Lessig on Colbert

Privacy info. This embed will serve content from mtvnservices.com.

Larry Lessig had a great appearance in Colbert Report on Thursday night, promoting his new book Remix. EFF's got a partial transcript, a video embed, and details on the remix challenge that came out of the end of the piece.

Colbert: You say our copyright laws are turning our kids into criminals, because they're keeping kids from doing all the remixing they want of pre-existing art and copywritten material, right?

Isn't that like saying that arson laws are turning our kids into pyromaniacs?? They're breaking the law! You can't just throw the law out the window!

Lessig: "Totally failed war." Is that familiar to you?

Colbert: No. No. You're saying we need a surge?

Lessig: We tried the surge. For ten years we've been waging this war. Artists have not gotten any more money, businesses have not gotten any more profit, and our kids have been turned into criminals.

Larry Lessig on The Colbert Report


  1. “I get it, I just don’t care.”

    Though he was joking, I thought Colbert summed it up pretty well.

  2. I love the argumentative tone. At one point, I wasn’t sure if Lessig is in on the joke. But no matter, he makes his points tremendously.

  3. It actually came across as somewhat tone-deaf on lessig’s part, to me. Maybe he wanted a more contentious video to increase the number of youtube hits?

    The ending where Colbert draws in the book and Lessig tells him to sell it on Amazon was the only good point I saw scored, but it was a doozy.

  4. Strangely, my Danishness (Daneness?) allows me to watch the full episode (And my Ubuntu/Firefox/Adblock combo never shows any ads). This link might play for you Canadians and New Zeelanders.

    Where should one look for remixes? And does someone have a link to a nice quality copy of the segment, I hear they can be bought on (the american version of) iTunes. Would probably be easy to edit and remix in iMovie.

  5. Did anyone already remix this with a dance beat?
    I’m guessing it’ll hapen, he asked for it.

  6. Damn, when I saw it yesterday I wanted to suggest it as a link, but I thought that if it isn’t posted yet, there must be something they don’t like about Colbert I know nothing about.^^

    As for the interview, I didn’t like it. Normally Colbert does a better job of letting his guests know he’s just joking, he exposes the weaknesses of his conservative character so it’s easier for the guests to make a good point. I didn’t see this procedure as clearly this time.
    And I think Lessig could’ve been more convincing. He didn’t even mention he’d release his book under a cc license right? Because that would’ve added a lot to his credibility (on the show). I admire Larry Lessig and his work, but his appearance on the report just didn’t convince me.

  7. Stepehn’s interviews are just frustratingly short and one-sided, in keeping with his mocking of Papa Bear’s skillz.

  8. I agree with Failix. I was excited to see where it went but Colbert was either too far into his character, or he’s really against the idea of remixing, that the whole interview came out too onesided. Lessig might as well have been on O’Reilly’s show. I thought Lessig’s best moment was when he pointed out that remixing is exactly what Colbert and Stewart on their shows…take already filtered and produced news and remix it to create something funny.

  9. I saw this last night. Colbert’s interviews are never very in-depth, but Lessig mostly came across as combative and unfunny. He’s done better elsewhere.

    Colbert’s interview with Paul Simon was pretty frustrating: ask a question, make a joke before he can answer, repeat.

  10. Actually Lessig came off as surprisingly weak. He did not make a strong case why digital media should be allowed to be remixed. I think Colbert was expecting a better challenge.

    If anything I would say that Colbert clearly won this argument even if it was in jest.

  11. @8 & 11 Colbert did exactly what he is supposed to do and always does, appeared more to me that Lessig failed to properly prepare for the appearance. There is no mystery in dealing with Colbert’s character and thus most any failing will tend to lay with the guest. The deeper he goes into his character the more transparently easy it should be for the guest to score points – if you can’t handle the absurd caricature, it is good thing you aren’t dealing with the real deal and coming out even worse.

    It pains me a bit but often the people I like the most end up coming out the worst on his show but its their own damn fault. Colbert shouldn’t be expected to an inferior job with his role to help them even further.

  12. Right! Colbert is unassailable and never makes mistakes and all of his takes on conservative thinking are spot on. I never realized that till I met you guys in the Zombie League. It’s awesome in here. I don’t know why I never came by before!

    Vanity thy name is Cognitive Dissonance.

  13. Remember how relatively harmless but illegal marijuana turned an entire generation of baby boomers into criminals? Most of us figured out eventually how to live within the law, but I think a certain percentage never did, and I blame the stupid laws. If we do not learn from our history, we do it again, to paraphrase what’s-his-name.

  14. #15 Resista

    Right! Colbert is unassailable and never makes mistakes and all of his takes on conservative thinking are spot on.

    … wait, what? Where in this comment thread did someone suggest such a thing?

  15. Lessig totally failed in this interview.

    In classic form, Colbert pretended to take an opposing view in such a way as to highlight the qualities of the view he is supposedly opposing.

    Lessig, apparently not ever having watched the show or having been prepped prior to the interview, took Colbert’s stance at face value and was ill-prepared to deal with the ridiculousness of it all.

  16. @18 Resista, if you want to argue about Colbert’s take on conservative thinking and whether or not he is unassailable then you would be well served to go somewhere where people are actually discussing those notions – nothing like that has been said around here.

