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Speech Analysis CEP 815 Larry Lessig: How creativity is being strangled by the law I decided to analyze Lessig‟s speech on “How creativity is being strangled by the law” for several reasons, the main one being my own interest in the subject of copyright laws and their influence on other people‟s work, be them amateurs or professionals. Lessig serves as Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Much can be said about his professional career, but the most striking point is that he serves on the board of Electronic Frontier Foundation and assertively defends the right to remix creatively. A short version of his biography can be found at His blog offers some insight into his expertise in the field of copyright laws critiquing. As for his education, Lessig earned a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale. He has received honorary degrees from The University of Amsterdam, Athabasca University, and The Georgian-American University. Lessig delivered his speech at a TED conference in Monterey, California on November 15, 2007. Although there is an annual membership fee of $6,000, which includes attendance of the conference, club mailings, networking tools and conference DVDs, viewing TED conferences online is completely free. In 19 minutes, Lessig managed to capture his audience’s attention through a combination of solid proof and a sense of humor appealing to most, if not all, speech analysts and conference goers. With his moderate pace and appropriate pauses, he gave his audience enough time to process his argument behind the need to alter the highly controversial issue of copyright laws to suit the 21st century, otherwise stamped as technology era. He addressed his audience with tact, keeping eye contact and a composure that reflect nothing less than the self-confidence and assurance of a veteran in the field of copyright laws. Lessig‟s main intention is first to educate people about copyright laws and then persuade them about the necessity to revise these laws. His main objective at the beginning is to prove to people that what seems to be an indubitable law can actually change over time. He does so with three shrewd examples leading to his argument and that clearly show how the law at that time had to change to suit the current trend. He starts off by accusing these laws of stifling creativity by creating a read-only culture instead of a read-write culture. He follows with an unusual example of a trespass law from the time before airplanes were invented, which stipulated that the owner of a piece of land actually owned what was below his real estate and all the space upward, indefinitely. This law seemed to work pretty well until the advent of airplanes, after which it would become impossible for flight operators to place a request to fly over other people‟s real estate, thus creating the need to revise the trespass law. That meant that the trespass law, indisputable for hundreds of years, could no longer be sanctioned in the modern world. In his Created by: Jean-Claude Aura

Date: February 2010

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Speech Analysis CEP 815 third and last example, Lessig mentions how BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) made ASCAP, the first broadcasting corporation, crack under their assumption that people would revolt once they saw that they had free access to public domain works. ASCAP clung on to the belief that people wouldn‟t put up with second best music. However, people did not revolt, and again the law changed. With these 3 examples, Lessig manages to convey 3 facts about the copyright law: The first example shows how the law deliberately creates a passive culture, the second how it is possible to change a certain law to suit a contemporary need, and the third how people themselves can be wiling to replace an existing law with one that is more realistic and practical. Having made his point with his 3 examples, that the law can and will be altered and some point, he moves on to his argument. Lessig‟s main argument is that today‟s children are different from when we were children, that is children of the 60s and 70s, and should be regarded as a generation with different needs than ours. He is also trying to revive what Sousa romanticized in the early 1900s about creating a generation of producers rather than users. He believes that copyright cartels are more of a hindrance and should reconsider their laws to give the young generation some leeway in creativity. Lessig presents 3 different animations from young people who used original pieces of music to create something of their own. It is true that the music is not theirs, but then again they did not use it for commercial reasons. They simply used it to express their ideas about a particular theme in a quite unusual way, and that‟s where Lessig culminates in his argument: If we want to promote a culture that produces rather than reads, we had better rethink all those copyright laws that seemed logical at the time of their conception but deemed morbid in an era booming with technological advancements. Lessig‟s asset lies in his astutely organized speech supported by hilarious animations and concise, humorous slides which contain just the right number of words (6 at most) that summarize a particular point. His mannerisms were by no means distracting; he moved just about right on stage while adopting a tone and pace that kept his audience, including me, alert to every detail in his presentation. In addition, he articulated his thoughts very clearly, used adequate length for his sentences, and steered clear from ambiguous language. Whenever there was an acronym, such as BMI, he explained what it stood for (Broadcast Music Incorporated). I was personally impressed by Lessig‟s speech. I wasn‟t sure how he was going to defend his case against such a powerful cartel as copyright protectors, but I must admit he put on a wondrous performance. His funny comments about „common sense‟ when talking about the law in the past, along with his choice of animations, especially the one about George Bush and Tony Blair, definitely made a positive impact on his audience; laughter and applause were heard often times. I am sure his undefined audience, most likely made up of educated citizens, and outside viewers, practically anyone with a keen interest in copyright issues, recognize the need to look into copyright laws, although some may still exhibit some reluctance. That‟s human nature after all ... Created by: Jean-Claude Aura

Date: February 2010

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Larry lessig speech analysis