Intellectual Property Strategy: Book Launch

I’m excited to be launching a new book, Intellectual Property Strategy, tonight at Harvard Law School.  (If you’re in Cambridge, MA, USA, please feel free to come by Austin Hall East at HLS at 6:00 pm this evening for the event and a reception thereafter or tune into the webcast.)

The discussion tonight will cover two bases: first, the substance of the book and second, the format of this book, and possibly others, into the future.

On the substance of this book, I will make a few claims.  The basic claim is extremely simple: organizations should see intellectual property as a core asset class rather than as a sword and a shield, as the traditional mantra would have it.  I argue also that IP strategies should be flexible; geared toward creating freedom of action; and inclined toward openness where possible, at least in the information technology field.  These basic claims are geared both toward for-profit and non-profit firms.  There’s a chapter in the book devoted to the special case of the non-profit, which often needs an IP strategy just as much as for-profit firms do.  The flexible use of IP can support the missions of non-profits in important, distinct ways.

– The smartphone OS wars are the most obvious example of how IP matters.  It’s big business for huge firms.  The acquisition by Google of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion (thanks, SJ, for the typo-catching) in cash in August, 2012.  The hundreds of millions of dollars paid to Intellectual Ventures as licenses stand for another example of the growing importance in commerce of this field of law.  The multi-billion-dollar markets for the licensing of trademarks and patents in a broad range of fields is yet another.  These examples make the case for treating IP as an asset class.  And the work on IP strategy should be seen as core to the work of the organization, not something to be left only to lawyers outside the firm.

– There is a strong connection between our work in youth and media and the matter of intellectual property strategy.  We know that youth attitudes toward intellectual property are shifting rapidly over time.  The recent passage of the America Invents Act of 2011 points to the dynamism of the space.  These changes demonstrate the need for flexibility in IP strategy over time.

– The use of IP in libraries and museums is a third important case.  I’ve been working actively in the field of libraries, including service as director of the HLS Library and chairing the work to develop a Digital Public Library of America, over the past several years.  In the case of libraries, the question of how much to digitize of our collections is an important problem.  My view is that the digitization, contextualization, and free distribution of our library holdings is a way to use IP as a way to fulfill the specific mission of a non-profit that is devoted to access to knowledge.

I especially am grateful to colleagues Terry Fisher, Eric von Hippel, Lawrence Lessig, Phil Malone, Jonathan Zittrain, who will respond to the book and presentation.  Also, the book project would be nowhere near as much fun, or as good, without the partnership of June Casey, my colleague in the Harvard Law School Library, who has been nothing short of extraordinary.  And Michelle Pearse, Amar Ashar, and their teams have been wonderful in setting up this event.  It’s an amazing group of colleagues!

On the topic of the format, I am excited to talk about multiple versions of the book.  1) There is, of course, the traditional form of the book that someone can touch, pick up, and read in the ordinary way.  There’s also the digital form of that same book, which can be rendered on a Kindle or an iPad, which gives more or less the same experience.  2) There’s a form of the book that is like an Extended Play album, or a DVD that has “extras” at the end.  On the MIT Press web site, one can access video interviews and a series of case studies, for instance, which expand on the argument of the book.  See, for instance, the videos here on the MIT Press web site.

And 3), most experimentally, I have been working with a great team on a distinct version of the book that functions as an iPad application.  The idea is to embed these case studies and videos directly into the text of the main form of the book.  The iPad app version allows for many different ways through the text; connections to the open web; and loads of fun and interesting embedded links.  The idea is to rethink the format of the eBook from the ground up, to add in born-digital elements by design rather than the equivalent of putting up a PDF into an e-reader format.  It’s still in beta mode, but we will demo it tonight.

This short book is part of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series.  It’s been fun to work with Margy Avery and her team at MIT Press on this experimental project.

Please join us if you are free!

Guest Blog Post: Lawrence Lessig


As you know, my blog is in hibernation. Would you mind posting the following response to Andy Orlowski’s latest for the record?

I hadn’t thought any response would be necessary, but the ordinarily sensible (even if I disagree with its politics) Capitol Confidential seems to have been misled by Orlowski’s piece. Perhaps there are others. So, …


A reader of Andrew Orlowski’s article published at The Register might be forgiven for taking from that piece the following scandalous story:

That the Berkman Center and a “for profit” entity on whose board I sit, iCommons, “registered in London,” has taken a large amount of money from a criminal organization — gamblers, or at least, people who set up an online poker site; that with those resources, Berkman tempted me to Harvard (as Orlowski puts it, “half of Berkman’s first-year budget of $5.4m went on procuring and supporting Lessig”). Berkman then used that money to help start Creative Commons. And that while we can’t really know what other influence these illegal gifts have procured, the suggestion is they certainly must have done something. It has at least driven Lessig to serve on the board of an entity that promotes poker — the GPSTS. Beyond that, we can’t say, but there must be more. Why else would the money have been given? “Perhaps it’s naive,” as Orlowski sonorously intoned, “to expect academics to uphold the values they preach.” So where else then is Lessig acting against the values he preaches?

