Free Culture and Property Rights

Over at the Progress and Freedom Foundation blog, James DeLong attempts to prove that the “Free Culture Movement” (FCM) led by people like Larry Lessig is part and parcel of the political left:

The FCM does not think that production and
consumption of intellectual creations should be organized by property
rights and markets. Instead, it favors a mechanism of production based
on the open source software movement….”

This is a nice case of simply asserting
what the author is allegedly attempting to prove. In fact, Free
Culture is eminently consistent with markets and property rights.
Lessig’s Creative Commons and successful open source projects are based
on well-defined software licenses. In other words, property
rights that function in a market. The network infrastructure
piece of Free Culture, open spectrum, is expressly built on the idea of
a market in wireless devices replacing a system of government spectrum
micro-management. And it was the Framers of the US Constitution,
hardly anti-property radicals, who decreed that copyrights be for a
limited period of time.

The property rights maximalists are the true radicals here. They
have defined any challenges to the status quo as a frontal attack on
property rights. As political propaganda, this effort may have
some success. But the ultimate strength of the Free Culture
Movement, or whatever one calls it, lies in this: It is an internal critique of the dominant ideology, not an external challenge to markets like communism.

The Free Culture proponents, who offer suggestions like returning to
the copyright terms of the 1790s, are the true conservatives in this
debate.