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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Free Culture Conference 2008

As you know, last month I attended the 2008 Free Culture Conference at UC Berkeley. The first day of the conference was filled with panels and talks by people whose fields of expertise are relevant to the concerns of the Free Culture movement. The second day was filled with discussion groups that were organized on-the-fly by conference attendees and organizers, most of whom were members of national chapters of Students for Free Culture.

A mysterious giant metal sculpture on the UC Berkeley campus

As a participant in both days of the conference, I found the first day to be incredibly inspiring. It was particularly helpful to me to hear from attorneys who spoke about Free Culture and Copyright Reform. Larry Lessig, a professor of law at Stanford University, who has authored books such as Free Culture, Remix, and The Future of Ideas, and who is the leader of the Change Congress movement, spoke about remix culture. And Pamela Samuelson, a professor of law at UC Berkeley gave a speech about her specialty, Copyright Reform. To see that there are people in the legal industry (albeit the academic legal industry, which is admittedly different from the practicing legal industry) who are interested in asserting Copyright as a means of protecting not only the rights of artists, but also the rights of those who use art, is very encouraging to me.

UC Berkeley is covered with beautiful trees and streams.

In contrast, I found the second day of the conference to be rather discouraging. I felt that most of the participants in the discussions have yet to strike a reasonable balance between their free-for-all ideals and the reality of commerce. I got the impression that many of the participants were completely anti-intellectual property, which is really a rather naive perspective. It's easy to dismiss IP, that is, until you create something that has commercial viability, right? Then all of a sudden you are concenred about your rights as an artist. So overall I felt that there's not enough realism amongst the Students for Free Culture. Maybe they just need more experience with life before they can achieve a clearer perspective.

A bizarre glass mosaic sculpture in a small Berkeley art gallery.

But overall I really enjoyed my experience at the conference. I feel like there is hope that I can keep my vision of a more balanced Copyright system while still pursuing a career in the law. I also feel like there's a lot of educating that needs to be done to the public about IP rights and why they are important.

The SF Bay from the International House at UC Berkeley. Blurry, but pretty.

In the next two days I will post transcripts of the talks by Larry Lessig and Pamela Samuelson, which I recorded on my Flip Mino. I may also post the videos if I can get them to upload in one piece, but the film quality isn't great and I had to play dodge the wiggling heads while recording, so it can be a little boring to watch. The talks are great, though, and I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did.

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