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.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why I am running for Senate, an illustration for swing dancers

To my swing-dancing friends, who make up the bulk of my personal friends, here is an illustration of "Free Culture", the single issue I am running for U.S. Senate on:

You make a video of a swing routine and post it online. Perhaps it is a routine you've spent months choreographing and practicing, or perhaps it was one of those magical moments of an improvised dance where everything "just clicked", and you danced awesome. You post the video online so others may enjoy it, others may learn from it, others may be inspired by it.

After posting the video, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) contacts you about the copyright infringement of the song that is playing to your dance. Normally, they just ask you to take it down, but perhaps the RIAA is feeling particularly vindictive today, or they want to make an example of you (like they did with Joel Tenenbaum and Jammie Thomas), so they proceed directly to a lawsuit. They sue you for the legal maximum of $150,000 in damages for "willful copyright infringement". Is that right?

You could think about defending yourself, perhaps saying that your video is protected by "fair use", but do you really have the tens of thousands of legal fees it will cost to fight the RIAA in court? Can you risk the up to $150,000 judgment if you lose?

You might mute the audio track, hoping to avoid direct confrontation with the RIAA. But that might be removing an essential part of your dance -- maybe the reason your dance is awesome is not because of any particularly awesome moves, but because you've put together standard moves in a way that "goes" with the music in a particularly awesome way.

But here is where things get even crazier: Even with the audio muted, the video your choreography, being based on copyrighted music, is a "derivative work", and copyright law protects the copyright owner against unlicensed derivative works. (This is why a movie must buy the rights to a book.) Even with the audio muted, you could still be sued by the RIAA for copyright infringement, again for up to $150,000.

Once again, you could think about fighting in court. To my limited knowledge, nobody's ever been successfully sued for "derivative work" copyright infringement for the video of a dance to music. Maybe there's a provision in the law, or some a previous court case which established precedent. But once again, can you afford the thousands of dollars of legal costs to fight off the RIAA?

So it looks like, if you really don't want to risk getting sued and losing tens of thousands of dollars whether you win or lose, it's better not to post the video of your dance online at all. Now the question is, is the world a better place because fear of the RIAA has thwarted you from sharing the video your dance?

Of course, this has been a parable. The moral of the story is, the power and extent of intellectual property owners has grown tremendously (historically) in recent years, so much so now that it is stifling creativity and squashing innovation, the two greatest forces for good and progress in human civilization. The fear and uncertainty, the worry of being sued, is causing people to be cautious about their creativity, choosing not to share, choosing not to build.

But let's end this story on a bright note. What happens when culture is instead allowed to be free? Let's take a look at jazz.

Probably by tradition, and because the RIAA did not exist in the early days of jazz, musicians in jazz were free to build upon the works of other jazz musicians and composers. And of course swing dance, which co-evolved with jazz, dancers were free to copy, build upon, and develop old and new swing moves. Dance can be copyrighted, but they didn't. Where would Lindy Hop be today if there were a copyright on the swing-out, and anyone who performed it had to negotiate a license with the creator of the move? Where would swing dance be today if every swing band had to negotiate a "derivative work" copyright license for every familiar "standard" they performed? Or wanting to avoid extortion by the copyright owner, every band had to have a completely different repertoire, never "covering" another song with their interpretation?

The "free culture" of jazz, the ability to share and build upon other's creativity, has given us a live an active swing dance community, a community I am thankful to be a part of, given me so many friends, and something I do for fun sometimes every night of the week.

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