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Wired: We Pledge Allegiance to the Penguin

Oct 29, 2004, 19:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Julian Dibbell)

"Late one tropical evening last year, a small delegation of American online-rights activists and scholars--including Stanford's Lawrence Lessig, Harvard's William Fisher, and John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation--sat in the living room of a beachfront Rio de Janeiro penthouse, preaching the virtues of Internet-powered cultural sharing to Brazil's newly appointed minister of culture. The minister himself, Gilberto Gil, sat on the floor, cross-legged and barefoot, cradling an acoustic guitar in his lap. In addition to being one of Brazil's most high-profile politicians, Gil is also one of its biggest pop stars, with almost four decades of classic back catalog to his name. It was unclear, therefore, just how Gil would respond to the Americans' pitch: an online music archive that might one day contain every Brazilian song ever recorded, all downloadable for free. When they finished laying out the ambitious plan, there was silence. Gil strummed a contemplative chord or two, and then, as Lessig and Fisher eyed each other in polite bafflement, the minister launched into a five-minute, unplugged performance of the bossa nova standard 'Formosa.' Free of charge..."

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