Something close to this reading was what Capitol Confidential got from Orlowski’s piece. Here’s CC’s account:

As described by Andrew Orlowski at The Register recently, Professor Lessig (a professor of ethics, no less!) seems to have made a killing advocating on behalf of the gambling industry. Orlowski’s remarkably detailed reporting shows how Lessig’s for-profit iCommons attracted more than a million dollars in contributions from “newly-formed and secretive off-shore trusts” about three years ago, shortly after a new U.S. law took effect that curtailed online gambling. As for current funders of Lessig’s group, that’s anyone’s guess since Lessig’s London-based nonprofit Creative Commons does not disclose a list of its donors.

So for the record:

First, the Berkman Center has never taken any money from either of the two entities Orlowski identified. Zero.

Second, even if it had, there is no chance that money could have been used to recruit me to the Berkman Center. I came to the Berkman Center in 1997 — long before DeLeon and Dikshit made their money. I returned to Harvard last year, but to the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, not to the Berkman Center.

Third, even if the money had been given to recruit me retrospectively (the way extending copyrights is said to promote creativity) and even if it had come from the allegedly tainted sources, Berkman did not “procure and support” me by spending $2.7m. Berkman used that money to fund an endowed chair — the Berkman Professorship — a chair which I held for a year or so while at Harvard, a chair which Zittrain held after that till he went to Oxford, and a chair that Yochai Benkler now holds. An endowed chair in law schools simply refers to the bucket from which a salary is paid. My salary (then and now) is obviously an order of magnitude lower than $2.7m, and was not affected in the slightest by my holding that chair.

Fourth, Berkman did not fund the launch of Creative Commons. Some of its founders were associated with Berkman when CC launched, and an initial meeting was held at Berkman. But that was the only “help” CC received from Berkman.

Fifth, Creative Commons certainly does publish the list of its contributors.

Sixth, I am not currently, nor have I ever been a “board member” of GPSTS. I don’t even know whether GPSTS has board members, but the website does list me as an “adviser.” I am an unpaid adviser to the founder of that entity, Charlie Nesson, in this and in any other area that he would like advice on. I believe the total amount of “advice” I have offered Charlie about GPSTS is that it find a better name.

Seventh, and most critically, is not a “for profit” entity. It is a not-for-profit entity. And it is not simply “registered in London.” It is a British Charity. Its first Chairman was Japanese. Its second Chairman was Brazilian. Its first Executive Director was British. Its second was South African. The majority of the board (I believe, but have not checked) has always been non-American. It is not subject to the jurisdiction of US law, except to the extent that it engages in activities here in the US. Since being launched as a UK charity, iCommons has never held any event in the United States.

I say all that to throw into relief the central confusion at the core of Orlowski’s essay. The nub of his charge against me is that I should have engineered the return of contributions to the iCommons charity because one of the two entities that contributed to it has pled guilty to violating US law.

Ok, but remember: iCommons is a UK entity. Whether or not Dikshit violated US law, neither he nor the founders of IETSI have been charged with violating UK law. I know Orlowski has US envy, but I should think THE REGISTER would recognize that the UK is neither a state nor a colony of the United States. And so why an alleged violation of US law should obligate a UK charity to return a charitable contribution is completely beyond me. If BP had advertised on The Register’s site, would The Register be obligated to return the advertising fee?

The most troubling bit of Orlowski’s piece, however, was the part he didn’t include. He ends his piece with the sanctimonious “[p]erhaps it’s naive to expect academics to uphold the values they preach.”

One might expect then that if he was charging me with not upholding the values I preach, he would at least mention what those values are. In my email to him, I had referred him to my “disclosure which states my “values.” Orlowski omitted that link in his essay. As that disclosure makes clear, my “values” are that I will not “promote as policy” positions for people who pay me, or who give a significant amount to a non-profit for which I have fundraising obligations.

Have I lived up to those values?

First, neither IETSI nor Dikshit ever paid me anything. Zero.

But second, the gift to iCommons plainly would trigger the obligation that I not “promote as policy a position” in the commercial interests of IETSI or Dikshit. That’s because I had a fundraising obligation to iCommons, and IETSI and Dikshit helped relieve that obligation through their gifts.

