This afternoon, Larry Lessig came over to Mashup Camp, after his classes at Stanford Law School. He showed up, looking like a bit like a hacker himself. He fit well with all the other hackers in the room, though most of them weren't nearly so knowledgeable about intellectual property as it relates to digital media.
One note, this is a conference that is mostly bottom up, with a light organizational structure placed over it. So, everyone stood up the first morning, announced a session or hacking group they wanted to organize, and placed them on the wall, which had a grid for times and places. I posted Larry's session because we'd invited him to lead a discussion on Creative Commons and Mashups, but wasn't going to be here til the afternoon.
Camps are in high contrast to top down conferences, where star speakers have their names and pictures splashed around the conference pages for months before the event, followed by music and theater lights to queue the audience to note the star about to speak, letting us know we should be in awe of them, and feeling distance from them. At camps, everyone has an equal chance to speak; there is no advance schedule, and no advance speaker list. The distance is much smaller and people are accessible no matter their status.
The shift in feel is nice. Instead of awe for people like Lessig, there is tremendous respect. The room was quiet because people wanted to listen with care, not because we were forced to... the camp format really supports respect for speakers, experienced or less so.
Most other speakers here are not at his level in terms of career accomplishments. These hackers of mashups, discussion leaders or demo-ers are smart thoughtful accomplished people nonetheless. They need to spend their time well, and the camp conference format means they are able to suggest sessions for discussion and hacking that meet their needs well, but they can also participate in discussion with folks like Larry who are distunguished for the thoughtful consideration of, in his case, IP and digital media.
Larry entered the room, and in a most casual way, nailed an introduction to Creative Commons and mashups, as developers need to consider intellectual property issues and data sharing across sites, databases and ownership.
I took notes on the white board behind, so that people could see what we'd covered. About 50 people came, with others trickling in over the hour and fifteen minutes. Then he asked and answered questions about the kinds of things developers worry about when they create mashups, whether it's for individual pieces of data, or whole databases. These issues are complicated, but by pointing out some important things, and addressing their concerns, people in the room seemed satisfied with the discussion and pleased with the help and attention that Larry was giving.
A couple of important ending points from the end of his talk:
Possible Solutions to our issues with copyright and mashups:
o We might make a catalog of uses and social norms and practices to document and show others real world behavior around mashups so that people can see what is happening who aren't in the community
o Become more active about updating the law to the 21st Century
Mashup makers should engage in these ways in the community:
o Live within the law of fair use and good faith
o Use the Golden rule: if you remix, let others do the same with your work product
Larry's a great speaker and cares deeply about fairness around copyright and communities that create and use creative artifacts, and the passion and care really show. Lots of folks told me they'd never seen him before and really enjoyed the session. We are grateful he came and spent the time with us.
Notes are here on the Mashup wiki.Posted by Mary Hodder at February 20, 2006 10:08 PM | TrackBack