FREE CULTURE: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity

Lawrence Lessig, Author. Penguin Press $24.95 (345p) ISBN 978-1-59420-006-9

By Parujee Akarasewi

This book was originally conceived by Lawrence Lessing, a Harvard law school professor, lawyer and notary, in response to his loss before the Supreme Court in the case of Eldred v. Ashcroft, after the US Federal Communication Commission authorized the concentration of media ownership. At the beginning of the book in the Preface, the author has compared the present book with his previous book, “Code and other laws of cyberspace”, which concentrated deeply on the effect of law on software. The author states that this book continues from the previous one in the sense that all of our traditions are affected by the internet as a primary factor. Furthermore, the author argues that the recent changes in US law and administration threaten the future of human society. He defends “free culture” as freedom balanced with control. He sees culture as the growth of creativity when built upon permission when using the intellectual property of others. The author introduces two terms important to a culture of freedom and permission which are developed throughout the book.

In Chapter 1, “copycat” is used for creators who borrow and build upon the creativity of others without the permission of, or any payment to, the originators of an idea. The author also develops his argument on the concept of “free” for all cultures to a certain degree with two concrete examples: Steamboat Willie vs Steamboat Bill, Jr., and Doujinshi copycat (“fanfic”) comics vs Japanese manga comic books. Mickey Mouse’s commercial rise started in 1928 with Steamboat Willie, which parodied Buster Keaton’s silent film, Steamboat Bill, Jr., marrying the animation with an innovation recently introduced by The Jazz Singer, sound. With copyright as it was in 1928, this was not a problem for Disney – limited term copyrights (that weren’t always asserted) and a vibrant public domain meant that such borrowings were the norm. The laws of the time acted to increase competition and allow more entertainment company industries to grow. This case is in some ways similar to Doujinshi in the Japanese comic market: copycat Doujinshi have flourished despite transgressing the current Japanese copyright laws, and have helped the mainstream comic market. The manga industry has learned to work in harmony with Doujinshi comics without attempting to banish or penalize them, which could damage the benefit they have conferred on the industry.

Next, the author talks about the impact of technology and the influence of law on culture. The author starts with Eastman Kodak’s innovations that made possible the spread of photography in popular culture, along with the legal challenge they surmounted: “Courts were asked whether the photographer, amateur or professional, required permission before he could capture and print whatever image he wanted. Their answer was no.” That is to say, a photographer need not get permission to photograph a subject. Kodak’s innovation (print film) and the legal climate made possible the democratization of photography. In this chapter, democracy of expression is a primary theme that the author offers to the readers to think on, with many examples of developed technologies calling for media literacy, such as the Internet, email, blogging, etc. The possibility is that these technologies, democratized and understood, can further freedom and democracy and serve as a counterweight to traditional media, but the possibility of passive consumption of the media is ever-present. The technology allows great reach of images, sound and commentary, but the law has attempted to curtail these possibilities.

In the next chapter, the author shares a story about a student, Jess Jordan, who developed an early search engine for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute based on the Microsoft Windows file sharing system in 2002. The Recording Industry Association of America sued him for damages of $15,000,000 for music files found in some of the shared files that were indexed by his search engine. The economics of legal proceedings forced Jess to settle by providing the RIAA his savings, which has since pushed him into activism.

In Chapter 4 the author comes to the conclusion that, “If “piracy” means using value from someone else’s creative property without permission from that creator — as it is increasingly described today — then every industry affected by copyright today is the product and beneficiary of a certain kind of piracy. Film, records, radio, cable TV.  .  .  . The list is long and could well be expanded. Every generation welcomes the pirates from the last. Every generation — until now.” Lessig goes on to explain to us that every entertainment industry was born through “piracy” of intellectual property. Lessig argues that our tradition has never stopped or punished the “piracy” of the recording, radio, cable TV or even VCR industries — indeed, the law has normalized practices such as radio playing recordings without paying the recording artists. In the next chapter, the author has emphasized the importance of copyright law, and has asked for greater balance in the law, supporting intellectual property with cultural freedom. He points out that piracy can be a very grey area, ranging from copy shops that profit from piracy to downloaders who download items that they would be otherwise unable to source. At the end of this chapter, the writer introduces us to the concept of copyright as property, but not in the same sense as tangibles.

