Ken Takusagawa I, Ken Takusagawa, am running a write-in campaign to become U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in the special election on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 (for the Senate seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy). You will need my name and address, 274 Cambridge St. #3, Boston, MA to specify me as a write-in candidate on the ballot. I am running on a single-issue platform: Free Culture, as articulated in Lawrence Lessig's book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity.

Why am I running for Senate?

Human creativity is the fundamental force that drives the progress of civilization. It is ultimately the only way "good" may be created in hopes of curing any of the evils of the world. I am am running for Senate because seeing how copyright today is being used to stifle creativity deeply saddens me. I feel I should try to make a difference. Even if I do not win this election, I hope to inject this issue into the public debate.

In addition to Free Culture, I have also been inspired by two recent court cases that occurred after the book was published: MGM v. Grokster (2005), which found that software companies may be held liable for their users' illegal actions (by day, I am a professional software developer, though not of file-sharing software), and RIAA v. Tenenbaum (2009), which found Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum liable for an outrageous $675,000 for file-sharing 30 songs. Something is wrong with the state of copyright law and the Big Media content owners' influence over Congress.

What is Free Culture?

Free Culture is a book written by Lawrence Lessig, then a professor at Stanford Law School (now at Harvard Law School) about how in today's era of new technologies, antiquated intellectual property laws, particularly copyright, are stifling innovation and creativity. Read the book online at, or watch Lessig's slideshow presentation. Here is a Wikipedia summary:

Professor Lessig analyzes the tension that exists between the concepts of piracy and property in the intellectual property realm in the context of what he calls the present "depressingly compromised process of making law" that has been captured in most nations by multinational corporations that are interested in the accumulation of capital and not the free exchange of ideas.

The book also chronicles his prosecution of the Eldred v. Ashcroft case and his attempt to develop the Eldred Act also known as the Public Domain Enhancement Act or the Copyright Deregulation Act.

Lessig concludes his book by suggesting that as society evolves into an information society there is a choice to be made to decide if that society is to be free or feudal in nature. In his afterword he suggests that free software pioneer Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation model of making content available is not against the capitalist approach that has allowed such corporate models as Westlaw and LexisNexis to have subscribers to pay for materials that are essentially in the public domain but with underlying licenses like those created by his organization Creative Commons.

He also argues for the creation of shorter renewable periods of copyright and a limitation on derivative rights, such as limiting a publisher's ability to stop the publication of copies of an author's book on the internet for non-commercial purposes or the creation of a compulsory licensing scheme to ensure that creators obtain direct royalties for their works based upon their usage statistics and some kind of taxation scheme such as suggested by professor William Fisher of Harvard Law School that is similar to a longstanding proposal of Richard Stallman.

What do the opponents of Free Culture say? What is the other side of the issue?

As quoted in Free Culture, Jack Valenti, late president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA): "Creative property owners must be accorded the same rights and protection resident in all other property owners in the nation."

If you agree with Valenti, and reject Lessig's subsequent arguments in chapter 10 against Valenti's statement, don't vote for me.

What solutions am I proposing to fix copyright?

If elected, I will consult with experts in order to craft legislation to fix the copyright system and promote Free Culture. As a starting point, Lessig proposes solutions in the Afterword of his book.

Who am I?

Please vote for me not as an individual, but as a representative for the idea of Free Culture. Unfortunately, ideas cannot run for Senate on their own.

I am a resident of Massachusetts since 2000 and was born in New York state in 1978. I meet the constitutional requirements for Senator.

I will not do media interviews. I am not the eloquent one. I am not politically "savvy". This campaign is possible only because someone else has clearly written down what I believe in (and Lessig himself is, as of 2008, unwilling to run for Congress).

If you are media and wish to interview someone about Free Culture, I suggest you interview Lawrence Lessig at Harvard Law School, or others in the movement more eloquent than I. If you wish to speak to someone about the issues surrounding RIAA v. Tenenbaum, I suggest you interview Tenenbaum's defense team led by Charles Nesson at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society of Harvard Law School.

I will review the comments posted to this blog, and post updates. Please do not try to contact me privately: in the interests of transparency in politics, all communication should be public.

What kind of help am I seeking?

I plan for this campaign to be entirely word-of-mouth. If you wish to help, just spread the word that I am running. If you are spreading the word in an interesting way, e.g., a social networking site, let me know in the comments, and I may link to it.

If you wish to suggest improvements to this campaign statement, feel free to do so in the comments.

What political party am I?

I am running as an independent. I will caucus with the Democratic Party (the current majority party).

With a surname as long and foreign as "Takusagawa", do I really expect voters to write it in on the ballot?


What will I do if I win?

In the highly unlikely event that I should win, I pledge to sponsor and vote for legislation that promotes Free Culture, and vote against legislation that limits it. I pledge do abstain from all other issues.

In light of this esquivalience, if you should come to need a powerful Massachusetts voice in the Senate regarding an issue unrelated to Free Culture, I would encourage you to contact Massachusetts's other at-large Senator, John Kerry.

What will I do if I lose?

If my life permits, I will run again on this same issue in 2012, presumably against the re-election campaign of whomever wins in January, taking what I have learned from this campaign to do better in the next. If not, I hope I may have inspired someone else to do the same. Or, perhaps optimistically, copyright law will have been fixed by then.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shakespeare in the public domain

If you have enjoyed the American Repertory Theater's "The Donkey Show" (a disco re-telling of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"), or "The Best of Both Worlds" (a Gospel and R&B re-imagination of Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale"), then be glad that Shakespeare's works are in the public domain, allowing today's authors, playwrights, directors, and producers complete freedom to create these modern derivative works of awesomeness.

Hypothetically, if a Shakespeare estate still held copyright on Shakespeare's works, it's unlikely they would have permitted an adaptation entitled "The Donkey Show", or they may have demanded a king's ransom of a licensing fee because, hey, it's Shakespeare.

Fortunately, this is not the case, for Shakespeare lived, actually thrived, in an era where copyright lasted 0 (ZERO!) years. When our nation was founded, copyright lasted 14 years -- it was easily possible to see a work published, and see it reimagined and improved in the public domain within your own lifetime. Nowadays, that number is 95 years, because repeated extensions by Congress, most recently the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act ("Mickey Mouse Protection Act"), thanks to the lobbying efforts of a few extremely rich and powerful copyright holders.

Ninety-five years. And that's assuming these copyright holders quit lobbying today, and there no further extensions.

You won't live to see a work that was published this year enter public domain, unless you are reading this at a very young age, or you break the record for human lifespan. Chances are (according to life expectancy and demographics), neither will your children. Only your yet unconceived and unborn grand-children, and only very late in their lives, will have a chance of enjoying, say, a disco re-telling of "Harry Potter" or a Gospel and R&B re-imagination and improvement of "New Moon", or (hopefully) derivative works so awesome that I cannot even begin to imagine them.

This is why I, Ken Takusagawa, seek your write-in vote for Senate on January 19, 2010.

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