Chapter Two: “Mere Copyists”

Lessig, Lawrence. (2004). Free culture: How big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.

Lessig starts out the second chapter with a discussion of the invention of photography. In 1839, Louis Daguerre invented what was essentially photography; however, it was extremely expensive and complicated. There was a lot of demand for these “daguerreotypes” and so many people began looking to try and find a way to make the process cheaper. Finally, a man named George Eastman invented the film roll which allowed for film to be transported and developed very cheaply. Suddenly, film was able to take off as a hobby for the laymen. However, there was an argument over whether people should be allowed to capture pictures of whatever they wanted without permission. Lessig implies that, in today’s legal framework, the Supreme Court decision would have fallen so that photographers would have been required to acquire permission of the things they photographed.

The next part of the chapter details how blogging has taken the once high and mighty world of journalism and brought it to the people, so that they might communicate about current events themselves. The people are now able to discuss information and events among themselves, free of the societal shame that follows political discussion. This new communication method allows for true democracy and public forum by allowing people to promote the thoughts and ideas that they find worthy of the public eye.

The final part of the chapter discusses the importance of teaching children to become literate in the grammar of the new media. Lessig interviews John Seely Brown, chief scientist of the Xerox Corporation. Brown says that people learn by tinkering and, by extension, that we should allow people, especially students, to tinker with digital technologies instead of only physical ones.

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