Read-only culture and read-write culture: What is the difference?

Larry Lessig, one of the most reputed lawyers on the Internet, mentioned in his latest book Remix that there are two terms to describe how individuals use different media: ‘read-only culture’ and ‘read-write culture’.
Read-only culture refers to the traditional mass-media culture in which media is created by the few and is consumed more or less passively by the many. It is the culture that is less practiced in performance and creativity. The content is provided by a ‘professional’ source that has full control over that particular information. A specific example of this culture is to own a book and read it only. There is nothing else that can be done with it.
In contrast, read-write culture, also known as remix culture, allows and encourages individuals who combine, rearrange and edit existing materials in a creative way to build something entirely new out of it. This culture involves a mutual interaction between users and producers, in which users become creative and they can share that creativity. Take anime music as an example: People are taking Japanese animation clips, creating a brand new music video by themselves and sharing their re-creativity. A similar example of read-write culture is videos of politicians singing popular songs.

It has been under debate whether remix culture or read-write culture should be publicly available or not since it has been restricted due to the copyright protections, which prevent users from mixing or creatively engaging cultural artifacts without obtaining legal permission.  Professor Lawrence Lessig himself considers remixing as a desirable concept for human creativity in the digital age. I personally believe that it is high time for remix culture to be acknowledged since we are no longer passive readers and we should have the privilege of using our own ideas to expand the creativity.


Below is a TED talk video of Larry Lessig. In the video, Lessig explained the ideas of these two cultures and his argument for reviving our creative culture. Hope you enjoy the video!

What about you? Do you think remix culture is a copyright violation or a tool of creativity? Please let me know by leaving your comment below!
Featured Image Source
Reference list:
Michael Eury, ‘Read Write v Read Only’, stickylearning, weblog, 25 June 2009, <> viewed 15 April 2017
Lawrence Lessig, ‘REMIX: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy’, The Penguin Press, the United States,  2008, p.28
M.J.Stephe, ‘Lawrence Lessig: Decriminalizing the Remix’, Time, 17 October 2008, <,8599,1851241,00.html>, viewed 15 April 2017
Daniel Seo, ‘“Read Only Culture vs. Read & Write Culture”, Lawrence Lessig’, Aving, Global News Network, 29 May 2006, <>, viewed 15 April 2017
Laws that choke creativity | Larry Lessig’, Youtube, TED, 2007, <>, viewed 15 April 2017
Remix culture, Wikipedia, <>, viewed 15 April 2017
read only culture (RO), Digital Culture Wiki, <>

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