Here’s a quote I ran across today from Lawrence Lessig (whom I heard speak for a few minutes in July!):
[W]hile the Internet has indeed produced something fantastic and new, our government, pushed by big media to respond to this “something new,” is destroying something very old. Rather than understanding the changes the Internet might permit, and rather than taking time to let “common sense” resolve how best to respond, we are allowing those most threatened by the changes to use their power to change the law – and, more importantly, to use their power to change something fundamental about who we have always been.
We allow this, I believe, not because it is right, and not because most of us really believe in these changes. We allow it because the interests most threatened are among the most powerful players in our depressingly compromised process of making law. (p. 13, Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity)
Assuming Lessig is right, what do we do about it? He’s been talking and writing about this for a long time now. But he doesn’t (we don’t) seem to be getting much traction…
It is a near-sighted view – he is correct in the near term and no one is more ardent than me in trying to limit the damage, but time changes the equation. Those in power now will not stay in power very long. The digital natives are now starting to take business positions. In a couple years, they will take political positions (of course, we have already felt their power politically). A few years after that, they will take judgeships and superintendencies and everything else. They will have to undue the damage, but they slowly will. I am doing it here at UK as chair of the Technology Committee. But there are thousands of other bureaucratic positions like mine where the law is made and changed everyday. As the compositions and leadership of those positions change, so too will our attitude toward the Internet-based technologies.
Lawrence is focused on the macro (Stanford Law Profs get that luxury), but like everything else with the Internet, this is a micro, grassroots kind of deal. And, grassroots movements take time to develop.
It’s going to be harder later to undo recent legislation, of course. Instead of leaving well enough alone, we’ve enacted even more draconian laws. We’ll have to undo those just to get back to where we were before, not to mention make forward progress…
This quote reminds me of a scene from Star Wars VI: