Last weekend, AKMA had the wonderful idea to have people around the Blogosphere create an audio version of Larry Lessig's new book Free Culture. The call for volunteer readers took off like a shot and the result is a emergent project that created an audio book where none existed before. I've listened to several of the chapters and the content is great and the readings are pretty good too. The interesting thing is that this activity was allowed at all.
Its no coincidence that this particular book sparked the idea in AKMA's mind. After all, that's just what this book is about: the idea that in a free culture, people are free to rip, mix, and burn other's people's ideas to create completely new content. Lessig, putting his money where his mouth is, convinced his publisher to allow him to release the electronic source to the book online. That act enabled this project. If you only listen to one chapter, listen to Doug Kaye's reading of Chapter 1. Doug has a great voice, but the entire concept is spelled out in clearly by Lessig. Doug also has interviews with AKMA and Larry Lessig on the audio book project.
This is one of the things that's so interesting about the current state of the Internet. Lessig is crying out that the foundations of creativity and innovation are being destroyed by those who would make intellectual property rights absolute. Current moves by Congress to criminalize P2P show just how out of touch our elected leaders are. I expect small mindedness from the recording and motion picture industry---they have a very narrow focus. But I expect, in the face of countless disappointments, my elected officials to have more of an abundance mentality.
I remain optimistic that right (small 'r') will prevail. Free culture is like free trade. Its hard to understand, its difficult to support when you're the victim, but ultimately its the path to greater prosperity for all. The job of elected officials is to find that path, not the path to greater prosperity for the few and I believe that messy as the process is, we will eventually get there. The path may be pitted with excesses on both sides, mired in stupid court battles, and littered with the bodies of politicians who have to be voted out of office, but I think this is a battle that can be won.
Demonstrating, through projects like this one, what is possible in the alternative universe is important. We need to keep them coming.