9 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 405 (1998-1999)
Keynote Address: Commons and Code

handle is hein.journals/frdipm9 and id is 413 raw text is: Keynote Address: Commons and Code
Lawrence Lessig*
I want to take an idea from the North and an idea from the
South and see how well these two ideas hang together. An idea
from the North - from here at Fordham Law School - and an
idea from the South - from way down at NYU Law School -
and ask, how much can we make these two ideas converge?
First, from the South: we live in a property-obsessed era - a
time when we have come to believe that all progress, at root,
comes from its alignment with property. This is not a Southern
idea - this is a distinctly Mid-Western, call it a Chicago idea. It is
an idea that has overwhelmed our time. We ride high on post-cold
war triumph convinced that all the ills of society would be reme-
died if only we propertized everything. And so we do, or at least,
we try.
But there is a competing tradition, even within our own tradi-
tion, not against property, but for a certain balance in property.
There must be private property, no doubt; in some cases there
should also be state property. But the strong balance against pri-
vate property is not state property. The strong balance is the com-
mons. This is the idea we are reminded of from the South, by NYU
Law Professor Yochai Benkler in particular, and others as well.'
* Jack and Lillian Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, Harvard Law
School. A version of this Address was delivered on February 9, 1999 at the Fordham In-
tellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal's Seventh Annual Symposium:
First Amendment and the Media at Fordham University School of Law. Footnotes were sup-
plied by the Journal.
1. Yochai Benkler is an Assistant Professor of Law at New York University School
of Law. See Yochai Benkler, Overcoming Agoraphobia: Building the commons of the
Digitally Networked Environment, II HARV. J.L. & TECH. 287, 360 (1998). Professor
Benkler writes:
In [Garret Hardin's] classic statement, the tragedy of the commons is a situa-
tion where a resource is shared without rules to allocate its usage. Under such

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