Orlowski nonetheless suggests that I violated this policy. But as I advised him by email (another bit of my email that he omitted from his essay), I had explicitly told the founders of IETSI and Mr. Dikshit before they gave their gifts that their funding iCommons would mean that I would not become involved in any policy debate that would advance their commercial interests. And indeed, I have not. I have never testified publicly, or promoted privately, any change in policy with respect to online gambling or poker. Instead, my behavior with respect to both of these contributors is precisely consistent with “the values [I] preach.”

Orlowski knew this all this, yet he wrote an essay that states precisely the opposite.

I don’t know what explains his fabrication. It may simply be the product of an extraordinarily sloppy mind. But the pattern here may suggest something more.

This piece is just the latest in a series of sloppiness or slander by Orlowski. The first was published almost a decade ago. In that piece, Orlowski apparently fabricated a quote he had attributed to my assistant. When she came to me in tears, I asked him to correct it. He refused, but invited me to dinner instead. I told him I was not interested in dinner with him; I simply wanted him to correct his error. He didn’t. Three years ago, he reported on a speech I gave at CISAC. That piece too was filled with apparently fabricated quotes, attributed to me. When I posted a blog entry that included snippets from a recording of the speech, demonstrating the fabrications, The Register cleaned up the quotes, but defended the piece by claiming — you can’t make this up — that Orlowski had invited me to dinner the night before the talk.

The good news about this latest is that at least this slander came with no invitation to dinner. For that I am grateful.

(In case there’s any confusion: The foregoing post was written by Lawrence Lessig. -JP)

Being Thankful

There are many things to be thankful for this week, as we celebrate the Obama victory.  It means so many good things about America and offers — truly — such hope for the future of our troubled world.   After a few days of reflection, there are three things, perhaps idiosynchratically, that I find myself particularly thankful for: 

One is that the Obama campaign won after doing such a terrific job of combining old-fashioned door-to-door campaigning with the best of the online tools and strategy.  There are of course many reasons for the landslide; this is but one of them.  Many people, like Joe Rospars and his crew, deserve credit for this approach.  Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder, joined the Obama campaign very early on as coordinator of online organizing.  The team from Blue State Digital, veterans of the Dean campaign, was there from the start of the primary, too.  But the digital teams for the campaign didn’t do their work in isolation; everything was brilliantly coordinated with real-space campaigning.  It’s the combination of classical-and-jazz campaigning that I have been waiting to see a campaign pull off at large scale.  This one sure did.  And how.  The Obama campaign did that, and much more.  It is surely a new blueprint for a successful political campaign.  (PRI/KCRW’s “To the Point” did a segment on this concept yesterday.  Chris Hughes made this point, too, on his MyBO blog the same day.  Micah Sifry was overhead on NPR yesterday talking about the future of this community.   CQ, among many others, wrote about some of the differences in the campaigns on these topics, early on.  And so forth.)

Second — and not unrelated — the uptick in new voters and young voters continued in 2008.  We’ve had great numbers in 2004 and 2006 in these categories compared to previous cycles.  The trend clearly continued this year, no doubt to the benefit of the Obama campaign and other Democrats newly elected to office.  The presumption that today’s youth represent an apathetic “generation” is, time and again, being disproven, as they find ways new and old to demonstrate their commitment to civic activism.  David Gergen is calling it a “new order” and pointed to the 18-to-29-year-old vote on CNN.  The New York Times referred to a “deep generational divide” that cut sharply in favor of Obama this time around.  (Urs Gasser and I took up this issue, and related matters, in the Activism chapter of Born Digital.  It will be fun to update that chapter now.)

Third, the campaign deployed so many good election lawyers that Obama voters were not disenfranchised in the way that Kerry and Gore voters plainly were in 2004 and 2000.  It was incredibly well-organized this year.  My brother, Quentin Palfrey, took a leave from his job as chief of the health care division at the Massachusetts AG’s office to run voter protection in Ohio.  His team — of literally thousands of lawyers — ensured that there was no repeat of the 2004 horror-show that cost John Kerry votes, if not much more than that.  (Like many other lawyers, I trekked up to NH to do voter protection in previous cycles; this time, there were more than enough lawyers to go around, such that many were sitting around at polling places, redundantly.)  The emphasis on voter protection in this cycle, at such a high level of sophistication, and in so many states, was a great thing to watch.  And locally, organizations to keep this trend growing (in Massachusetts, for instance, consider MassVOTE), only seem to be gaining strength.

