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A View from Henry Jenkins

A Pirate's Life For Me

In the current issue of Wired, Lawrence Lessig, the defender of Fair Use, calls the bluff of the current media industry, dragging their dark pasts into public view. He writes,”If piracy means using the creative property of others without their…

  • March 20, 2004

In the current issue of Wired, Lawrence Lessig, the defender of Fair Use, calls the bluff of the current media industry, dragging their dark pasts into public view. He writes,”If piracy means using the creative property of others without their permission, then the history of the content industry is a history of piracy. Every important sector of big media today - film, music, radio, and cable TV - was born of a kind of piracy. The consistent story is how each generation welcomes the pirates from the last. Each generation - until now.”

Film historians tell us that the reason the movie industry took root in Hollywood was that it was relatively close to the Mexican border allowing early filmmakers like Thomas Ince and D.W. Griffith to escape the legal grasp of Thomas Edison, who had patented all of the equipment involved in making movies and was only allowing a small cabal of companies to enter into the business. Edison sent out a pack of thugs to smash up independent filmmakers and they were so scared that they moved across the country from New Jersey, which was the original center for filmmakers. (Of course, the warm climate, which allowed them to shoot year round at a time when direct sunlight was needed to light the set, was also a big factor.)

For a good book, which demonstrates Lessig’s premise that yesterday’s pirates become today’s law enforcers, see Deborah L. Spar, Ruling the Waves:From the Compas to the Internet.

Jack Valenti, Hollywood’s spokesperson and chief lobby, will be speaking at the MIT Communications Forum on April 8, 5-7 pm, in the Bartos Theater. For those of you who aren’t in Boston, the event will be available after the fact via streaming audio from the Communications Forum site. What would you ask Valenti if you could?

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