Larry Lessig leaves the room...but enters another

Larry Lessig, whom I once characterized as "Leader of the Free World," has decided to move on from IP issues, and focus on a new 10-year phase of his life.

True, he told us five years ago that he was moving on, but then he didn't. But now, I think Larry has left the free culture movement "for real," as he announced today. Larry was my mentor and thesis advisor at Stanford Law School, and someone for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect (though he hated me when I took Open Sources from him - I contradicted every point he made, as I was heavily skewed toward proprietary open source back then).

What will he be doing now? Focusing on reducing "corruption," as he defines it:

And so as I said at the top (in my "bottom line"), I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of issues: Namely, these. "Corruption" as I've defined it elsewhere will be the focus of my work. For at least the next 10 years, it is the problem I will try to help solve.

I do this with no illusions. I am 99.9% confident that the problem I turn to will continue exist when this 10 year term is over. But the certainty of failure is sometimes a reason to try. That's true in this case.

Nor do I believe I have any magic bullet. Indeed, I am beginner. A significant chunk of the next ten years will be spent reading and studying the work of others. My hope is to build upon their work; I don't pretend to come with a revolution pre-baked.

Instead, what I come with is a desire to devote as much energy to these issues of "corruption" as I've devoted to the issues of network and IP sanity. This is a shift not to an easier project, but a different project. It is a decision to give up my work in a place some consider me an expert to begin work in a place where I am nothing more than a beginner.

My respect for Larry just grew. Larry is talking about corruption in the sense of what we say/do being influenced by money. As he summarizes it, "I don't shill for anyone." This might be extrapolated to a general principle that goes like this:

Don't sell your words or actions for money.

Larry isn't suggesting that everyone is corrupt in the gangster sense, but rather in the more insidious and nuanced sense of speaking "slant" because one's livelihood in some way depends on it. He's talking, in other words, about open source in the broadest sense of those words. Speaking openly/with candor, and not allowing money to close off that communication. No cutting corners with the truth.

I wish him luck. What he's doing is noble and must be terrifying. He's a rock star in the IP world. He's a neophyte in this new world of "corruption." What a great person for trying.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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