At OSCON 2002, Lawrence Lessig gave a talk on free culture which puts most adequately the debate over the regulation of ideas (copyright, patents, etc.) into perspective. I will not repeat the argument here, if only for the "refrain" of the talk:
- Creativity and innovation always builds on the past
- The past always tries to control the creativity that builds on it
- Free societies enable the future by limiting the past
- Ours is less and less a free society
If you are interested in this question, I warmly advise you to invest half-and-hour listening to this talk ;)
Although that is not a core point of the presentation, I am sensitive to a comparison that Lessig throws in the end. When inviting the audience to support free culture, he asks: "How many people here have given to the EFF?", then: "How many people have given to the EFF more than they give their local telco for shitty DSL service?"
I think this is to the point. It brought me back to a line of thought I had shared in a previous post: that voting in the elections organized by nation-states has little impact in old democracies, and that it is much more meaningful to give money directly to advocacy groups who defend ideas we care for. Lessig's point goes further: how much money we give them, i.e., how much power we contribute, should be considered in proportion to how much we already give to the other side (telcos, "content owners", etc.)