Larry Lessig is a thought leader and author I deeply respect. Thanks to Michelle Thorne’s post yesterday on the Creative Commons blog, I learned about Dr. Lessig’s presentation from November at EduCause which is available on blip.tv, “It is About Time: Getting Our Values Around Copyright.” If you are remotely interested in copyright and intellectual property issues as they apply within educational contexts, consider this presentation “required viewing” for yourself sometime soon.

Since videos on blip are automatically playable and available on iPhones and iPod Touches, I was able to watch this outstanding hour long presentation in several “pieces” on my iPhone as I tended to different tasks in different places throughout the day yesterday. Mobile learning can be a wonderful thing! Here are some of my notes from the presentation, which I scrawled on some pieces of scratch paper as I watched the video.

“The platform through which we gain access to our culture has changed radically.” Dr. Lessig is not simply concerned about music and movies, the focus of his passion in this presentation and in his work in other arenas is our CULTURE. We enjoy and share our culture in many different ways, and I found this statement in the presentation so profound I am using it as the title of this post. This “radical change to cultural access” should not only have dramatic effects on the ways we view law in our country (including copyright law) but it should also profoundly affect the way we view education and learning. There is no question every one of our students today, in our schools and in our homes, should be provided with mobile, wireless technologies to access as well as contribute to our shared culture. Things have changed radically with respect to how we increasingly access to our culture digitally today. The tools with which we empower learners should change radically as well.

Dr. Lessig referenced the “Allen Institute for Brain Science” and some impressive brain mapping projects they have done in his remarks. This would be worth checking out in more detail.

Creative Commons “seeks to change behavioral norms.” As an educational change agent, that describes many of my goals as well. Dr. Lessig explained how changing OUR behavioral norms, with respect to copyright and the licensing of works, is most likely a far more constructive and potentially successful strategy than trying to change the law as it currently stands. One of the big objectives of CC is to “enable people to respect copyright rights without invoking the costly intervention of lawyers.” That IS a noble goal.

There were (as of November 2009) over 100 million Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr alone. Wow. Dr. Lessig exhorted the EduCause audience to become radical advocates for Creative Commons and the values it represents. I’m on that Mardi Gras float 100%.

An interesting array of organizations are now licensing their media with Creative Commons. This includes the U.S. White House, Al Jazeera, and WikiPedia. What about teachers in your school district?

The Public Library of Science is doing great work, and is committed to great ideals. Too bad we can’t say the same thing about US medical insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. (That aside is my own, not Dr. Lessig’s btw.)

Over 1000 academic journals now use CC licenses. The open access movement continues to gain supporters. In 2007 CC launched the ccLearn project to try and shepherd the diverse and growing OER (open educational resources) movement. If I’d heard of ccLearn previously, for some reason it didn’t stick. I’m delighted to hear about this and want to learn more. ccLearn is on Twitter.

One aim of CC is to “simplify personal sharing.” One example Dr. Lessig cited was the “Personal Genome Project.” I don’t think I’ll be trying to sign up, but this is certainly a fascinating project and example of the power open licensing can have thanks to CC.

The Google Print Project became the Google Book Search Project and is now simply known as “Google Books.” We have 18 million books in all as a human race currently, and about 9% of those are in copyright and in print. 16% are in the public domain. That leaves 75% “presumptively in copyright but not in print,” with (usually) no one available to ask about permission to reprint or repost in digital formats. Dr. Lessig’s review of the history of Google Books and the outcome of the publisher’s lawsuit against Google was very enlightening to me. I’d read about some of this, but hadn’t heard anyone connect the dots as he did in this presentation. I wish book publishers had not sued Google and had allowed this project to progress unhindered. We would all be better off with complete access to that “75%” of books which don’t have an entity which can give reprint/republication permission.

I had not heard of the US civil rights documentary, “Eyes on the Prize.” It is tragic our current copyright laws make it impossible for this video series to be re-released in another format. It is not available to consumers, but is available in some schools and libraries. I am going to see if I can find a copy and see it.

Our copyright system currently does a very poor job, in many cases, telling us who owns what.

Our “ecology of access” today remains the library, for many purposes. That can and should change to digital formats. But will it? Will we make our books have a fate similar to documentary films? We need a digital bookstore, and NOT simply a commercial one of books currently in print. As Dr Lessig said, we need to avoid “protecting the past against the future.”

Great closing quotation from Peter Drucker:

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

That reminds me of computer-based spelling tests. Let’s get learners of all ages more motivated to read and to write, and just ditch the whole spelling test model. Sadly, many educators will persist in traditional patterns of behavior which are easy and comfortable, irrespective of whether they are right or desirable.

Dr Lessig opposes the growing “copyright abolitionism movement,” because he views a baseline of copyright as essential for our society. He opposes our current paradigm, however, which criminalizes the remixing of culture. As he says, we can’t make kids passive, but we can make them pirates. Unfortunately many of our laws do just that today. The time has come, as he points out, to change that reality.

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