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Lawrence "Larry" Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an Americanmarker academic and political activist. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications.

He is a director of the Edward J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard Universitymarker and a professor of law at Harvard Law Schoolmarker. Prior to rejoining Harvard, he was a professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society. Lessig is a founding board member of Creative Commons, a board member of the Software Freedom Law Center and a former board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Early life and education

Born in Rapid City, South Dakotamarker, Lessig grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvaniamarker and earned a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Management (Wharton School) from the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Cambridgemarker (Trinitymarker) in Englandmarker, and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.

Career in academia and law

Prior to re-joining Harvard, he taught at Stanford. Prior to Stanford, he taught at the Harvard Law Schoolmarker, where he was the Berkman Professor of Law, affiliated with the Berkman Center for Internet & Societymarker, and the University of Chicago Law School. Lessig is considered a liberal, but he clerked for two influential conservative judges: Richard Posner and Justice Antonin Scalia.

Lessig has emphasized in interviews that his philosophy experience at Cambridgemarker radically changed his values and career path. Previously, he had held strong conservative or libertarian political views, desired a career in business, was a highly active Teenage Republican serving as the Youth Governor for Pennsylvania through the YMCA Youth & Government program in 1978 and almost pursued a Republican political career.

In 2002 Lessig received the Award for the Advancement of Free Software from the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and on March 28, 2004 he was elected to the FSF’s Board of Directors. In 2006, Lessig was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciencesmarker. Lessig is also a well-known critic of copyright term extensions.

He proposed the concept of “Free Culture”. He also supports free software and open spectrum. At his “Free culture” keynote at OSCON 2002, half of his speech was also about software patents, which he views as a rising threat to both free/open source software and innovation.

What was intended to be a year abroad at Cambridge convinced him instead to stay another two years to complete an undergraduate degree in philosophy there and develop his changed political values. During this time, he also traveled in the Eastern Bloc, so acquiring a lifelong interest in Eastern European law and politics.

Lessig refuses to embrace the usual libertarianism. While Lessig remains skeptical of government intervention, he favors regulation by calling himself “a constitutionalist”. Because of his relative youth, and his views of American legal theory, Lessig has often been cited as a potential candidate to fill vacant federal appellate judgeships in a future Democratic presidential administration.

In computer science, “code” typically refers to the text of a computer program (i.e., source code). In law, “code” can refer to the texts that constitute statutory law. In his book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lessig explores the ways in which code in both senses can be instruments for social control, leading to his dictum that “Code is law”.

Lessig is also known for using a style of computer presentations typified by rapid display of short phrases or pictures. James MacLennan calls his presentation style the “Lessig Method”.

In May 2005, it was revealed that Lessig had experienced sexual abuse by the director at the American Boychoir School which he had attended as an adolescent. Lessig reached a settlement with the school in the past, under confidential terms. He revealed his experiences in the course of representing another student victim, John Hardwicke, in court. In August 2006, he succeeded in persuading the New Jersey Supreme Courtmarker to radically restrict the scope of immunity that had protected nonprofits which failed to prevent sexual abuse from legal liability.

In March 2006, Lessig joined the board of advisors of the Digital Universe project. A few months later, Lessig gave a talk on the ethics of the Free Culture Movement at the 2006 Wikimania conference.

At the iCommons iSummit 07 Lessig announced that he will stop focusing his attention on copyright and related matters and will work on political corruption instead. This new work may be partially facilitated through his wiki — “ Lessig Wiki” — which he has encouraged the public to use to document cases of corruption. In February 2008, a Facebook group formed by law professor John Palfrey encouraged him to run for Congress from California's 12th congressional district, the seat vacated by the death of U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. Later that month, after forming an "exploratory project", the decision was made not to run for the vacant seat.

Despite having decided to forgo running for Congress himself, Lessig remained interested in attempting to change Congress to reduce corruption. To this end, he worked with political consultant Joe Trippi to launch a web based project called "Change Congress". In a press conference on March 20, 2008, Lessig explained that he hoped the Change Congress website would help provide technological tools voters could use to hold their representatives accountable and reduce the influence of money on politics. He is a board member of, a nonprofit research group illuminating the connection between money and politics.

Lessig has known president Barack Obama since their days teaching law at the University of Chicago, and has been mentioned as a candidate to head the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telecommunications industry.

In his blog, Lessig has come out in favor of Democratic primary candidate Barack Obama, citing the transformative nature of Obama's campaign as one of his chief reasons. On October 13, 2008, Lessig hosted a letter on Lessig Blog from the McCain campaign to YouTube, LLC. The letter demanded that the video-sharing mogul better regulate its copyright complaint take-down policy. In favor of the issues addressed in the letter, Lessig stated, “Bravo to the campaign.” However, Lessig’s post denotes more accurately an appeal for YouTube to revise its copyright claim dispute policies rather than an actual endorsement of the McCain campaign.

A campaign to draft Lessig to run for the US Congress from the Bay Area began in February 2008.

Lessig claimed in 2009 that because 70% of young people obtain digital information from illegal sources that the law should be changed.

At his talk at the 2009 Aspen Ideas Festival, Professor Lessig talked about Forbin Problems in a talk entitled Will Technology Change Our Lives? and also about his idea that the American public has lost faith in the central institution of our democracy, Congress.

Media references

Lessig appears as a character in a 2005 episode of the television political drama The West Wing (“The Wake Up Call”, season 6, episode 14). Lessig’s character, portrayed by Christopher Lloyd, is intended to be a realistic depiction including such details as citing his book The Future of Ideas and his expertise in Eastern European constitutional law. ( Lessig’s comments on his blog)

Artist group Monochrom performed a "Love Song for Lessig" on Boing Boing TV in the 2007-11-15 episode. The Austrian-German term "lässig" (meaning "cool" or "relaxed") is pronounced the same as Lessig's last name, and "Love Song for Lessig" uses the homonym for humor.

Notable cases


See also


  1. Lessig, Lawrence. " In Defense of Piracy". The Wall Street Journal. October 11, 2008.
  2. YMCA Youth & Government for Pennsylvania
  3. — Flash presentation of a Lessig “Free Culture” lecture and presentation
  4. Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web 2008-12-15
  5. AIF 09: Will Technology Change Our Life? (2)
  6. Aspen Ideas Festival 2009
  7. Hardwicke v. American Boychoir
  10. , was blog/archives/002421.shtml

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