Lawrence LessigHere’s a great video (you’ll need Flash Player to see it) of a 20-minute talk given earlier this year at the TED Conference by Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford professor who has led the fight to loosen the stranglehold the big content companies (think Sony, Disney, and so on) have placed on the creative use of digital music, art, movies, and TV shows.

Librarians have long worked to make our colleagues sensitive to these laws – for example, reminding classroom teachers that they can’t legally play a DVD of Disney’s Little Mermaid on the nutzy last day of school before winter break without public performance clearance. Yet we’re also increasingly aware how these companies are working to prevent fair use of these materials. Lessig here focuses on how these corporations make it difficult for people – especially young people – to use these materials in remixes and mashups.

If you’ve been following the copyright controversies of the last twenty years, you’ll find Lessig’s examples and arguments a fascinating challenge. He says that before the coming of the Net, we lived in a “Read Only” culture that allowed us to read, watch, or hear passively the works of others. But now we live in a “Read/Write” culture that lets us mix things up, add our own perspectives, and put them out there (on YouTube, for example) for millions of people to see.

The last two minutes of his talk are all about young people, and how young people want to feel as if the copyright laws respect them before they’re going to respect the law.

(Thanks to Howlin’ Hobbit, a fellow ukulele-playing blogger, for putting this video where I could see it.)