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Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,602 ratings  ·  208 reviews
Lawrence Lessig, "the most important thinker on intellectual property in the Internet era" (The New Yorker), masterfully argues that never before in human history has the power to control creative progress been so concentrated in the hands of the powerful few, the so-called Big Media. Never before have the cultural powers- that-be been able to exert such control over what ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 22nd 2005 by Penguin Books (first published May 10th 2004)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  2,602 ratings  ·  208 reviews


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Alfaniel Aldavan
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Free Culture, as in Free Speech (not as in "free beer").

I have received an answer from GoodReads, on my objections to its removals of "not original" content.

Hi Alfaniel,

Thanks for the response. We didn't mean to suggest that you were plagiarizing another review - our apologies! We should have clarified that we try to avoid users posting duplicate reviews to the point that it’s difficult for other members to find different perspectives about the book. When a book page is barraged with copy-pasted
...more
Melissa
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: proponents of civil disobedience and DVD pirates
I really got wrapped up in Lessig's ideas while reading this book, in fact getting so passionate about fighting our crappy copyright legislation that I made myself a nuisance in a librarian training session and picked a fight with my husband. So, Lessig, I'm behind you all the way, but your book is a homewrecker. (This review is Creative Commons licensed share-and-share-alike.)
Carly McKenna
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Most of us assume that copyright law exists, first and foremost, to protect the intellectual property of creators. Free Culture, however, asks us to reconsider this assumption. Whose interests does copyright law serve, how has this changed throughout history and what implications does this have for our creative culture? These are the fundamental questions that this book takes up.

Free Culture contextualises the contemporary debates about p2p file-sharing by tracing the inconsistent history of cop
...more
Chad
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Given all the hype over this book, including the comments I've heard from several people with whom I'm acquainted to the effect that this book changed people's lives or how they thought about things, it is rather disappointing to finish reading it with the same opinion I had after reading the first chapter:

It's pretty damned mediocre.

Lessig appears to have written this book after he read Peter Draghos' text Information Feudalism, which makes the disappointment even sharper, given that the greate
...more
Rex
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've long admired Lessig's work to make copyright work (e.g., his work establishing the Creative Commons licensing scheme). While Lessig calls himself a liberal, and frames his argument principally on a value usually championed by liberals—the effect that copyright has on culture—he ably illustrates why aspects of the current copyright law should be seen as extreme, even if one subscribes to a more libertarian point of view. The most interesting part of the book describes Lessig's role in arguin ...more
Jarrodtrainque
Lawrence Lessig, “the most important thinker on intellectual property in the Internet era” (The New Yorker), masterfully argues that never before in human history has the power to control creative progress been so concentrated in the hands of the powerful few, the so-called Big Media. Never before have the cultural powers- that-be been able to exert such control over what we can and can't do with the culture around us. Our society defends free markets and free speech; why then does it permit suc ...more
Ahmed Omer
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book, could hardly put it down, Lawrence Lessig describes the tension that exists between the concepts of piracy and property and shows us how some companies use the law to protect themselves against the competition, he argues that we are fast becoming a permissions culture.
A very fun book about a wide range of issues in intellectual property and copyrights
Katy
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Katy by: Vaughn
My good friend was thanked in the credits of this book - but that aside - I love the author of this book. So basically, I'm totally biased and don't have anything objective to say about "free culture" if you are interested in Patent/copyright law or the future of ideas, it is a must read
Peter
Jun 25, 2017 added it
Shelves: insightful
So the copy in the possession of this reviewer has 345 pages. It is owned previously and comes with highlights and annotations, so there might be a bit more to say than usual.

Hang on, I might be able to spot a core difficulty before reaching the end of the first full page of printed text on p xiii.

