Lawrence Lessig on the Free Access Movement
Open access to knowledge, a business model for science, and the value of “uncool” innovation.
By Maria Popova
Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig is easily the most important voice in intellectual property today, whose work — including founding Creative Commons — has done for remix culture what Al Gore’s did for climate change. In this animated excerpt from a lecture he gave in Geneva last week, Lessig introduces the Science Commons project and makes a compelling case for universal access to knowledge through new information architecture that supports its recombination and reconfiguration, advocating for what he calls “the free access movement.”
Ultimately, he argues — and we wholeheartedly agree — that encouraging exclusivity of access is inconsistent with the ethics of our world, the sort of paradigm that lets knowledge wither in the hands of the privileged.
We need to recognize in the academy, I think, an ethical obligation […] An ethical obligation which is at the core of our mission. Our mission is universal access to knowledge—not American university access to knowledge, but universal access to knowledge in every part of the globe.
We don’t need, for our work, exclusivity; and we shouldn’t practice, with our work, exclusivity. And we should name those who do, wrong. Those who do are inconsistent with the ethic of our work.” ~ Lawrence Lessig
See the full 50-minute talk below:
Archiving is not enough. Because what it does is leave these right out there, and by leaving these rights out there, it encourages this architecture of closed access. It encourages models of access that block access to the non-elite around the world. And it discourages unplanned, unanticipated and ‘uncool’ innovation — the sort of thing publishers would’ve said of Google Books.” ~ Lawrence Lessig
More than six years later, Lessig’s Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity remains an absolute must-read. Unlike most books, whose cultural relevance tends to wane with time, this is a cultural essential that’s only increasingly relevant as we grapple with new facets of what constitutes creative labor.
[UPDATE: Per appropriate albeit abrasive reader comment below, a reminder that Free Culture is also available as a free downloadable PDF if you can stomach the reading experience that entails.]
Published May 3, 2011