Lawrence Lessig

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Lawrence Lessig

Born June 3, 1961 (1961-06-03) (age 47)
Rapid City, South Dakota, U.S.
Occupation Founder, Creative Commons
Founder, Stanford Center for Internet and Society
Professor, Stanford Law School
Spouse(s) Bettina Neuefeind

Lawrence Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an American academic and political activist. He is a professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, and will soon re-join the faculty at Harvard Law School.[1] Lessig is a founding board member of Creative Commons, a board member of the Software Freedom Law Center and a former board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[2] He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications.

At the iCommons iSummit 07 Lessig announced that he will stop focusing his attention on copyright and related matters and will work on political corruption instead.[3] This new work may be partially facilitated through his wiki — “Lessig Wiki” — which he has encouraged the public to use to document cases of corruption.[4] In February 2008, a Facebook group formed by law professor John Palfrey encouraged him to run for Congress from California's 12th congressional district, the seat vacated by the death of U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. Later that month, after forming an "exploratory project", the decision was made not to run for the vacant seat.[5]

Despite having decided to forgo running for Congress himself, Lessig remained interested in attempting to change Congress to reduce corruption.[5] To this end, he worked with political consultant Joe Trippi to launch a web based project called "Change Congress".[6] In a press conference on March 20, 2008, Lessig explained that he hoped the Change Congress website would help provide technological tools voters could use to hold their representatives accountable and reduce the influence of money on politics.[7] He is a board member of, a nonprofit research group illuminating the connection between money and politics.

Lessig has known president Barack Obama since their days teaching law at the University of Chicago, and has been mentioned as a candidate to head the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telecommunications industry.[8]


[edit] Academic career

Born in Rapid City, South Dakota, Lessig earned a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Management (Wharton School) from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Cambridge (Trinity) in England, and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.

Prior to re-joining Harvard, he taught at Stanford. Prior to Stanford, he taught at the Harvard Law School, where he was the Berkman Professor of Law, affiliated with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and the University of Chicago Law School. Lessig is considered a liberal, but he clerked for two influential conservative judges: Richard Posner and Justice Antonin Scalia.

[edit] Attitudes

Lessig has emphasized in interviews that his philosophy experience at Cambridge radically changed his values and career path. Previously, he had held strong conservative or libertarian political views, desired a career in business, was a highly active Teenage Republican serving as the Youth Governor for Pennsylvania through the YMCA Youth & Government program[1] in 1978 and almost pursued a Republican political career.

What was intended to be a year abroad at Cambridge convinced him instead to stay another two years to complete an undergraduate degree in philosophy there and develop his changed political values. During this time, he also traveled in the Eastern Bloc, so acquiring a lifelong interest in Eastern European law and politics.

Lessig refuses to embrace the usual libertarianism. While Lessig remains skeptical of government intervention, he favors regulation by calling himself “a constitutionalist”. Because of his relative youth, and his intellectually innovative views of American legal theory, Lessig has often been cited as a potential candidate to fill vacant federal appellate judgeships in a future Democratic presidential administration.[citation needed]

In his blog, Lessig has come out in favor of Democratic primary candidate Barack Obama, citing the transformative nature of Obama's campaign as one of his chief reasons. On October 13, 2008, Lessig hosted a letter on Lessig Blog from the McCain campaign to YouTube, LLC. The letter demanded that the video-sharing mogul better regulate its copyright complaint take-down policy. In favor of the issues addressed in the letter, Lessig stated, “Bravo to the campaign.” However, Lessig’s post denotes more accurately an appeal for YouTube to revise its copyright claim dispute policies rather than an actual endorsement of the McCain campaign.

A campaign to draft Lessig to run for the US Congress from the Bay Area began in February 2008.[9]

[edit] "Code is law"

In computer science, “code” typically refers to the text of a computer program (i.e., source code). In law, “code” can refer to the texts that constitute statutory law. In his book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lessig explores the ways in which code in both senses can be instruments for social control, leading to his dictum that “Code is law”.

