Book Review: Remix

Should file sharing be safe, legal—and taxed? The Al Gore of the copyright muddle, Lawrence Lessig offers a fresh vision for making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy.

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You and I, we’re criminals. We watch clips of TV shows on YouTube; we grab Rihanna MP3s on Lime Wire; we make mash-ups and post them on our MySpace pages. File sharing is rampant, and culture jamming is a worldwide phenomenon, but at what cost? Stanford law professor and noted digital culture expert Lawrence Lessig warns that “if the laws regulating culture are perceived to be morally unjust, that erodes the conditions within a culture for supporting the law more generally.” In Remix, Lessig explores how we got here and offers a way out.

Lauding the work of mash-up masters like Girl Talk and Danger Mouse, Lessig traces our current copyright muddle back to the time of John Philip Sousa, who campaigned against mechanically reproduced music a century ago, blaming player pianos for destroying the front-porch sing-along. Like Sousa, Lessig distinguishes passive reception of culture (read only) from active involvement in culture (read/write), and argues passionately for the artistic legitimacy of the latter, calling it “the very best of what these new technologies make possible.” But in the digital era, how to distinguish between piracy and art?

Lessig suggests file sharing be legal and taxed, providing compensation for artists. This bold proposal would decriminalize our kids, who download music faster than they text message, allow for creativity and innovation, and acknowledge the realities of the Internet age. An optimistic visionary and activist, Lessig is the Al Gore of the copyright crisis. But like global warming, our copyright mess was a long time coming, and its trend lines are sobering. Remix offers a hopeful vision of a better future; the question is, can we get there?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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