Lawrence Lessig spoke on Hacking the Law To Rebuild a Free Culture, a topic that has run through much of his writing and speaking in the past few years. It's of special interest to my father-in-law who is an intellectual property attorney. By the way, Lessig thinks copyrights are good. His beef is in the way the laws are being applied and changed as new technologies arrive on the scene: the spirit of creative license is being whittled away to nothingness.
Lessig's presentation was engaging, both because he delivers it so well and because the style of his slides was very sparse with a faded newsprint font. He also used several video examples which kept people's attention. The other indicator of how engaging was the fairly low level of activity on the backchannel for the conference.
The argument for change starts with a description of the importance of copyright for both the original creator while also allowing people to remix elements out of the culture into new, creative work. From there, he talked about how technology has changed the equation to make it infinitely easier to remix content and produce new creative work. Unfortunately, the copyright holders see the capabilities of these technologies to make exact duplicates, and they want that practice stopped. Since they've already done their creation, they have no interest in protecting further creation, and they push for laws that ban or severely restrict the technologies that let people do interesting creation by building on what comes before them.
Lessig has attempted to push for simplifying the codes, but it hasn't gotten anywhere. He's created the Creative Commons licensing scheme that recognizes the idea of "some rights reserved." This concept is getting traction in about 60 additional countries, outside the US.
What a conference. Exhausted.