Founder of Creative Commons, Professor Lawrence Lessig Gave a Lecture in Renmin University of China

In the afternoon of November 14, 2010, founder of Creative Commons, world-renowned scholar Professor Lawrence Lessig was invited to Yifu Conference Center of Renmin University of China(RUC) to deliver a lecture: Creative Commons’ Role in Copyright’s Future.

This event was hosted by the Law School and Intellectual Property Academy of RUC, and was organized by Creative Commons China Mainland. Mozzila Online, and ChinaLabs, the leading institutions in open source and internet culture, have contributed their support to this event. Following the lecture, Professor Lessig participated in a conversation with the leaders of various media and internet initiatives in China, to share his thoughts and ideas on digital copyright and knowledge innovation. More than 400 participants from various fields including government sections, colleges and universities, science and research institutions, IT enterprises, media, culture and art joined this event.

At 5:30 p.m., Professor GUO Shoukang, a famous legal scholar of RUC announced the opening of the event. Professor LIU Chuntian, president of Intellectual Property Academy and Professor WANG Yi, Deputy Dean of Law School of RUC, gave welcoming remarks on behalf of the hosts. Professor LIU Chuntian indicated that the Creative Commons movement is positive and sustainable. He expressed the interests of RUC researchers on this movement, as the project lead of CC China Mainland, Professor WANG Chunyan is herself a scholar of Law School of RUC. He said that the intellectual educational and researching institutions of RUC welcome Creative Commons’ concept and activities, and that CC will have a bright future both in China and in the world. Professor WANG Yi stressed the importance of conversations between leaders of various internet initiatives for resolving issues concerning conflict of interests. He recognized the social impact of Creative Commons in balancing the interests between different parties, and extended his wishes for CC to be as popular as the most played online games to common Chinese people.

After that, Professor Lessig started his lecture. He began with several interesting stories to describe the history and status in quo of U.S copyright system. He indicated that during the last century, the complicated copyright laws are becoming more and more technical and difficult to understand, and the control of copyright essentially applies to the common lives of most people. On the other hand, media technology such as discs and recorders increased the distribution of professional artists’ work, but decreased the chance of participation of amateurs in creative activities. And the culture therefore became a passive, “read-only” culture in the past 100 years. However, in this century, the new technology enabled the general public to be able to participate again to various form of creations, and to reproduce a “Read & Write” culture. He then presented several most wonderful remix fine works to the audience, and indicated that the current copyright system no longer suits the digital age.

In a digital era, every single use of online works means copying the original work, which made many problems for the current copyright laws. The amateur creative culture is reviving, but the law doesn’t support it well. For these reasons, Lessig said that WIPO should lead a process to fix the architecture of copyright law, and the countries like China should push this process. In short term the volunteer licensing of creative works should be encouraged to show respect and balance the copyright regulations, and this is exactly the objective of Creative Commons. He also introduced a number of CC-licensed websites to the Chinese audiences, and stressed the importance of establishment of CC China Mainland.

As for the future of copyright system, Professor Lessig summarizes his expectation that the law shall be simple, efficient, effective and realistic and be regulated selectively. As the war against piracy will never have an end, a better way is to adjust the law to have a balanced peace, not killing technologies such as P2P.

After the lecture, Project Lead of CC China Mainland, Professor WANG Chunyan started the conversation session; she introduced several top leaders of internet, culture and art initiatives to discuss with Lessig on several important issues.

Director of Board and CEO of Mozzila Online, Dr. GONG Li raised the first question. He said that the fact is that the copyright protection in China is far from being perfect, and asked what China’s role will be in this context. Profess Lessig answered that CC licenses actually encourage more respect to copyright. China is already doing great job in copyright protection, and it is the U.S being too extreme to force China to accept a very strict copyright law. A reasonable legal system should “make more sense”, not to be extreme.

From ChinaLab, Dr. FANG Xingdong highly praised the academic achievements of Professor Lessig, and asked about Lessig’s own experience from Stanford to Harvard. Lessig humorously described this experience and introduced his new focused topic – the institutional corruption in the U.S – to the audience.

Founder and CEO of, Dr. PAN Haidong asked Professor Lessig whether and how CC will provide technical protection for copyright works. Lessig explained that CC helps people to identify copyright status, but does not provide technological means of protection. He also extended his worries about the instability of digital media, while DRM is so abusively used by many large enterprises.

Well-known curator, artist OU Ning’s requested Professor Lessig to comment on the extreme controls of patent by large enterprises in DNA technologies. Lessig answered that the extreme control of patent, as well as the extreme control in copyright, is not good for innovation. Many of the basic technology of our age, such as computer programs and computer itself, are totally free. Extreme controls are only good for lawyers and “big players” in a certain field, but do not encourage innovation.

Considering the impact of the Western IP system, especially the U.S. IP system, on the Chinese IP system, the audience are specially interested in the Eldred v. Ashcroft case, Professor WANG Chunyan then requested Professor Lessig to give some comments on the Eldred v. Ashcroft case, in which he challenged the constitutionality of the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Lessig stressed that the continuous extensions of term of existing copyright “make no sense”, and are not good at all for creative incentives. However, this case is a beginning of the free culture movement, and is also one of the direct reasons that CC was found.

Dr. ZHANG Xiaoxing, Chief Engineer of the National Cultural Information Resources Sharing Project, requested Professor Lessig to share the short-term plan of CC and to put some comments on Google lawsuits for its digital library. Lessig said in two years CC will be more transparently used by the large internet initiatives such as Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft, and try to become a part of the infrastructure of the internet. As for the Google lawsuit, Lessig described the approaches of Google in resolving copyright issues and again indicated that the architecture of copyright is no longer appropriate for a digital age.

Through the lecture, the audience had much deeper understandings in openness and innovation, copyright reform and the international Creative Commons movement. The participants actively expressed their recognition of the concept of Creative Commons, and their interest in participation in CC movement. We believe that with the combined effort of all participants from various fields, Creative Commons will ensure a great future of better copyright system in China.

Photos of the event: