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Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy

In order to start an overview of the book it is necessary first to speak about the author and his work, to understand his ideas and the topic of the book. Lawrence Lessig is a lawyer by profession, and for more then a decade he has been working on the study of interaction online and the law. Lawrence Lessig is the author of several popular books on copywriting and copyright information, and it is believed that he drew worldwide attention to the problem of modern copyright problem. Lawrence Lessig is also a founder and board member of Creative Commons, which advocates the reform of copyright. “Creative Commons” is a non-profit organization founded in 2001, which stands for creative use (including modification of products) of intellectual labor and creativity, both which belong to particular people, and which are in the public use. It is important to say that free licenses of the Creative Commons offers authors, artists, scholars, teachers and other people a wide range of possibilities. Starting from the concept of the traditional concept of copyright (“all rights reserved”), the Creative Commons makes possible another approach (“some rights reserved”), insisting on the voluntary choice of the rights’ owner.

In his book “Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy” Lessig paints a picture of growth and falling of the consumer culture. He begins with the nineteenth century, when there was neither radio nor photos, but people mostly created their own music. Lessig calls this consumer process as “creative” (read write, or RW) culture. Throughout the XXth century popular media such as radio, vinyl records and movies have created a significant shift in the direction of “non-creative” (read only, or RO) culture, in which a highly commercialized information, arts and entertainment were presented to passive audience (listeners and viewers), who practically had no opportunity or motivation to do anything themselves.

The topic of the book by L. Lessig is difficult to formulate in a few words. On the one hand, the subject of his research is extremely concrete – it is the imperfection of the legislation regulating relations in the field of copyright. At the same time, the author already connects this, at first glance, a private topic with more general. This is a systemic crisis, which faces the American society: the Americans, in his opinion, could soon lose an important part of the democratic tradition, which is a freedom of creativity, creative opportunities to use cultural heritage.

According to the author, a rapid development of media technologies has led to the fact that the traditional understanding of culture as a combination of both the processes of creating art and its consumption (or, in the terminology of the computer age, “writing” and “reading”) can be simplified to the passive consumption of the produced by a narrow circle of professionals art objects. In other words, the mechanism of cultural exchange has switched to read-only variant.

However, the same Internet gives people the opportunity to revive the lost culture of “reading and writing.” The content created by users, generates a new business and is spread with incredible speed. That is, in the XXI century, the era of digital technology and the Internet, any consumer can easily change any existing works of art: mix them, getting something new, or create their own original work. Today, having a mobile phone with a camera and access to YouTube, almost every Internet user will get the opportunity to create and show whatever he likes. In essence, this means returning to the RW-culture. Lessig gives many more examples of why this is happening. In addition, the author points the development of “amateur” art, and under the “amateur” he does not mean “low quality”, as people re-produce content because they like it, and not to earn money.

Unfortunately, the author believes, that our current laws do not provide an opportunity for the creation of such works. Moreover, if you use somebody’s work in your own creative works, it may be perceived as a violation of law or even as a criminal act. Denoting the mismatch of the problem of the modern law of copyright with the modern culture, which was caused by the rapid development of Internet, Lessig is trying to find a way out in the second part of the book. He lays the groundwork for an entirely new system of copyright that will allow authors to make a profit in effectively existing environment where everyone can create, that is, in the “RW culture.”

Lessig in his book “Remix…” identifies two types of “economy” in the Internet: the traditional commercial economy, in which goods and services are exchanged for money, and “free exchange economy” (sharing economy), in which goods and services are exchanged for love, altruism, patriotism, and the pleasure of participating … anything except money. For example, Amazon belongs to the first type of economy, and Wikipedia is the clearest example of the “free exchange”. Lessig also stresses the importance of creating a third type of economy – a hybrid economy, which combines the best qualities of the commercial and free economies.

In fact, until recently the freedom of creative activity was as natural as freedom of speech or freedom of assembly – it is this meaning, the author stresses, he puts in the word “free”. Independence of the authors from the state is guaranteed by the First Amendment, while from the tyranny of private businesses they are defended by a balanced system of copyright protection. However, in the last third of the XX century the laws were constantly changing, providing more and more rights for the owners. The Internet, and wide spread of digital technology has made a revolution, the result of which could become an unprecedented growth of creative activity of millions of people. But this did not happen, on the contrary, the Internet has exacerbated the contradictions between the interests of owners of intellectual property and new authors. In place of a society in which cultural values are freely used and processed by new authors comes a country with “cultural aristocracy”, a country in which each act of creative activity must be legally permitted.

According to the author, the era of new technologies opens up before mankind unlimited prospects. Never before ordinary citizens have had so many opportunities to express their opinions on any subject and to be heard by millions. In the Internet we can discuss the problems of our experiences and ideas, and it can be done in many different ways. The World Network give all people a chance to feel themselves the authors, creators, as any person, even a child, can create a movie, clip, to release a magazine. And the only obstacle to this is the ill-conceived laws. In his book, Lawrence Lessig tells us that we need a new, balanced solution to the problem. After all, between two poles – the strictest protection of all human rights and the complete lack of any right – there is the golden mean: the protection of some special rights. The profit motive should not deprive people the freedom to create and communicate. The possible decision of the problem is to create new reasonable laws that can effectively regulate relations in the changed market, intellectual property, not limiting the energy of the next generation of creators.

The book “Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy” by Laurence Lessig is an interesting and important book, as it touches a very hot problem of the 21 century, that is the future of the Internet, culture and expression. In general, this topic is discussed in other books of the author, but in this new book Lessig was able to interest the readers with his thoughts. Thus, the topic of the Internet and copyrights, copying and creative work is relevant and interesting for millions of people around the world. Lessig makes a research, argues in defense of his viewpoint, and provides interesting examples. There is no doubt that this book is interesting and informative for all readers who are interested in the development of the Internet and communications.


Lawrence Lessig (2008). Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrivein a Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin Press