kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

Steal This Film 2: The Sequel

At the beginning of April I hoped that I was returning to a regular writing schedule. Between EMI’s abandonment of DRM (okay, that’s an exageration, but it’s a watershed) and the Viacom suit against Google things are really hotting up. I hadn’t reckoned on the total engagement required to make a film. At the moment I’m in the US interviewing people for the second part of Steal This Film, and it’s been great fun, exhausting and extremely satisfying. When we enter the editing process in early May, I’ll be reviewing the content of our conversations with people around the world and extracting some nuggets. For the moment I’ll simply list those we have spoken to so far.

First up was Siva Vaidhyanathan, a cultural historian specialising in the cultural history of copyright and, increasingly, information policy in a time of war and the contraction of civil liberties. Next up was Eben Moglen, historian, head of the Software Freedom Law Centre, General Counsel to the Free Software Foundation and our undeclared Clausewitz. Or perhaps Nechayev or Roberspierre. Yesterday’s interviewee, Yochai Benkler, is th most rigorous theorist of all the lawyers critical of IP, but his virtuoso work is on postive forms of social cooperation and the explosion of production outside of market and state structures; we used to work together, and there is a special magic to our meetings. On Saturday we drove five hours to Washington DC to see an amazing woman, Elizabeth Eisenstein, historian of the first two hundred years of the printing press and its social consequences, who is also a tennis ace known for her lethal drop-and-lob. She is still writing, even though she retired nearly twenty years ago, and was wonderful to us – it was a genuine privilege. The day before we were in the West Village to meet Berkman Fellow and founder of, Wendy Seltzer. Lastly, we passed a biblical sunday, where the inundation of rain raised anticipation of the appearance of Noah’s Ark, with our dear friend and coleague Mako Hill, talking about free software, the media wars and the nature of networks.

Some times are good; the mind feels alive, you watch the world in flux and feel a protagonist in its mutation. Being with, and talking to, all these people, makes me feel alive. Tomorrow we travel to Princeton — on little sleep– to interview Robert Darnton, a historian of the book and eighteenth century france. there we will discover why nearly thirty percent of those incarcerated in the Bastille prior to its liberation in 1789 were imprisoned for ‘offences’ related to the book trade.

There’ll be time to sleep later.


April 18, 2007 - Posted by | /, cinema, communication, copyright, p2p, social cooperation

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