My latest read was Remix by Lawrence Lessig. Simply put this book describes an “hybrid” economy where commercial and non-commercial business models co-exist and actually thrive off one another. When a need surfaces, commercial entities create a means, communities build the content and both benefit from the solution. The commercial entities often see a return on their investment, while communities continue to grow and benefit from the other value created by content. Lessig argues that these communities create culture though original works and through the remix of works created by others; essentially adding to the value created by others. He challenges modern-day copyright and intellectual property right laws, and presents a strong case.
Argue as you might, this book is backed with all of the supporting evidence one would come to expect from a distinguished law professor. I’ve read much of Lessig’s work, and I must admit I agreed with his premise going into the book; but there is an interesting dynamic in how he presents his case. This book is hardly theoretical, many of the examples he uses (Flickr, Youtube, Redhat) are all working examples of everything he presents.
Lessig’s argument is not that these entities can exist, but that they should continue to exist and should be encouraged in the years to come.
Based on the nature of the book, I thought it appropriate to bring some reviews by other critics
Lessig’s proposals for revising copyright are compelling, because they rethink intellectual-property rights without abandoning them.
Briefly Noted, The New Yorker.
“A public intellectual of zealous spirit, a skilful polemicist engaged in the discourse of law, politics and the worldwide web – Lawrence Lessig is a prophet for the internet age.”
Lewis Jones, The sharing generation, in the Financial Times.
“It is not easy having a calm conversation about media these days. … The most potent bombs have been thrown by Lawrence Lessig, a law professor, litigator, and author.”
L. Gordon Crovitz, Remix by Lawrence Lessig, in Commentary.
Lawrence Lessig on The Colbert Report, January 8th 2009.
The Bottom Line
There are people who agree with this book and people who don’t; I just happen to be one of those people who does agree with this book. But it might not be the reason you expect. Lessig presents an excellent argument for the hybrid economy, but the most compelling evidence to date is the world around us.
Look at the “breakout” companies of the last 10-15 years. Google, Youtube, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter; all centered around the idea that the community adds value. Lessig quotes a gentleman in his book, and I apologize I could not find the reference (if someone finds it please comment below) who says, “20 years from now this won’t even be an issue”. His point was simply that, 20-30 years from now the managers choosing the projects, the venture capitalists signing the checks, and the CEOs driving major corporations are going to be people who were born this digital world of remix. The companies won’t be breakout companies forever. They thrive on community created culture.
If the Google’s and Facebook’s of the world are in fact “breakout” companies and startups, their CEOs are merely breaking out from a pack of likeminded individuals, who 20-30 years from now will catch up and hybrid will become the norm.