every bit of culture can be bought in a single click, but bought
with the rights to consume only. 2006 will be a critical stage in this process.”

He cites Apple and Amazon as companies that are beginning to control how media is used
in their software/services. But more so than technology, Lessig worries that Intellectual
property laws will prevent the Read/Write Web from reaching its potential. He says that
“copyright in the digital world gives content owners more legal control over the use of
their content than in the physical world.”

Lessig describes the “Read-Write” internet as “a world in which content is
bought, but not simply to be consumed. Blogs, photo journals and sites such as Wikipedia
and MySpace signal an extraordinary hunger in our culture for something beyond

This is a theme that Lessig has been talking and writing about for years, as have I
and many others. But it’s worth always coming back to, because as Lessig points out there
is so much potential in a Read/Write Web:

“It is hard for those of us from the couch potato generation to understand why the
creativity of the Read-Write internet is important. But if you focus on something that we
are likely to understand – market value – then the Read-Write internet,
indeed, has a great deal to recommend it. The computers, bandwidth, software and storage
media needed to enable an efficient Read-Only internet are but a fraction of the
technology needed to support the Read-Write internet. The potential for growth with the
Read-Write internet is extraordinary, if only the law were to allow it.”

And it’s not just market value, as Lessig goes on to say. 

Well, there are no easy answers to get the law and policy-makers to see the real value
of the Read/Write Web (or Read-Write Internet if you prefer). But I’m certainly glad we
have Lawrence Lessig around to keep the pressure on in the domain of law. It’s up to us
Web and media folks to do the same in our domains.

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