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'Digital Barbarism' Wages Online Copyright Battle

Apr 26, 2009 (All Things Considered)

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Author Mark Helprin wrote the novels A Soldier of the Great War and Winter's Tale. And two years ago, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that inspired a huge online backlash.

In the op-ed, Helprin argued that the term for copyright protection should be extended to protect the author's individual voice from the pressures of the digital age. For his boldness, he faced the digital wrath of those who feel the term of copyright protection should be reduced or eliminated altogether.

He's responded to the backlash in the form of a book, Digital Barbarism: A Writer's Manifesto.

One of the most prominent opponents to Helprin's idea to extend copyright has been Lawrence Lessig. He's a professor of law at Stanford University and the founder of Creative Commons, a system that allows creators to opt out of certain copyright protections.

Unlike Helprin, Lessig believes in the power of group collaboration to build ideas. So instead of writing a response himself, he created a wiki and asked his followers to work together to write it.

He says that he understands Helprin's concerns about intellectual work being altered, but that as a published author, it comes with the territory.

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