Quoth Prof Lessig on pxiv: "A free culture supports and protects creators and innovators." and the previous owner continues with the highlighter pen "It does this directly by granting intellectual prop
...more
Lucy
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, lis
Free Culture is an incredibly compelling read about the current state of copyright laws, intellectual property, and creative culture in the United States. Lawrence Lessig does a great job of showing how the intellectual property fundamentalism that many take for granted right now -- the idea that creators should have absolute control over their ideas in perpetuity -- isn't actually on track with our legal tradition, which favors a more balanced approach that limits intellectual property rights t ...more
Morgan Potter
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good book. Does a great job of laying out the issue. Although at some points it went a little off topic and was a kind of unclear, most of the book conveyed the issues in a clear manner. Lessig bring up all the ideas and debates and explains both sides and allows the reader to make the final decision. A fair warning is this is the type of book that will be outdated quickly. It is worth a read
Hubert
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Strong advocate for enriching and enlarging the public domain of creative works. Lessig feels that the pendulum has swung to far towards property rights, in particular those that favor content and media companies with lots of money to lobby Washington and hire lawyers. Also contains a nice overview of the history of property rights that dates back to medieval England. Presents examples that make the more theoretical legal arguments more tangible for non-legal specialists. A bit dated (pre-music- ...more
Liv
Dec 12, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this book through Dailylit.com, and it was fairly well suited to the instalment format. Came across as a series of small essays, instead of a continuous thought.

Lessig was a decently pleasant narrator, although he relied a little too heavily on case studies and analogies for my preferences. I'd prefer broader descriptions of ideas and ideals, followed by case studies instead of introduced by them.

Near the end was a paragraph which crystallized my understanding of why I think the free cult
...more
Andrew
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic look at the evolution of copyright in America over the last century and how technology (especially the Internet) is affecting it. Despite being eight years old, it is still relevant w/r/t the Internet, though I would be curious to see more updated numbers on estimated file-sharing and discussion of more recent issues such as Netflix/Hulu vs. the cable distributors. This book discusses how radically the conversation about media rights and the assumptions we previously held have shifted ...more
Andrew
I can imagine this being far more helpful to an older person. Being part of a generation that was still pretty young when the Internet came into its own, I found that Lessig's arguments were often so intuitive that I wondered why I was reading. Furthermore, the book lacks any kind of theoretical approach, relying heavily on anecdotal evidence. And the theoretical basis there is is often predicated on a grim free-market approach. However, this might prove informative to someone a bit older, and I ...more
Marshall
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a pretty incredible book. It's about the copyright system and the unique challenges it faces from the internet. The internet is basically one big copying machine, and traditionally it has been very open and unregulated. Yet we have these laws in place to regulate copying, designed specifically for a very different context, in which most content creators have had significant resources, including armies of lawyers.

This clashing of technology with outdated law creates ridiculous situations,
...more
Kuba Zalewski
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. A must-read for everyone who is at least slightly interested in intellectual property and/or Internet. Although already 14 years old (which in relation to Internet is like a millennium), this book still manages to be an important voice in the dispute over the scope of copyright. By using interesting examples, the author makes the topic interesting and engaging. Although focused on American law, Lawrence Lessig’s book is relevant to European copyright tradition as well, conveying a vi ...more
Erica
Dec 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Witty, well researched, amazingly well written treatise on the nature of copyright law in a digital culture. As little legal nonsense as possible, as much discussion about the nature of creativity as being inherently collaborative within a culture, and how creativity is not a luxury but a necessity to maintain a vibrant free democratic culture. I heart Lawrence Lessig.
Eric
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, technology, law
I can't give this book a high enough rating; it should be required reading for everyone. A vital survey of what's wrong with copyright law, and the destructive anti-technology crusades of corporate interests like the RIAA and MPAA.
Daniel
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Not often I read non-fiction for fun. Okay, that may be a lie. But I found this book fascinating, and the answers to many questions I have asked myself and others over the years were found in these pages.
Zoe
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended!!

