Video here, if not visible.TEDtalks session

I think I’ve read everything that Larry Lessig has published, and I saw him live a few years ago at the Oxford Union. This TED talk is one of his best. Restricting presenters to 20 minutes is a good discipline, at least in this format. Lessig is a master of using multimedia to delight and enhance his message, and his images leave an indelible residue in the back of your mind. Next time you hear a brass band, you will think of Lessig, and the need for copyright reform.

As adults we form opinions and take positions on issues such as war, abortion, death penalties, speed limits, drinking ages, the environment, human rights and so on. It is part of what defines us as human beings. It is time we did the same with copyright. Understanding copyright and intellectual property generally, and forming your own opinion about them is vital. I believe that as adults, we have a responsibility to understand copyright, its good bits and its problems, and have an informed opinion.

As politicians blog,  and use youTube, Twitter and the like, it is also time we heard from them about what they think of copyright. When you decide who to vote for, you assess their positions on a whole slew of factors, I’d ask you to add copyright to that list. I notice that John Edwards has come out in favour of net neutrality, but I’d love to know what his and the other candidates’ positions are on copyright and patents…

Some people have heard of the EFF, and indeed an EFF sticker on the Mac Book is rather trendy in digerati circles.

from pixelm

It is worth spending some time over on the EFF site, and on Chilling Effects. The EFF is primarily focused on the US issues, but these are important for the rest of us, as US law and lawlessness has global repercussions.

If I’d been to Berlin for web 2.0, I would have listened to Cory Doctorow’s presentation on copyright. Instead, I’ll have to rely on Stephanie Booth’s notes.

Support the Open Rights Group

It is timely that my favourite law blogger, Geeklawyer, mentioned Org, ( Open Rights Group. ) This is the UK equivalent of EFF.  According to the said Geeklawyer, who is sometimes reliable…

Jolly good job too. As it’s 2007 report shows it has more than lived up to its promise and done some magnificent work for such a new and minimally funded organisation. For example so far it has influenced the Gower report, helped shine an unwelcome spotlight on the farce of e-voting in the UK and counterbalanced the gross dissembling of the shadier parts of the copyright industry. It’s now a central media resource for journalists needing more balance in their reports – something desperately needed.

I’ll quote from the report here.

Further, digital technologies are affecting citizens’ ability to exercise their existing legal rights
effectively, as some segments of the private sector have increasingly looked to government to extend their rights in an effort to prop up outdated business models. And digital technologies may also generate new possibilities for public (non personal) data, though the UK government has tended to corral public sector information, limiting its exploitation and thus creative and economic opportunities.
For too long, there has been little informed public debate in the UK about any of these issues. Media coverage and policy-making has largely been driven by agendas set in Whitehall and corporate board rooms and there was no organisation in the UK defending citizens’ digital rights

For those more technically inclined, James Governor has this to say.

ORG is now looking for more money and more members as it further professionalises. So if you’re in the UK sign up. The EFF is nice and all, but the ORG is looking after local issues. In fact I am going to go make a donation right now!

(Actually I think James and Geeklawyer ought to meet!)

Check out the ORG  wiki here.  The board and advisory council of ORG has some serious heavy hitters on it, including the drummer of Blur, one of the Cluetrain authors and several top legal academics.

You may read the EFF and ORG stuff, and come to a view that you don’t agree with them, and that copyright is fine the way it is, or even that Disney etc need more rights. That is your democratic right. But I’d ask you to form an informed opinion.

The civil rights battles of this century will be fought online – by groups of passionate,technologically keen, articulate volunteers like ORG.” — Cory Doctorow, author

There is more to the copyright question than copying music.