Each of these trends took an extraordinary amount of work by an extraordinary number of people.  The successes of these collective actions offers much reason for hope. 

We all share the responsibility of turning this hope into tangible improvements in all of our lives.  One way we can do that is to encourage our elected officials, from President-elect Obama to our local representatives, to govern just as they campaigned — with the Internet as a means of providing transparency.  I think this next four years will be great for organizations like the Sunlight Foundation, Lessig’s Change Congress, the Omidyar Network (with its new investment area in transparency and governance), Personal Democracy Forum, and others, which will — as institutions and communities — help lead us in these ways.  No doubt the terrific Obama technology policy means that there will be administration support for such efforts at transparency. 

These changes need to continue to be driven from the bottom up, with widespread participation, just as the campaign was.  I’m confident that many youth, brought into civic life during this cycle, will stick around and make great things happen — and that many of us, no longer so youthful, will pull our weight, too.  Today, and tomorrow, it’s up to each of us to find ways to maintain the momentum that’s been built up in these and other areas so important to the future of democracy in America.  And in the meantime, I’m feeling awfully thankful to Chris, Quentin, and all those who tossed aside their day jobs for a while to make this happen full-time — yes, community organizing — to make sure that all that volunteer time and money went to great use.

Lessig on Change Congress at HLS

Tonight, Lawrence Lessig will return to the Berkman Center and Harvard Law School in a major address on his new initiative, Change Congress. Lessig was the first Berkman Professor, ten years ago, when the center was just getting off the ground. We are honored to welcome him back, as part of the Berkman@10 Series, celebrating where we’ve been and where we’re headed. Please join us today at 5:00 p.m. in Ames Courtroom at Harvard Law School, Friday, April 4, 2008. Admission is free and open to the public.

Status of the DRAFT LESSIG Challenge

… there are 350+ donors on ActBlue, (if you’re wondering: the official count is off; it’s too long, since it doesn’t show what we raised for the Draft committee) and hundreds more volunteers have signed up and raring to go, if Prof. Lessig takes the plunge. The goal: get him 1,000+ supporters in a week who give money, pledge to give, or pledge to volunteer for his campaign. We’re well on track. Go, netroots, go.

Among many others, the New York Times has the story, written by SF bureau chief Jesse McKinley, teed up for tomorrow’s paper.  That doesn’t hurt at all, either.

Lessig '08

Lawrence Lessig makes two announcements.  And sets up Lessig ’08.  Watch the video.  Then get over to ActBlue and be part of the grassroots movement to convince him to run for Congress by contributing.

Join us in the DRAFT LESSIG Challenge: let’s get 1,000 people to give money or pledge their time to show him that we’ve got his back if he’s up for the challenge.

The DRAFT LESSIG Challenge

The DRAFT LESSIG movement — to encourage Prof. Lawrence Lessig to run for the U.S. Congress from California — is off to a quick start. Then again, if it’s going to happen, it has to happen fast: the special election is April 8. The Facebook group we set up a few days ago now has over 2,000 members. Supporters have come out of the netroots from every angle. There are fund-raisers pledged in 6 cities.

One of the common critiques of Net politics is that it’s meaningless just to “join a group” to support a candidate or a cause. I don’t buy it, especially since I think that joining a cause or writing about it often leads to further action.

In the case of the DRAFT LESSIG movement, we ought to prove that there’s something different going on here with politics and the net. In the process, we’ll make it clear to Prof. Lessig that we’ve got his back — that ordinary citizens will contribute the funds needed to run his campaign and that it can be run without support from special interests. Let’s get 1,000 people to donate to his campaign (or otherwise commit to volunteer if a campaign is organized) in the coming week. We’ve set up an ActBlue “draft” account, so you can give money now, to be turned over to the campaign if it materializes. If the campaign does not happen, the money is given in full to Creative Commons. You can’t lose. Please join me in donating now.


It’s high time we had our first true Free Culture candidate for public office. Who better than the movement’s founder and hero? I have no reason to believe he’d actually do it, but I think we should send a message to Lawrence Lessig that we’ve got his back if he were to run for the Congressional seat that the sad death of Cong. Lantos has opened up in California. Prof. Lessig happens to live there. It’d be the perfect way to take his message of anti-corruption, and pro-creativity, to the seat of US power.

The special election is April 8. I’ve set up a Facebook group (join us, and please invite others!) and a DRAFT LESSIG web site to aggregate would-be supporters for a run. I will be delighted to hold a sign for him in sunny California between now and election day if he were in fact willing to take on the challenge.

The Daily Kos had the rumor of it a few weeks ago. My friend JZ has more…