Keen on Lessig

I never expected my new friend, Stanford Law professor and founder of Creative Commons Larry Lessig, to make such a lucid argument about why professional media matters. After all, Larry -- who I fondly regard as the world's most erudite lauder of the appropriation of intellectual property -- is usually quite critical of professionally created media content. But there he was this morning, sitting right next to me, making a spellbindingly sophisticated argument in favor the value of professional media.

Larry had very generously invited me to participate in his Legal Futures conference, a Stanford Law School event featuring the leading scions of the digital aristocracy. With some senior execs from Microsoft, Google and Time Warner, he and I sat this morning on a panel about professional media. So what did Larry choose to discuss? Did he talk about the structural economic crisis of the music industry, the recent New York Times layoffs or the just resolved Hollywood writer's strike. No, no, no. Larry chose to speak about Keen on Lessig. He began his talk about professional media by attacking my assertion, in Cult, that he lauds the appropriation of intellectual property. Larry said I was wrong. He said that I had no proof that he has ever lauded online IP theft.

Now why would Larry begin his discussion about professional media with the defense of the indefensible. After all, everybody knows that, as the rabble-rousing founder of Creative Commons, Larry has lauded -- implicitly or otherwise -- the appropriation of intellectual property. Many of Larry's critics and even some of his friends (off-the-record, of course) -- in the law, in media, in politics and in the academy -- have confirmed this to me. So why confront me on a fact that is patently true? And why challenge me over an assertion that can be found all over the Internet, in blogs and websites critical of Larry's radically permissive attitude toward intellectual property.

It has to do, of course, with the power of mainstream media. What upset Larry is not so much what I said but rather the powerful vehicle of my assertion. Instead of a narcissistic blog read by a handful of insiders (what you are now reading), Cult is a paragon of the power of mainstream media. The hardback version of the book has been a huge critical and commercial success. Cult has already gone through six printings and been read by tens of thousands of enthusiastic readers around the world. It is being translated into numerous foreign languages including Chinese, Portuguese, French, German, Japanese, Polish, Dutch and Turkish. And all this before the launch of the paperback version of Cult later this summer -- an publishing event which will introduce Larry's most intimate thoughts about intellectual property to hundreds of thousands of new readers.

This is, of course, why Larry chose to begin his analysis of professional media at Legal Futures this morning with such a passionate rant. Because of the commercial and intellectual power of professional media, a massive army of readers -- from Warsaw to Beijing to Lisbon to Tokyo -- now know all about Larry's naughtily illicit thoughts about intellectual property. They are shouting it on the streets now. Keen on Lessig has gone global. From the mosques of Istanbul to the Baptist churches of Dixie to the synogogues of Golders Green, everybody knows that Stanford Law School professor and Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig lauds the appropriation of intellectual property. And that, Larry -- as you argued with your trademark brilliance this morning -- is why professional media matters.