Lessig responds to ASCAP's bizarre anti-free-culture smear campaign

Larry Lessig has written an editorial in response to ASCAP's bizarre attack on organizations like Creative Commons, EFF and Public Knowledge, in which ASCAP solicited funds to fight these "anti-copyright" groups. This was just weird: Creative Commons makes copyright licenses, EFF has spent the past five years advocating for the creation of ASCAP-like organizations to collect for Internet music distribution, and Public Knowledge has an unblemished track record of fighting for balanced copyright that respects authors.

Creative Commons is a nonprofit that provides copyright licenses pro bono to artists and creators so that they can offer their creative work with the freedom they intend it to carry. (Think not "All Rights Reserved" but "Some Rights Reserved.") Using these licenses, a musician might allow his music to be used for noncommercial purposes (by kids making a video, for example, or for sharing among friends), so long as attribution to the artist is kept. Or an academic might permit her work to be shared for whatever purpose, again, so long as attribution is maintained. Or a collaborative project such as a wiki might guarantee that the collective work of the thousands who have built the wiki remains free for everyone forever. Hundreds of millions of digital objects — from music to video to photographs to architectural designs to scientific journals to teachers lesson plans to books and to blogs — have been licensed in this way, and by an extraordinarily diverse range of creators or rights holders — including Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys, Youssou N'Dour, Curt Smith, David Byrne, Radiohead, Jonathan Coulton, Kristin Hersh, and Snoop Dogg, as well as Wikipedia and the White House.

These licenses are, obviously, copyright licenses. They depend upon a firm and reliable system of copyright for them to work. Thus CC could have no interest in "undermining" the very system the licenses depend upon — copyright. Indeed, to the contrary, CC only aims to strengthen the objectives of copyright, by giving the creators a simpler way to exercise their rights.

Larry has challenged ASCAP President Paul Williams to a debate, and offered to sing one of Williams' songs as part of the event.

ASCAP's attack on Creative Commons