Revenge of the Trip: Lessig gets it wrong again

[Editor Charlie says: As of Christmas Day (7 days in release) “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has grossed $890 million in worldwide box office. “How better to revive a 30-year-old series than by enlisting armies of kids to make the content interesting again?”  Well, that’s one better way.]

This is a repost from July 15, 2007

In his continuing quest to undermine the interests of copyright owners, Professor Lessig is at it again with his op-ed: Lucasfilm’s Phantom Menace in which he takes on Lucasfilm and George Lucas for the rules they established for allowing users to “remix” some Star Wars footage with other works. Lucasfilm takes the not unreasonable position that in consideration for letting people have access to Star Wars, Lucas owns the results. Lester Lawrence Lessig III doesn’t like this. Lucas should give up copyright ownership to those creating derivatives from some of the most valuable motion pictures of the 20th Century–or 21st for that matter.

And wait for it…according to LLL III, Lucas should pay these users for anything they create that Lucas wants to use.

Trip Lessig starts picking through the end user license from Lucasfilms and goes off on an anti-lawyer jag just like someone who’s never worked with an artist would. According to the Tripster, it’s the HOLLYWOOD LAWYERS who have fought innovation and lead little directors like George Lucas around on a leash.

Schmuck—it don’t work that way. Does Lessig think no one asked Lucas what he thought about who could own his property? Does Lessig also think that if there was something really cool and usable that got created as a result of permitting users to get their hands on Star Wars that the players involved would rely on a freaking click through end user license agreement as their grant of rights? Maybe these things happen in the world of the confused Creative Commons–which must be like being at the executive session of the board of directors of a lemonade stand–but in the bigs it is highly unlikely.

In the world outside of Stanford, things like this typically do not happen. Someone would find the user, make a deal, and pay them off. Or they wouldn’t use it.

I love this line from the Tripster: “How better to revive a 30-year-old series than by enlisting armies of kids to make the content interesting again?”

Ah yes. How better to “revive” the franchise than to allow an “army of kids” to get into the act. Lessig must think that Star Wars is in dire need of resuscitation. That 2005 opening weekend of Revenge of the Sith conclusively demonstrates that the franchise is in deep wookie chips. That would be the $108 million weekend that was then the second biggest opening EVER in the US and the biggest opening EVER outside the US. Another little datapoint for the Tripster: Revenge passed $300 million in global box office faster than any movie in history.

(Lessig also describes these “armies of kids” as free labor, and uses the highly offensive term “sharecroppers” to describe our little suburban friends Corky and Muffy playing with Star Wars “remixes” on their cozy side of the digital divide safe in their Stanford dorm room. Considering the source, I’m willing to believe he just doesn’t know how insulting this is. But then he probably claps on the 1 and 3, too.)

Here’s a newsflash for the Stanford madrassah: It’s not like Lucas needs help with selling the Star Wars franchise. $2.6 BILLION in box office alone. Rumor has it that a chunk of Star Wars net profits goes to support the USC film school (not quite as rich as the Google/Stanford relationship, but we Hollywood types have to stumble through life somehow.)

So Lucas has been supporting “remixing” for quite sometime, albeit in the controlled environment of the excellent film school at USC in sharp defiance of L3III obsession with letting all amateurs have a crack at other peoples property (so well described in Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur, an excellent book.) Of course film schools honor copyright and create new generations of professional creators, but unbridled “remixing” by amateurs destroys copyright, and de-incentivises new generations of professional creators. One gives us greatness the other gives us…YouTube. Which shouldn’t be surprising given that Google is the benefactor of Professor Lessig’s business unit at the Stanford Law School.  [Editor Charlie says: Remember this was written in 2007–YouTube recently announced it was spending $150 million in the US and millions more in the UK to develop premium channels for YouTube.  Only a handful of the “YouTube stars” are participating–which probably says more about Google’s ulterior motives in subsidizing the YouTube data collection honeypot than it does the work of the YouTube artists.]

Once again a major media organ gives Lessig a megaphone for what is simply gibberish. I really wish they’d check their facts before they publish this kind of thing. I know it’s not as interesting as watching Farting in Public on YouTube, but I thought it was called journalism.

So yes Lucas wants to own anything created with his work. Yes it’s supposed to be fun for fans. And yes, life would go on if no one ever “remixed” a thing.

Like any good wannabe demagoogle, Professor Lessig likes to speak for “armies of kids” to create the impression he has a mob of “sharecroppers” in the wings.

What a joke.