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a free culture, but in a "by-per mission" culture. And these per-
missions will no longer be policed by courts or the law but rather
by software code.
This is the control that the free-culture movement fears. The-
oretically, digital technologies give the law the right to regulate
culture to an unprecedented extent. DRM will turn that theory
into practice. Do we know enough to conclude that the bene ts of
that practice will outweigh the costs? Do we even know enough
to understand the costs?
The case against DRM comes in two avors, the familiar and
the more obscure.
The familiar complaint is about the exclusivity of markets:
maybe the price of reading an e-book will be too high; maybe too
many people will be shut out of the market. That s a real concern
in developing nations around the world, where
the cost of both proprietary code and proprie-
tary culture is wildly beyond the means of most
people. Still, it s a concern that market apolo-
gists can quickly dismiss (see Epstein).
But consider the second complaint against
DRM---one generally missed by the market
apologists. This complaint is more fundamen-
tal: DRM abridges our personal freedoms and
inhibits cultural transmission. To appreciate it,
step back from the digital for a moment. Think
instead about human culture as a whole. Par-
ticipation in cultural life involves a practice that
we could call "remix." You read a book. You
tell the story to friends. You see a movie that in-
spires you. You share its story with your family,
to spread that inspiration.
Remixing uses the fr uits of someone else s creativity. There s
no guarantee that it does any favors to the work that is remixed.
There s no requirement that it treat the work respectfully or
kindly. The freedom to remix is a freedom to ridicule or respect.
Fairness is not the measure. Freedom is.
It is almost impossible to imagine a culture thriving if its peo-
ple are not free to engage in this kind of practice. Remixing is
how culture gets made. The acts of reading, or criticizing, or
praising, or condemning bits of culture are how we create things.
This is tr ue whether the culture is commercial or not: you cannot
limit remixing to things in the public domain. In our tradition,
we have been free to remix, whether the stu remixed is copy-
righted or not.
This freedom, however, has been limited, historically, by an
important technological fact. Since the dawn of humankind we
have been free to remix, but the technology of remixing has been
words. We use words to remake our culture. We use words to
criticize or incorporate. The ordinary ways in which culture gets
made are textual. No one restricted the freedom to remake cul-
ture because, in free societies at least, no one purported to re-
strict what ordinary people did with ordinary words.
So what happens when the ordinary ways in which culture
gets remixed change? What happens when the ordinary tools of
remixing change? Do the freedoms to remix change as well? Will
we be more or less free to remix
culture in the 21st century than we
were in previous centuries?
Consider how the kids in Porto
Alegre think about remixing. They
remix culture with words, cer-
tainly. But they want to build the
capacity to remix more than words.
They hope to use computers to re-
mix culture. For most of us, com-
puters are a way to type fast. But for
most of them, computers will be a
way to speak, using sounds and im-
ages, synchronized or remixed, to
make art or remake politics.
It is extremely hard to describe
the new kinds of remixes that digital technologies enable. That
may be their point. You could look at some examples at atmo.se.
But if you re stuck with your imagination, then you need to ex-
trapolate from examples you ve seen so far. Think about the very
best examples of digital media that you ve experienced (perhaps
the JibJab remix of "This Land Is Your Land"), and then re-
member they re not likely the product of Sony or Disney. Digital
technologies have inspired an extraordinary range of creativity,
AN ESTIMATED 150,000 WORKS WER E REG ISTERED BETWEEN 1790 AND 1870. SOURCE: U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE
The Evolution of Copyright Law
right to "copy"
When the Internet
control of their
content, then, since
it s all automatically
every use of it will
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