in Innovation

Lawrence Lessig on innovation vs. the law

Lawrence Lessig’s recent speech, Clearing the Air About Open Source actually focuses more on the war between innovators and those that profit by impeding innovation: lawyers, lobbyists, and the companies that employ them. He illustrates how the courts are used to litigate companies into bankruptcy, how companies like Microsoft are hiring boatloads of lawyers to use the reality of patent law to fend off open source, and how on the macro level it is countries who are making decisions about patent law and software investments to further their interests.

Most importantly, he points out that these arguments are rarely framed as threats to innovation, but that they need to be to protect innovation. You can see his influence on the EFF’s website.

During the Q&A he offers some specific ways the open source community can fight this war, e.g. by supporting political points of view that both embrace liberal (allow innovators to compete against BigCo) and conservative (stop government from meddling in the market) points of view. Still, he paints a dire picture for anyone building software from the OS to the application layer, and I’m glad I’m not in that business.