This book is the culmination of a long effort to make an obvious point clear. Much of that effort came in the form of lectures I’ve given about this subject since publishing Free Culture (2004). There have been more than two hundred such lectures. Each time, the argument advanced and changed, sometimes slightly, sometimes significantly. This book represents an end to that evolution, if only because I have shifted the focus of my work elsewhere.
Throughout this period, I have felt as if I was mediating between two powerful views—one expressed in the work of the late Lyman Ray Patterson; the other, expressed in the passion of the late Jack Valenti.
Patterson was a law professor at the University of Georgia. He was one of the first copyright scholars to look at the law of copyright and the reality of modern society and conclude something was profoundly out of order. Valenti was the president of the Motion Picture Association of America. He too looked at the law of copyright and the reality of modern society, and concluded something was profoundly out of order. For Patterson, the something out of order was the law. For Valenti, it was the society—or at least the youth of our society. Both worked until their dying days to correct the wrong that each had identified.
I met Patterson just once. I debated Jack Valenti publicly four times.
And though the views of these two men could not have been more different, in the end I realized that the peculiar focus of this book, and of my work these past four years, was largely due to the powerful influence of both men. Were they still alive, I would have asked before I mixed them together in a single dedication. But as each devoted much of his life to teaching (even if in very different ways), I trust they both would have allowed the lesson that this particular remix might teach.
I am grateful to the many whose ideas and arguments I’ve used in this book and who have fundamentally shaped my thinking. I had a very different conception of the story this book tells, for example, until Tim O’Reilly shifted my view fundamentally. Likewise, though in differing degrees, with the other interviewees who appear throughout the book: Brian Behlendorf, Marc Brandon, Candice Breitz, Stewart Butterfield, Steve Chen, Gregg Gillis, Mark Hosier, Joi Ito, Mimi Ito, Don Joyce, Brewster Kahle, Heather Lawver, Declan McCullagh, Dave Marglin, Craig Newmark, Silvia Ochoa, Tim O’Reilly, Philip Rosedale, Mark Shuttleworth, Johan Söderberg, Victor Stone, Jimmy Wales, Jerry Yang, and Robert Young. I have learned a great deal from all of them, and I hope I have fairly evinced some of that understanding here.
Three other interviewees spent a great deal of time teaching me material I didn’t get to use here. Dana Boyd generously shared her rich and extraordinarily interesting learning about youth and creativity. In the end, I came to believe that that research should first be presented by her. Count me among those to acknowledge it as profoundly important to an understanding of this next generation. Benjamin Mako Hill and Erik Möller spent a great deal of time outlining a rich and sophisticated understanding of “free culture.” But that work complemented and corrected much of what I said in Free Culture, and it would have diverted the story too much here. Suffice it to say there is much more to be said, and I am hopeful I get a chance to say some of it.
I am also extraordinarily grateful to an amazing group of students who helped correct my errors and show me parts in the argument that I had missed or needed to read. They include Shireen Barday, Kevin Donovan, Paul Gowder, Jonathan Lubin, Erika Myers, and Michael Weinberg. Much of the work of coordinating these students was done by another insanely efficient and insightful “chief” research assistant, Tracy Rubin. And Christina Gagnier did a superhuman job in not only providing essential research, but pulling together that material to check everything I’ve said in this book. This is the second book that Christina helped make possible, and I am very thankful to her for that.
In addition to the three interviews that don’t appear here, there is a massive empirical project that didn’t teach enough to include. The search company Alexa contributed generously to that project by providing a listing of the top one hundred thousand sites on the Web. A massive team of volunteers from the Creative Commons community helped interpret the substance of those sites to determine the kind of interaction each encouraged. In the end, however, the results were too ambiguous to be meaningful for this book. I hope to complete the work for an essay I will publish later. But I am especially grateful to the many who helped coordinate this massive interpretive project, including Dr. Emre Bayamlioglu, Bodó Balázs, Lu Fang, Lital Leichtag, J. C. De Martin, Dragoslava Pefeva, Jon Phillips, Song Shi, Anas Tawileh, Hung V. Tran, John Hendrik Weitzmann, and Fumi Yamazaki.
There is also a long list of friends and Internet friends who provided advice and essential information. They include Pablo Francisco Arrieta, Sean Ferry, Andy Moravcsik, and Cory Ondrejka. Dan Kahan helped me think through the effects of bad law on norms. BigChampagne (www.bigchampagne.com) provided comprehensive data about peer-to-peer file-sharing practices. I am grateful they did so in the spirit of the “sharing economy,” as the budget for a book like this could not have afforded much more.
I started writing this book at The American Academy in Berlin. I am very thankful to that bit of paradise on earth, and for its executive director, Gary Smith, who convinced me to pursue it. I am also grateful to Stanford Law School, and Dean Larry Kramer, for endless support to help me finish it.
And, as anyone who has worked with me these past few years knows, I couldn’t have begun to do this and many other things without the extraordinary gift of an absolutely perfect assistant. Elaine Adolfo is not only wildly more efficient than anyone in the world; she also practices a decency and patience that is practically unknown to this world. There’s no way I could thank her adequately for her help.
Finally, to my family: Free Culture was published just as our first child was born. I began this book just after our second was born. As anyone who has had this particular blessing knows, nothing could compare to that joy, even if too much competes with it. Endless thanks and forever love to Bettina, who has built that particular joy with me, despite the burdens this work placed right in the middle.