Lessig goes on to give the history of copyright law, how it started with the effort to gain control over print production in European countries. This was used by Henry VII in England for granting print monopolies. In England, the Crown’s practice of handing out monopolies became quite unpopular and was one of the issues that motivated the English Civil War of 1642–1651, notably as it affected print editions of the Bible. By the mid-18th century, a group of English publishers controlled the trade, even to the point of holding a monopoly of Shakespeare in conflict with the Statute of Anne setting fixed-length terms for copyright, by claiming that the statute didn’t extinguish common law rights. “Many believed the power the [publishers] exercised over the spread of knowledge was harming that spread.” The House of Lords in 1774, functioning like the Supreme Court of the United States does today, determined that, in granting a copyright, “The state would protect the exclusive right [to publish], but only so long as it benefited society.” They accordingly enforced the limits set by the Statute of Anne to copyright terms, leading to the birth of the public domain.

Lessig continues with an anecdote about a filmmaker, Jon Else, making a documentary in 1990 about Wagner’s Ring cycle, who wanted to clear a clip of the stagehands that showed 4.5 seconds of a television in the background playing The Simpsons. Else received permission from all the Simpsons’ creators except Fox, who wanted to charge $10,000 for the privilege of showing something that was undoubtedly fair use. However, “fair use” as a defence tends to favour litigants with deep enough pockets to press the claim. Many of us can be sued if we make a collage of video clips because it is a sort of derivative work by collection of copyrighted parts.

Multinational corporations have pushed a concept of IP ownership as equivalent to tangible property to maintain their control of IP, bolster their profits and decrease the free exchange of ideas. The writer argues that the growth of creative arts and culture has been significantly limited in the violation of the US constitution, which recognized intellectual property as different from tangibles, and set limits on the term of ownership so as to benefit society. The Supreme Court has deferred copyright issues to Congress as the ruling authority, and Congress has tended to side with the multinationals. Professor Lessig argues that the existence of the concept of piracy and property in the intellectual property domain has compromised the process of making law in a depressing fashion.

Lessig concludes his book by suggesting that society should participate in a collaborative information society by choosing to be free, or accept an essentially feudal society. The writer suggests the model of Richard Stallman, the free software pioneer, of making content subject to copyright terms that mandate the freedom of the property. To this end he created the Creative Commons organization to encourage and create templates for copyright licences of this sort. Lessig doesn’t see this as precluding corporate models such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, which have clients paying for a product that is essentially in public domain.

Lessing has argued for copyright limitation, shortening the renewable period of copyright and loosening the control of derivative rights (for example, the publisher’s control over copies of Lessig’s work on the Internet for non-commercial purposes), creating a requirement licensing plan to be certain that creators will receive direct royalties for their work based upon usage numbers, and also an efficient taxation plan which has been suggested by William Fisher of Harvard Law School. It is very much in the footsteps of Stallman’s proposals.

To my mind, Professor Lessig has focused on the emergence of legal and commercial trends that have resulted from the Internet’s amazing capacity for innovation. The creations that led to these have changed through the time through the “piracy” of past creations. He presents a catalog of cases that arose through technological innovations in film, music, radio and television as illustrations, because piracy was the midwife of all of these industries. He defines piracy in two ways: stealing for one’s own benefit, but cutting into the income of creators; and the other is to strike a balance between the interests of IP owners and society to create a new business model. He makes a strong case for the balance between owners and society so that we can have freely available culture that encourages new creation: this would be better than imposing limits or bans on the reuse of intellectual property. His review on the array of legal actions, limitations on P2P sharing and so forth reveals an open hole in the law which has allowed the “middlemen” in the media industries to effectively roll back the gains in the availability of intellectual property to the situation of perpetual monopoly that obtained before the House of Lords confirmed the Statute of Anne — such a situation stifles both competition and creativity. I personally think that the reason why the writer intended to make this book available and accessible to everyone was to create, “kick start” so to speak, a culture of freedom in copyright law so that tomorrow’s culture may grow without hindrance out of today’s.



Lessig, L. (2005). Free culture: the nature and future of creativity. New York, N.Y.: Penguin.



General ideas about the context of aviation work

The roles within the hierarchy of people in the aircraft are the captain as the commander of the plane, first-officer, flight engineer, purser as the head of the cabin crews, and other flight attendants, usually 2-4 based on the number of passengers. For example, if a flight has over 120 passengers, at least 3 cabin crew are required, including pursers. There are two different organizations dealing with different parts of the plane working together. The work of cockpit crew is mainly concerned with technical matters and the safety of lives, in contrast to the cabin crew team, which presents the image of the airline in terms of being well-versed in sociability and public service. Certainly gender dominance plays a part in the job roles along with the company’s class system: pilots are predominantly male, and cabin crews are predominately female.

Due to the realities of the situation, the captain, the co-pilot and all of the cabin crew have to be at the airport at least 3 hour before the flight’s boarding.

