Sunday, March 29, 2009

Professor Lessig Went To Beijing to Warn China Against ...

... US copyright policy

Mr Brett Gaylor, a Canadian from Montreal wrote and directed a thought provoking documentary 'RIP: A Remix Manifesto', which can be seen in 13 chapters via the internet, see here; which is an open invitation to remix it. The movie criticises copyright laws and intellectual property laws in general that constrain creativity instead of stimulating it. The 'Remix Manifesto':  
1. Culture always builds on the past;
2. The past always tries to control the future; 
3. Our future is becoming less free; 
4. To build free societies, you must limit control of the pas  was proposed by professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University and founder of the Center for Internet and Society and initiator of the Creative Commons movement. Now, what is this documentary saying about China?

In chapter 6 'Preachers, Lawyers and Criminals' professor Lessig is going to China to warn it against ... American copyright policy.

Mr Brett Gaylor: "Professor Lessig has been travelling the globe for over a decade sounding the alarm on its own country's copyright policy."
Professor Lawrence Lessig: "You know I am not anti-American, I am not trying to rally people against America. But I am against this particular version of American policy and I am embarrassed by it, because it is so extreme relative to our tradition and it does harm when this kind of extremism is forced on developing nations. And I think it is particularly appropriate then to come to developing nations and at least got them to recognise that there is another side to the story. So I felt like a lawyer with a guilty conscience, that somehow there must be a balance to this. And if a mess is being created, because lawyers were playing in the hands of these people who profit from this, then laywers need to be on the other side.         

In chapter 12 'Which road to the future? ' Mr Bruce Lehman who was the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office between 1993 and 1998, was interviewed. He talks about a "deal" between the US and the rest of the world, I think, not everybody was aware of the consequences at the time.  Mr Lehman is looking back to his legacy in a critical way. 

Mr Gaylor: "In the 1990s the US hatched a plan to trade the economy of things for the economy of ideas. 
And the man who would protect those ideas was . 
Mr Lehman: "In the Clinton administration my job was to be in charge of the intellectual property policy of the US both domestically and in terms of our diplomacy. 
You know in a modern economy I think wealth is a product of the mind. It is really in intellectual creations. 
You know in much of the world we live in a sea of piracy. And you can have sympathy for developing countries, but we made a deal. You know, if you go to a shopping mall in this country you cannot buy anything made in the US anymore, all comes from China or some other place like that. Well the reason for that is that we really opened up our markets. It was to basically abandon low wage manufacturing jobs and the ideas that we would compensate for that with higher wage high tech more intangible based jobs."

Cory Doctorow, writer of sci-fi novels and copyleft advocate and blogger of Craphound : "The idea was that they would convince the world's economies to adopt that prohibited the copying of American ideas without American permission. And in exchange it would require all the countries that wanted to manufacture stuff and export them here to adopt American copyright laws. And if they didn't they wouldn't be allowed to sell their physical goods here in America. And the World Trade Organisation would be the teeth."

Mr Lehman: "And the difficulty in the global trading system is that we met our part of the bargain, but these other countries did not theirs. 
Then images of Beijing's Shijiingshan Amusement Park are shown, which I blogged about in May 2007, see here . And you see a spokesperson of the park answering to the question: Is Mickey Mouse there? "No, that's a cat with big ears."

Mr Lehman: "I have to say that now we are more than a decade into our policies on digital copyrights I feel that it also has achieved the results that we wanted. "
"So I am thinking, you know, maybe we should have forgotten intellectual property rights internationally and gone for labour standards and the environment." 


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