[edit] Lessig Method

Lessig presenting “The Ethics of the Free Culture Movement” at Wikimania 2006.

Lessig is also known for using a style of computer presentations typified by rapid display of short phrases or pictures.[10] James MacLennan calls his presentation style the “Lessig Method”.[11]

[edit] "Free Culture"

In 2002 Lessig received the Award for the Advancement of Free Software from the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and on March 28, 2004 he was elected to the FSF’s Board of Directors.[12] In 2006, Lessig was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[13] Lessig is also a well-known critic of copyright term extensions.

He proposed the concept of “Free Culture”.[14] He also supports free software and open spectrum.[15] At his “Free culture” keynote at OSCON 2002, half of his speech was also about software patents, which he views as a rising threat to both free/open source software and innovation.

Lessig and Jimmy Wales at the iCommons iSummit07 in Dubrovnik

[edit] Wiki-related activities

In March 2006, Lessig joined the board of advisors of the Digital Universe project.[16]

A few months later, Lessig gave a talk on the ethics of the Free Culture Movement at the 2006 Wikimania conference.

[edit] Combating sexual abuse

In May 2005, it was revealed that Lessig had experienced sexual abuse by the director at the American Boychoir School which he had attended as an adolescent.[17] Lessig reached a settlement with the school in the past, under confidential terms. He revealed his experiences in the course of representing another student victim, John Hardwicke, in court.[18] In August 2006, he succeeded in persuading the New Jersey Supreme Court to radically restrict the scope of immunity that had protected nonprofits which failed to prevent sexual abuse from legal liability.[19]

[edit] Media references

Lessig appears as a character in a 2005 episode of the television political drama The West Wing (“The Wake Up Call”, season 6, episode 14). Lessig’s character, portrayed by Christopher Lloyd, is intended to be a realistic depiction including such details as citing his book The Future of Ideas and his expertise in Eastern European constitutional law. (Lessig’s comments on his blog)

Artist group Monochrom performed a "Love Song for Lessig" on Boing Boing TV in the 2007-11-15 episode.[20] The Austrian-German term "lässig" (meaning "cool" or "relaxed") is pronounced the same as Lessig's last name, and "Love Song for Lessig" uses the homonym for humor.

[edit] Notable cases

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (12-12-2008). "Required Reading: News". Retrieved on 2008-12-18. 
  2. ^ Lessig, Lawrence. "In Defense of Piracy". The Wall Street Journal. October 11, 2008.
  3. ^ "Required Reading: the next 10 years (Lessig Blog)". 
  4. ^ "Lessig’s blog July 29, 2007 11:55pm". 
  5. ^ a b "On why I am not running (Lessig Blog)". 
  6. ^ "Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress". 
  7. ^ "Sunlight Foundation Webcast". 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Draft Lessig — Change Congress". 
  10. ^ — Flash presentation of a Lessig “Free Culture” lecture and presentation
  11. ^ "Presentation Zen: The "Lessig Method" of presentation". 
  12. ^ "Leadership - Free Software Foundation". 
  13. ^ "Eight scholars elected to academy of arts and sciences". 
  14. ^ "free_culture". 
  15. ^ "Spectrum Policy: Property or Commons?". 
  16. ^ "Digital Universe Adds Leading Internet Expert Lawrence Lessig to Board of Advisors". 
  17. ^ "Lawrence Lessig and John Hardwicke Fight Sexual Abuse and the American Boychoir School". 
  18. ^ "living with ghosts (Lessig Blog)". 
  19. ^ "a-17-04.doc.html". 
  20. ^ "BBtv: Mark's Curie Engine / Monochrom's love song for Lessig - Boing Boing". 

[edit] External links

[edit] Columns

[edit] Interviews

[edit] Audio/video

NAME Lessig, Lawrence
SHORT DESCRIPTION Founder, Creative Commons, Founder, Stanford Center for Internet and Society, Professor, Stanford Law School
DATE OF BIRTH June 3, 1961
PLACE OF BIRTH Rapid City, South Dakota, U.S.
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