2006_1_copyright1.gifOh, to be young and naive! The president of the Free Culture chapter at NYU got fired from her clerk job at a Manhattan intellectual property law firm. Her crime? Holding beliefs that were incompatible with the work of the firm: namely, that draconian copyright protection is bad for consumers, bad for the economy, and bad in general. Read Inga's whole story at the NYU Free Culture blog:

First, my taking a job in an IP firm was neither a subversive attempt to wreak havoc “from the inside”, nor a hypocritical denial of my Free Culture values. I was, and still am, a student interested in the scope of copyright law, and determined to pursue a career in the field. I wanted to gain an understanding both of the theory of copyright, which my work with FC provided, and its practice. The firm exposed me to the day to day operations of an IP lawyer, and I was nothing if not receptive to these lessons. I was baffled that someone saw fit to fire me over an expression of dissenting views. Doesn’t the field become richer when the wider spectrum of legal thought is explored and encouraged? Certainly, it is wrong to eject someone from their field of interest simply for exercising her first amendment rights and speaking out against the current.

What leapt out at me in rereading the article was my statement about breaking the law. I’d like to clarify that when I said “if there are laws I believe are wrong, I will break them,” I was not making a general statement. FC does not endorse reckless lawbreaking; nor do I. I made that comment in the specific context of CD’s with DRM encryption: I would hold down the shift key and download my CD onto my laptop without a twinge of guilt toward the RIAA executive sitting in his corner office and “getting squeezed.” That does not, however, make me an internal threat to a major law firm. And it’s a sad commentary on the autonomy of law firms that if one is rumored to represent Sony, it must keep its employment policy in check with the politics and business models of its clients.

We are big supporters of the Free Culture movement-- people should have the right to purchase music and video and then use it as they please. Still, it seems pretty obvious that if you are the president of the Free Culture chapter, you shouldn't be working at a law firm whose sole purpose is to protect corporate copyrights. In the same way, if you are the president of the NYU Reproductive Rights group, you shouldn't be working as an intern for the Christian Coalition. Let's hope someone at the Electronic Freedom Foundation is listening-- and can give Inga a new job! Good luck, girl!