Lessig and Tweedy

By JoCo June 1, 2005

A couple of months ago Lawrence Lessig (author of Free Culture) and Jeff Tweedy (from Wilco) had a discussion about P2P, file sharing and copyright at the New York Public Library. The audio and video has been posted, and if you’re at all interested in this topic it’s really worth checking out. Lessig gives his famous powerpoint presentation (which is the best I’ve ever seen about any topic – I love that man) and Tweedy talks about his feelings on the whole file sharing thing from an artist’s perspective.

My favorite piece of this discussion is Tweedy’s description of how they used the internet for the whole Yankee Hotel Foxtrot situation. Reprise dropped Wilco because they didn’t like the new record. Tweedy figured that they’ve only ever made money by touring, and without a new record, there’s no tour. Since they didn’t have a record company telling them what to do, they released it FOR FREE on the internet and toured. Tens of thousands of downloads later, they were picked up by Nonesuch records who released YHT as an actual CD. It then became their biggest selling album ever, despite the fact that there had already been plenty of people who downloaded it for nothing. An interesting counter-example for the argument that file sharing can only hurt artists.

This is an important topic whether you are an artist or a pirate. Listen, watch, read the book (which is available free under a Creative Commons license).


Chris Hartzog says

Wow Jon, I can’t believe no one commented on this post on the Lawrence Lessig and Jeff Tweedy discussion about intellectual property and copyright law at the New York Public Library. I just listened to the recording of the presentation and it is wonderful! The guy really inspires me.

Lessig may be a lawyer, but he definitely has a heart for artists and those who care about the expansion of creativity and fear the stifling acts committed by RIAA. I am definitely interested in studying this topic more.

Strange....I am in Seattle, you are in Seattle today for your gig and I am writing this to your site in New York.