According to Rebecca D. Chute (1996), who researched the reason for the reluctance of flight attendants to come forward with information to the cockpit, there are four main factors which cause miscommunication between these workers and have a serious impact on emergency situations: cultural directives, status differential, past experiences of the flight attendants, and the ambiguity of the Federal aviation regulation (FAR) requiring all flight crews to go through CRM training sessions, which created a degree of submerged hostility and led to gripe sessions.

As for the roles of actual cockpit crews and cabin crews, the captain is the head manager for technical and safety matters, but the purser is the manager of the cabin crew, which serves commercial purposes related to the airline’s brand image.

The airplane used in this movie is the McDonnell Douglas MD-80, which can have 130-170 passengers on board, but is not designed for flying upside down like the Air Force’s much smaller fighter aircraft. This series of plane is well-known among airlines and pilots for being troublesome due to mechanical problems. As the movie illustrates to the audience, the weight of the passengers was not problematic in this incident; rather the accident in scene 4 happened due to a heavy storm and a mechanical failure. This movie is fiction based on a true story, and the production has a good general idea and put in good study about how work in real life aviation is really carried out, even if there are a few mistakes. This movie may be based on a true story, but there is the fact that the filmmaker forgot about the flight engineer: instead of having the purser help fly the plane and bring an end to the accident, it was the flight engineer who did that in the real situation, and the upside-down plane is not possible, because all commercial aircraft are not designed to spin or invert.





Chute, R. D., & Winter, E. L. (1996). Cockpit-Cabin Communication: II. Shall We Tell the Pilots? The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 6(3), 211-231. doi:10.1207/s15327108ijap0603_1

Movie on project : Flight

*** This is an excerpt of my original work. I personally think that it is very important and very interesting for those who doubt or have the same interest as I do.

“Performing” in Mintzberg’s role


A description of the interpretive perspective: “performing” Mintzberg’s roles

The nature of managerial communication

Studying the nature of managerial roles focuses on the actual behavior of managers in daily activities. There are three general sets of roles of managerial behavior: interpersonal, informational and decisional roles.  Interpersonal roles link directly to the status and authority of a manager, roles such as a figurehead; informational roles are created to receive and transmit information; and decisional roles refer to the activities which have a critical impact on organizational decisions. The interpretive researcher concentrates significantly on the communicative process of organizational life to see how these three roles perform in the real world. The center of interpretive study is that communication is multifunctional: it is assumed that social construction makes reality, which is maintained and created by the communication process in the real world.

Managerial Performance

Life can be seen as stage management by viewing behavior as a performance. This metaphor helps us to understand the meaning of human behavior as a symbolic process with expressive and instrumental functions. As stated in Nick Trujillo (1989) regarding Victor Turner’s suggestion that many actions in many performances fulfill the different meanings of reality, “Performances are those very actions whereby individual reveal their cultural reality to themselves and to others”: the action begins after individuals reveal their cultural reality to themselves and others, and reconstruct the symbolic process by treating things as real. As Bruno Latour said, “Faire, c’est faire faire.” Reality is where the action happens.

Are performances interactional? As Nick Trujillo mentioned, “Managerial performances as communicative phenomena are always socially enacted by multiple participants” (Trujillo, 1989). Most organization are managed with hierarchical, leadership and decision-making systems along with the performance of management, thus managers are only the action parts of the organization.

Performance has two meanings: one is that, situationally or randomly, it is the inherent contextual nature of any communication event; and the other is that it is historically embedded, which means that it happens at a specific time in the ongoing current of events. Managerial performance involves mass action and meanings to introduce the importance of that current into the organization’s reality.

It is normal that managers lose their existent scripted lines because of standard procedures and routine work, for instance, the interactions stemming from multiple interpretations of interpersonal, informational and decisional performances — these factors want to make things harder when we think of managerial communication.

When we talk about interpersonal performance, hierarchy is the key factor for each member in defining their own roles and relationships within the organization under the rules and agreements for mutual recognition. Content and the aspect of linkage are in every message; their dimension of transferring the information which favors the aspect of relationship is known as the meta-communicative aspect.

The selectivity of hierarchies makes organizational relationships which can be selected and strategically called on at a particular time while maintaining a distance between higher and lower positions in the sense of interpersonal performances. Everyone in the organization is included as a part of each other’s conversation.



Trujillo, N. (1989). “Performing” Mintzberg’s roles: The nature of managerial communication. 1983, Beverly Hills: Sage. Communication and Organization: An Interpretative Approach, 73-97. doi:10.1177/017084068400500424

*** This is an excerpt of my original work. I personally think that it is very important and very interesting for those who doubt or have the same interest as I do.

*** This is only an excerpt of my original work. I personally think that it is very important and very interesting for those who doubt or have the same interest as I do.