QCQ 6 – Lessig

QCQ for “Remix: How Creativity is Being Strangled by the Law”

by Lawrence Lessig


“Om Malik asks, does ‘this culture of participation…build businesses on our collective backs? … Whatever ‘the collective efforts are, they are going to boost the economic value of those entities. Will they share in their upside? Not likely!” (Lessig 166). 


As soon as I read this quote, I instantly thought about an article we read previously – Howard Rheingold’s “Participation Power”. What Lessig is describing is, in essence, Rheingold’s concept of playbor. The quote that I picked out for my QCQ on Rheingold speaks well to this: “‘We use social media in the classroom not because our students use it, but because we are afraid that social media might be using them – that they are using social media blindly’” (Rheingold 136). 

So, what does it mean to use social media blindly; What does it mean for social media to use you? It means that “wealthy corporations might be exploiting participatory culture” (Rheingold 136). It means that people put “hundreds and thousands of hours of volunteer labor … which profits the company” (Lessig 164). They do it because it’s addictive, and they don’t realize that these corporations have found the perfect way to get free labor (playbor) by exploiting the work of hundreds and thousands of people, while also charging them monthly subscriptions to this scheme of the exploitation of creativity.

And while this bothers me considerably, I wonder if we are in too deep now. Since our copyright laws haven’t kept up, how do we fix it? Lessig says that we need to change before the laws do, and individuals need to be less obsessive over-controlling use. They then go on to say, “We need to practice respect for this new generation of creators” (166). I agree.

While the old copyright laws no longer apply to the ever-changing internet, I believe that no law could ever be broad enough to encompass the internet’s ever-changing environment. So, maybe there shouldn’t be a law, since that seems almost impossible. Instead, maybe it should be built into the platforms. Maybe if you share something and give its proper rights to the original creator, you can post it. Maybe if not, you cannot post it. I still don’t know the answer, though, because it seems a very daunting task to simultaneously inspire creativity without losing the faces of creators, at least on the internet. 


How can we adapt copyright laws to the vast, rapidly changing ecosystem that is the internet? How are the current ways sufficient or insufficient, and what is the benefit of maintaining credit where it’s due?