Lessig publicly humiliates Andrew Keen

Larry Lessig found himself on a panel with Andrew Keen, whose "Cult of the Amateur" excoriates the Internet for breeding sloppiness and errors, so Larry went through a list of the errors Keen made in his book. First off, Keen's description of Lessig as someone who "laud[s] the appropriation of intellectual property." Lessig pointed out the many times that he'd decried this, and asked Keen to cite a single instance in which he'd done what Keen alleged. Keen sat silent.

Then, when Keen got home, he blogged (!) about the incident saying that he'd crowd-sourced the question to his blog-readers who'd affirmed that, indeed, Lessig had done what he'd said. Though, of course, no references were forthcoming.

I asked Keen if he had ever read anything I had written. He said he had. I asked him to name one instance where I had ever "laud[ed] the appropriation of intellectual property." He sat silently. I pressed. He had no answer. He could name no instance of my "laud[ing] the appropriation of intellectual property" because that's not my schtick. Indeed, as I repeatedly insisted in Free Culture (see pages 10, 18, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 139, 255), what others call "piracy" I was emphatically not writing to defend. Indeed, I criticized it as "wrong."

Now whether mine is a sensible view or not, or a view consistent with the Free Culture Movement or not, is an argument had on this page many times. But the Keen-relevant point is that my claim was a claim about a fact. He alleges I "laud the appropriation of intellectual property." I claim I do not. That's a true/false claim. And so in the tradition of the professional truth-seeker, so threatened, Keen believes, by the wisdom-of-the-crowds Internet, one would think that the disagreement would be resolved by someone actually reading something, or at least providing some citation. No doubt it was unfair to call Keen out on stage. He didn't come with his notes. Why would I expect him to be able to identify anything in my work at all? But after the conference, perhaps. Maybe then Keen could defend the assertion that I flatly denied.

And indeed, he now has -- but the interesting (self-parody point) is how.

In a blog post, Keen again charges me with lauding the appropriation of intellectual property. But what's the source for his renewed charge? Did Keen go back to the books? Or back to his notes? Does he offer a quote, or a passage to exemplify this defining feature of my work?

No. The truth of this matter for Keen is resolved by asking a bunch of people at the conference whether in fact I "laud the appropriation of intellectual property." They said I did. And that resolves it for Keen.

Reposted from Boing Boing.

I'm not a fan of Andrew Keen, and Lawrence Lessig is a personal hero of mine. To see this exchange happen brings be great delight. Andrew Keen is a charlatan. Every time he repeats his assertions about the nature of publication on the Internet he assumes that it, like paper publishing, is a one way medium, because that is the one that he is safest in, in a situation in which no-one can challenge him or his arguments. As soon as he finds himself in a situation where someone can question him, he clams up, like in this case. Unfortunately, some people, particularily in the old fashioned one-way press, still regards him as relevant because he confirms the things that they believe. The Independent has given him a platform in which he sees every incident like Wikipedia's squabbles as proof that Teh Internets Am Bad. And funnily enough, he doesn't allow discussion of his articles on the online version. Funny that.