LAWRENCE LESSIG QUOTES

American academic & political activist (1961- )

Lawrence Lessig quote

Permission from the government is an expensive commodity. New ideas rarely have this kind of support. Old ideas often have deep legislative connections to defend them against the new.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World

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Lawyers rarely test their power, or the power they promote, against this simple pragmatic question: "Will it do good?" When challenged about the expanding reach of the law, the lawyer answers, "Why not?"

LAWRENCE LESSIG, Free Culture

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Tags: lawyers


A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense. Power runs with ideas that only the crazy would draw into doubt. The "taken for granted" is the test of sanity; "what everyone knows" is the line between us and them.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, The Future of Ideas

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Tags: ideas


Politics is that rare sport where the amateur contest is actually more interesting than the professional.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It

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Tags: politics


With a practice of writing comes a certain important integrity. A culture filled with bloggers thinks differently about politics or public affairs, if only because more have been forced through the discipline of showing in writing why A leads to B.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy

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Tags: writing


Creativity builds upon the public domain. The battle that we're fighting now is about whether the public domain will continue to be fed by creative works after their copyright expires. That has been our tradition but that tradition has been perverted in the last generation. We're trying to use the Constitution to reestablish what has always been taken for granted--that the public domain would grow each year with new creative work.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, "Righting Copyright: An Interview with Lawrence Lessig", Cabinet Magazine, fall 2002

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Tags: creativity


But whether we've won or lost, we need to trust that the government is acting for the (politically) correct reasons: liberal, if liberals have won; conservative, if conservatives have won; libertarian, if libertarians have won. We need to believe that the government is tracking the sort of interests it was intended to track.... When the actions of government conflict with those expectations, we will look beyond trust, for other reasons, to see whether they might explain the puzzle. Other reasons, such as money in the wrong places. When we find it--when we see that money was in the wrong place--it will affect us. It will weaken our trust in government. It will undermine our motivation to engage.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It

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Tags: government


The outside spends most of its time ignoring the inside. Maybe once every four years it takes notice. Maybe in a catastrophe, or when some celebration rises above the ratings of 60 Minutes. But until then, the outside just wants to live its life. It wants to drive across a bridge without worrying about the engineering. It wants to believe that our kids are safe and that public education works. It wants to climb aboard an airplane without wondering whether the FAA is competent. It wants to know that there is a government that is at least trying to do what's best for this nation. The outside wants to trust. It wants to trust that there's an inside that's at least competent.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, One Way Forward: The Outsider's Guide to Fixing the Republic

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Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.
Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.
Ours is less and less a free society.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, keynote address at the Open Source Convention, OSCON, July 24, 2002

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Tags: past


When government disappears, it's not as if paradise will take its place. When governments are gone, other interests will take their place.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, keynote address at the "One Planet, One Net" symposium, October 10, 1998

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Tags: paradise


At just the time that the Internet is reminding us about the extraordinary value of freedom, the Internet is being changed to take that freedom away. Just as we are beginning to see the power that free resources produce, changes in the architecture of the Internet--both legal and technical--are sapping the Internet of this power. Fueled by a bias in favor of control, pushed by those whose financial interests favor control, our social and political institutions are ratifying changes in the Internet that will reestablish control and, in turn, reduce innovation on the Internet and in society generally.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World

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Tags: Internet


One theme of what I've been writing has been to get people to understand that "apolitical" means "you lose." It doesn't mean you live a utopian life free of politicians' influence. The destruction of the public domain is the clearest example, but it will only be the first.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, "Righting Copyright: An Interview with Lawrence Lessig", Cabinet Magazine, fall 2002

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Americans have been selling this view around the world: that progress comes from perfect protection of intellectual property. Notwithstanding the fact that the most innovative and progressive space we've seen -- the Internet -- has been the place where intellectual property has been least respected. You know, facts don't get in the way of this ideology.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, "Code + Law: An Interview with Lawrence Lessig", OpenP2P, January 29, 2001

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Tags: property


Every generation welcomes the pirates from the last.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity

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We, the most powerful democracy in the world, have developed a strong norm against talking about politics. It's fine to talk about politics with people you agree with. But it is rude to argue about politics with people you disagree with. Political discourse becomes isolated, and isolated discourse becomes more extreme. We say what our friends want to hear, and hear very little beyond what our friends say.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, Free Culture

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Tags: politics


When you think about a presidential candidate spending all of his or her time talking to that tiny, tiny fraction of us who have the capacity to fund political elections, it's obvious why the perspective of government is skewed relative to what most Americans care about.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, "Lawrence Lessig Has a Moonshot Plan to Halt Our Slide Toward Plutocracy", Moyers & Company, April 25, 2014

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As I have worked over the past four years to understand this problem, I have become convinced that while a corruption of Congress is destroying the republic, that corruption is not the product of evil. There is a great harm here, but no bin Laden. There are Jack Abramoffs and Duke Cunninghams, to be sure, but they are the exception, not the rule. And without great evil, I am not yet sure that we can muster the will to fight. We will, I fear, simply tolerate the corruption, as a host tolerates a parasite that is not life threatening. Until it is.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, preface, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It

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Tags: Congress


The crystal ball has a question mark in its center. There are some fundamental choices to be made. We will either choose to continue to wage a hopeless war to preserve the existing architecture for copyright by upping the stakes and using better weapons to make sure that people respect it. If we do this, public support for copyright will continue to weaken, pushing creativity underground and producing a generation that is alienated from the copyright concept.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, interview, WIPO Magazine, February 2011

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The outside is us. It is the we who have other lives. The we who want to do different things. The we who find basketball or hockey more interesting than congressional politics. Or who believe that an afternoon helping at a homeless shelter or a morning at our church is a better use of our time than going door to door for a candidate for Congress. We, the outside, live our life (almost) never even thinking about this thing we call government--even though, for many of us, this thing called government is the single largest financial expenditure that we make every year. But then something happens, and we can't ignore the inside anymore. And then we start to wake up. Limbs twitch. Eyes open, ever so slightly. An arm moves, then a leg. And a lumbering and clumsy giant finally comes awake.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, One Way Forward: The Outsider's Guide to Fixing the Republic

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Overregulation stifles creativity. It smothers innovation. It gives dinosaurs a veto over the future. It wastes the extraordinary opportunity for a democratic creativity that digital technology enables.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, Free Culture

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