iCommons Day 1: Friday Keynote with Lessig and Zittrain

JUNE 15, 2007

I’m now at iCommons conference in Dubrovnik and the first keynote (a joint presentation by Jonathan Zittrain and Lawrence Lessig) has just finished. Herewith is an (extremely) condensed summary of the session with editorial comments.

Jonathan Zittrain

Zittrain delivers his usual, brilliant, witty, sparkling talk. I worry a little that the brilliance papers over some of the cracks in the anecdotes (see ed comments below).

The argument seems to go like this:

  1. We have succeeded in killing 2 bad witches 1. Restrictive platforms (from the wordprocesser to the general purpose PC) 2. Restrictive networks (TCP/IP)
  2. This is great because openness is good for platform innovation * [ed]: no discussion of investment incentives. Everyone agrees that open platform is better for innovation on the platform once the platform exists but the quality of the platform is not given (it is endogenous) and the platform may not exist at all without some rents (most of these open platforms were built by the government directly or indirectly)
  3. But openness comes at a cost 1. Applications/networks are unreliable and easily attacked
    1. Viruses, malware etc etc 2. Systems can be censored (?) 3. Can lead to privacy violation
  4. So how do we solve this? 1. Keep updating stuff (fast cycles) 2. New community norms 3. Distributed systems that combat this using complex software and analysis (hirdirt) 4. [ed] Basically there is an evolutionary arms race and not clear what his anecdotes tell us about who will win and what the trade-off is (not telling us much then: of course there is a trade-off – the key question is who will win and what trade-off of open vs. closedness is)
  5. [ed] what’s the trade-off? Do we want openness or closedness?

Lawrence Lessig

  1. We need to get some respect for what we achieved (shouts and whoops from the audience)
  2. Two types of economy 1. commercial (money-based) 2. sharing (not money-based)
  3. Both are valuable
  4. by/by-sa: sharing economy
  5. But should we only have this
  6. Solomon Linda example of Disney ‘stealing’ a music from a very poor South African artist
  7. More complex example where someone reused a flickr photo in autoweek * Not prevented by sa as not a derivative work * Prevented by nc [ed: this only occurs because sa does not apply to ‘collections’ so could fix fairly easily perhaps]
  8. Example of beatpick: making it easy to license the commercial part * [ed]: but why not back to copyright? (Ok d/w losses on general use are much higher) * [ed]: (more serious) what happens with complex reuse (who gets what part of the pie …: back with serious transaction cost issues)
  9. We (as a movement) harm ourselves by acquiesing in being labelled as pirates etc etc
  10. We need to defend our movement more (gives example of Orlowski)
  11. What we are doing is right and success is possible
  12. People say nasty things about that are inaccurate (e.g. that CC is anti-copyright) * [ed]: i totally agree this is bad but Lessig must surely know how unfair the media (and politics is). But the point is taken: efforts are not purposeless but do gradually rebalance things.
  13. Problem is political economy of IP * [ed]: concentrated interests etc etc see http://www.rufuspollock.org/economics/papers/defaults_for_ip_policy.html
  14. Have spent 10y working on all of this and now plan to step aside
  15. This is your movement, take it, demand the respect, earn that respect