I only read the intro to this book, because who has time to read more?, but Lessig sets up an interesting argument here. He begins with two stories: that of the Wright brothers and the subsequent Supreme Court case in with the Causby brothers challenged airlines’ rights to trespass in their “property”–the airspace above their homes, and that of Armstrong, who invented FM technology and then faced a long and tragic battle with RCA over property rights. In the first instance, it was decided that “common sense revolts” at the idea of individual ownership of something as public as airspace. In the second, the big corporation won the day in being able to legally silence then steal from Armstrong.
Lessig likens the current (well, ten-year-old) property rights situation created by the Internet to the latter story. The Internet, he says, has opened a space for the sharing and publication of once-noncommercial creative work–building on existing work without needing to seek permission has existed for a long time, but, now that sort of work happens online, where it can be monitored and regulated, and the property rights of those previously existing works can be “protected.” In most cases, those who control the property are big corporations, who gain the support of the government through corruption, but also through the value on property that has been inculcated in American society. Many of us, Lessig points out, are on the side of the property-holders. This book seeks to ask why? Seeks to explore the creative community made possible by the Internet, and the ways that that creative work is squashed and prohibited by law and culture. Culture may be being held too tightly by culture.