It is worth noting that this book was originally written in 2004, which makes it seem to be a little bit outdated on the surface, since the book mainly talks about how the usage of copyright law should be subject to modification at the advent of internet technology age, in order to reduce the cost of law and to enhance the freedom of creativity. However, after 14 years (btw, 14 years is the original copyright term) in 2017, while the technology, or sharing system in this cas
...more
Lindsay Hickman
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a really excellent book, I only wish I had read it sooner! It is a bit dated, focusing a lot on the sharing of music, through platforms like Napster, but it still rings true. One of the most interesting points I thought about this book was how literally every major technological innovation was 'stolen' or 'pirated' off of another from Radio, Television, Film, Computers, etcetera. This book does a deep dive into copyright laws and the usefulness of them, as well as the hinderances they ar ...more
Murf Reeves
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Free Culture by Lawrence Essig is a very educational read about copyright laws and their effect on human creativity and how it is protected. Essig reveals that our culture of creativity is two types; free and by permission. With the advent of the internet and digital technologies, copyright law has gradually switched our culture from a free to by permission culture and it is stifling creativity across the board. Copyright protection is only supposed to go for so far before works enter into the p ...more
CTEP
Jun 16, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2007-08
This book discusses ways that technology (and especially the Internet) affects our copyright law in the US. It talks about historical examples of developing technologies and ways that they have been encouraged or stifled. The book shows that although technology should actually be helping creativity and increasing markets, this is not happening because of the enormous confusion and cost created by copyright law. It also describes how our government and decision making processes are being undermin ...more
Vanessa
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okay, so obviously I am on an IP law and policy kick right now, but these are all genuinely readable and entertaining. I am 13 years late to the party on this one, but it is a very good book, and still relevant. I can see why Lessig became The Guy in this area. While in some ways it is depressing that we have made so little headway in terms of sensible IP policy since 2004, it is interesting to see the ways markets and technologies have changed since then. This book also provides a very clear pi ...more
D
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
IMPORTANT: This book is free to read online, yet I bought a paperback. Reason? An ebook can never give the same convenience and feel a printed copy gives. This book is a living proof that giving away something for free or sharing something actually boosts the sale of it. I read few chapters online and then I purchased this book.

Though I am not a fan of "Intellectual Property Rights", I enjoyed this book a lot. The author tries to strike a balance (which he very well does) between the rights of t
...more
Caden Mccann
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book. Lawrence Lessig came onto my radar after his run in the most recent Democratic primaries, and reading more about him made me interested in exploring his work. This book really challenged my assumptions about copyright, showing me how stringent copyright laws aren't necessarily a good thing and can lead to less fertile ground for creativity and innovation. I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an engagingly written lay book on legal issues relatin ...more
Ietrio
Aug 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
An uncreative and dull personality knowing what blocks the creativity in people. Self irony. Amusing. If only the writing would not be so boring.

And if you still want to risk death by boredom, keep in mind that this is someone who was able to create some mediocre papers that pushed him through the academic ranks. And this is his plan to control the world, of course, out of pure altruism to make your life better.
Peter
So the copy of the edition in the possession of this reviewer has 345 pages: it is a previously owned copy that comes with some highlights and annotations, so there may be a little more to say about this text than usual.

Hang on, I might be able to spot a core difficulty before reaching the end of the first full page of printed text on p xiii.
bbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrttttt
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written, well argued book on the insanity(!) surrounding copyright law, the original intentions of copyright, and how big media interests has exploited it to enable rent seeking business models. Some content/discussions in the book is a little dated (being written in the early 00's/peak filesharing days), but the fundamentals are still highly relevant.
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Lawrence "Larry" Lessig is an American academic and political activist. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications.

He is a director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of law at Harvard Law School. Prior to rejoining Harvard, he was
...more

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“That tradition is the way our culture gets made. As I explain in the pages that follow, we come from a tradition of "free culture"—not "free" as in "free beer" (to borrow a phrase from the founder of the freesoftware movement[2] ), but "free" as in "free speech," "free markets," "free trade," "free enterprise," "free will," and "free elections." A free culture supports and protects creators and innovators. It does this directly by granting intellectual property rights. But it does so indirectly by limiting the reach of those rights, to guarantee that follow-on creators and innovators remain as free as possible from the control of the past. A free culture is not a culture without property, just as a free market is not a market in which everything is free. The opposite of a free culture is a "permission culture"—a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past.” 6 likes
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