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Lawrence Liang, June 2007 taken by Joi Ito
Lawrence Liang is a legal researcher and lawyer based in the city of Bangalore, who is known for his legal campaigns on issues of public concern. He is a co founder of the Alternative Law Forum, and by 2006 had emerged as a spokesperson against the politics of "intellectual property". His family is of Chinese origin but settled down in Kolkata many years ago.
Liang's key areas of interest are law, popular culture and piracy. He has been working closely with Sarai, New Delhi on a joint research project Intellectual Property and the Knowledge/Culture Commons. Liang is a "keen follower of the open source movement in software", Lawrence Liang has been working on ways of translating the open source ideas into the cultural domain. Segments of an interview with Liang commenting extensively on copyright and culture are featured in Steal This Film (Two).
Liang is author of "Sex, laws and Videotape: The Public is watching" and "Guide to open content licenses," published by the Piet Zwart Institute in 2004.
Alternative Law Forum
In an interview, Liang described the Alternative Law Forum thus: "(The) Alternative Law Forum provides legal support for people marginalized on the basis of class, race, caste, gender, disability or sexuality. We provide services for people who often have no access to them. Our main work is to conduct research on issues of globalization, urban studies, gender, as well as intellectual property and public domain."
The Alternative Law Forum, he says, also does some policy work, "for example with regard to an amendment to the (Indian) copyright act that basically tries to follow the DMCA (US Digital Millennium Copyright Act) model."
It has critiqued and influenced the debate on changes in the Indian Copyright Act. " We were trying to oppose that, showing how such a law would be harmful for creative innovation. Right now we are also supporting a campaign in pharmaceutical policies. But our focus is not so much on policy advocacy, because you cannot really defend the grey economy and be on policy bodies. With regard to government, we try to push for the open source model, arguing that public money should go into public intellectual property," Liang said in the December 2004 interview to World-Information.org.
Law, technology, culture, copyright
Another profile describes Lawrence Liang as someone whose "key areas of interest are law, technology and culture [and] the politics of copyright". Liang has been working with Sarai, New Delhi on a joint research project Intellectual Property and the Knowledge/Culture Commons.
Open source ideas into the cultural domain
The profile also adds: "Lawrence (Liang) has been working on ways of translating the open source ideas into the cultural domain. He has written a number of articles on copyright, free software and media practices, and in collaboration with Sarai also wrote the license for OPUS, an online collaborative platform for artists and media practitioners. In 2004 he was a Research Fellow at Media Design Research, Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam."
In an article titled "Shoot, Share and Create", Liang argues strongly that it makes sense for "documentary and alternative filmmakers in India (to) start licensing their works under an open content license".
The article details Liang's early interest in documentary films. His reasons for suggesting a rethink of licensing policies among alternative and documentary film-makers in India include:
- Distribution, a major headache now: One of the biggest problems faced by documentary filmmakers in India has been the question of circulation and distribution. This is an issue which has been discussed in a number of meetings as well as online.
- If the work were available freely (again note this does not mean that you cannot charge for the documentary, but means that a person who has bought a copy may make a copy and distribute it to others), there would be far greater circulation of documentaries amongst other filmmakers, students, activists, scholars and general public.
- Filmmakers don't live off royalty: More important is the fact that most documentary filmmakers do not live off royalty in any case. Their films are either commissioned or they earn some money from various prizes, invitations and the like.
- Another issue, of course, is to recognise the hundreds and thousands of influences and inspirations that have gone into our own films. We need to work beyond the assumed myths of copyright law, and develop alternative practices that recognise the multiplicity that goes into the making of a film.
Liang is the author of A Guide To Open Content Licences. This is described as a guide to how we can "share culture in a world where everything has a license". This short book(let)'s introduction says: "Scientists, writers, designers, artists, musicians and others are increasingly interested in making their work available in 'the public domain'. This booklet is an overview of the ways in which this has been done and a guide to the growing area of Open Content Licenses through which people design and safeguard access to their work."
Liang also contributes to the blog kafila.org.
Liang is a graduate from the National Law School of India University, and pursued a Master's degree in Warwick, England on a Chevening Scholarship. He was a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan School of Information and the Center for South Asian Studies as part of the Hughes Fellowship in 2014.
- "你不属于：印度电影的过去与未来"（影展）暨印中电影与社会思想对话（论坛） (in Chinese). Artron. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
- "Our Team". Alternative Law Forum. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
- "Willem de Kooning Academie | pzwart.nl". Pzwart.wdka.hro.nl. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- http://world-information.org/wio/readme/992003309/1102877551[dead link]
- "Welcome to the Piet Zwart Institute". Piet Zwart Institute. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- http://www.altlawforum.org/intellectual-property/publications/articles-on-copyright-and-culture/shoot-share-and-create/[dead link]
- "Yahoo Groups". Groups.yahoo.com. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- "Posts by Lawrence Liang". Kafila. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Lawrence Liang (22 February 1999). "Free as in Soul: The Anti-image Politics of Copyright". Freesouls.cc. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Henok Mikre. "Dick Kawooya – Advisor". Policy.hu. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lawrence Liang.|
- Alternative Law Forum website
- Guide to Open Content Licences
- Copyright/Copyleft: Myths About Copyright by Lawrence Liang, et al.
- Shoot, share and create: Looking beyond copyright makes sense in film by Lawrence Liang
- Public Domain in India. An interview with Lawrence Liang
- The Other Information City by Lawrence Liang
- The Black and White (and Grey) of Copyright by Lawrence Liang
- Free as in Soul by Lawrence Liang