    Your comment is very nearly a non sequitur – too bad it isn’t though, because I am fond of them. Semper Non Sequitur et al

  17. “Lessig: We tried the surge. For ten years we’ve been waging this war. Artists have not gotten any more money, businesses have not gotten any more profit, and our kids have been turned into criminals.”

    Shades of the drug war.

  18. Yeah, I’m with the folks who were cringing. I love Lessig and so was horrified that he was obviously unaware that he was on a parody show. He was visibly frustrated with Colbert’s obviously over-the-top vitriol. This makes me wonder how he’d do on a real conservative talk show. I mean, it’s not like Colbert is some obscure web prankster!

    *head desk*

  19. Anyone else see when Oliver Stone went on Colbert to promote W in October? It was amazing. Stone out-Colberted Colbert, claiming with a perfectly straight face that GW Bush was our greatest president and we should suspend elections to keep him in office.

  20. Almost lost in the reflexive mantra that “copy protection doesn’t work” is the fact that sometimes it does work. Most people buy legitimate game software, for instance. And most people pay for the premium channels that they watch on cable TV. (Note, back in the 1980s, there was widespread copy-breaking of satellite TV signals, using modified hardware; but today there isn’t. Therefore, in this field, effective copy protection actually staged a comeback.)

    The requirement for workable copy protection is that the cost of buying the legitimate version should be low enough, and the protection should be good enough, to make widespread copy-breaking seem uninteresting.

    There is nothing inherently evil in the protection of intellectual property. The RIAA may be inherently evil (and is clearly its own worst enemy, with a gift for bad PR) but that’s a separate issue.

    I am not arguing for strict enforcement of copyright law. I am not even arguing for the existence of copyright law. I am just saying that someone who sells something should have the right to try to protect it from being stolen, without being treated like an idiot who “just doesn’t get it.”

    The old adage that “information just wants to be free” is an anthropomorphic projection. *People* want information to be free. Indeed, people would like everything to be free. But so long as we live in something resembling a market economy, people should expect to pay for what they consume.

    Of course, if Cory wants to give away his work to promote it, that’s fine. It is, after all, his work. But pouring scorn on those who disagree does not seem right to me.

  21. #22 charlesplatt:

    Most people buy it regardless of whether it’s copy protected. Maybe it’s because most people or honest, or maybe it’s because “find a place to download the game for free” is about equally as hard as “find a place to download the game and the crack, both for free”. The people who do the latter get a better experience: no fiddly CDs to put in, no errors when the CD gets a scratch and suddenly your game doesn’t work.

    The copy protection is not having a positive effect on sales, it’s just wasted money. The games are what sells, not the protection.

    And that’s why it’s so frustrating. Whether or not you think the creators have the right to protect their stuff, they are hurting themselves by doing so. Only legitimate purchasers are hurt by it; the pirates celebrate having another copy protection edifice to pound into beach (as Tycho of PA put it).

  22. I’ve never watched Colbert’s show before, cause it doesn’t air in my country, although I’d heard that he was supposed to be quite funny. But I watched this video and I didn’t get the humour at all. Is Colbert always such an arrogant, overbearing, unfunny arsehole? I don’t think I’ll ever bother watching Colbert again.

    Some of the comments above seem to indicate that it was somehow in jest, but watching it, I couldn’t detect any sarcasm from Colbert and he seemed entirely sincere with his closed-minded, fallacious arguments.

    Also I thought Lessig came off quite badly in the interview, which is unfortunate, although I blame Colbert’s apparent lack of interviewing skills for making it little more than a one sided attack against Lessig’s views. Sadly Lessig didn’t get his message across very well and, AFAICT, there was no information revealed about his new book at all, aside from the title.

  23. Lachlanhunt @30: Colbert’s style is satirical parody of right-wing commentators such as O’Reilly. He takes an extreme and intransigent viewpoint and slightly inflates it (what’s worrying is that he really only *slightly* inflates it) and…comedy!

  24. The most obvious indication that Lessig didn’t understand the show he was on was the annoyed headshake at the very end, like he was angry that he had failed to get his point across, or angry that he had failed to convince Colbert. Did he not even catch all Colbert’s references to his Green Screen remixing, to know that Colbert actually agreed with him?

    Anyway, I was surprised that the MeMix book hadn’t appeared on eBay yet…

  25. For those not familiar with him, I’ll throw my name in as someone who watches Colbert on a somewhat regular basis and thinks he’s hilarious.

    As samsam said, Colbert talks on the show from an extreme right wing position to mock that position. He was recently mocking a court decision that a woman couldn’t sue for sexual discrimination because the law required her to file suit within six months after the discrimination started, regardless of when she started working at the company. So if a company started discriminating against women back in 1920, you’d have to file suit by 1921.

    Colbert then expressed his “opinion” that he thinks that anything at all that took place more than six months ago, didn’t happen.

    Some people do miss the fact that he is mocking the right. I’ve seen right wing people come on the show and then give confused looks when they start to realize that Colbert just “zinged” them with something. I imagine that a politician gets an invite to come on the show, one of their handlers watches a minute of the show, decides its right wing friendly, and teh politician shows up. Only to get raked across the coals as Colbert agrees with them with a smile on his face, yet just showed his viewers how stupid this person is. It’s really quite impressive at times.

Comments are closed.