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 28, 2009

Preventing wasteful health care spending

I was chatting with a doctor about how to cut costs in health care, a rather topical issue, and she told me this: one of the reasons there is wasteful spending in health care is because it is so difficult for one medical provider of a patient to access that patient's other medical provider's records. Electronic (or worse yet, paper) medical record systems between providers are so awkward and difficult that it's often easier (and in the best interests of the patient for expediency's sake) to simply perform a particular medical test again locally rather than try to order the records from a remote previous provider who had also performed the test. And so there's wasteful spending in health care.

What does this have to do with Free Culture? Well, let me spin a fanciful tale -- who knows if it would have been true, but it's an illustration of how technology develops.

Imagine if, in 1999, the recording industry had not sued the peer-to-peer file-sharing software pioneer Napster (and its founder, Northeastern University student and Brockton, MA native Shawn Fanning), and copyright law permitted file-sharing.

In such an alternate universe, file-sharing technology would have thrived and grown over the past decade. Peer-to-peer technology would be able to reliably and correctly deliver any file that someone had chosen to share online (these are technically difficult challenges still not completely solved in our real universe because no one wants to develop file-sharing technology for fear of getting sued like in MGM v. Grokster).

At some point, in this fanciful alternate universe, a medical professional, possibly a medical information technology department, might wonder, "Why is it easier to access a song from someone else's computer over a peer-to-peer file-sharing network than it is to access a patient's medical record from some other medical provider?" And the solution dawns on them, to piggyback medical records sharing on the this reliable, robust, easy-to-use peer-to-peer network that music files are shared on to make it just as easy.

Of course, medical records will have an additional layer of encryption and authentication so that only authorized people can read a patient's record.

And thus, in this fanciful alternate universe where Napster wasn't sued, we prevent the same medical test from having to be performed again (and again) because one medical provider can easily access the test results of another over a file-sharing network. We save wasteful health-care spending.

This is how technology develops. There is an initial application (in this case, music), that spurs the development and growth of a new technology (in this case, peer-to-peer file sharing exemplified by Napster) until it becomes pervasive. Then technology spreads to other applications (in this case, medical record sharing) ultimately improving the lives of everyone well beyond the initial "killer app".

But alas, this fanciful alternate universe is not our universe, because, through copyright lawsuits, the RIAA and big content owners killed file-sharing technology before it could grow. This has been an illustration of how copyright enforcement today is directly stifling innovation, and how it affects everyone's lives, even if you are not interested in file-sharing music.

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