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The Pirate Party: Rethinking Copyright
Jon Lebkowsky, 22 Aug 06

copyme-cover-lores.pngRickard Falvinge is running for Swedish Parliament on a single issue – he'sfounder and candidate of the new Pirate Party, or Piratpartiet, which opposes strong copyright protection and supports file sharing. The party doesn't oppose all copyright, but it believes that all non-commercial copying and use should be completely free, file sharing and p2p networking should be encouraged rather than criminalized, and copyright term should be limited to five years after publication. When Sweden's Pirate Bay, a site that catalogs files available for download via BitTorrent, was raided by police and (temporarily) shut down recently, Falvinge spoke at the demonstration that followed, saying that copyright is not about protecting intellectual property, but about asserting control over culture.

Several hundred years passed, then came the freedom of the press. Still, everywhere, the same old model of communication was used: one who speaks, and many that listen. The government liked that, and founded a system with a legally responsible publisher.

Surely, the citizens are allowed to learn, but there shall always be someone responsible, in case - perish the though - they learn wrong.

And this is what is basically changing today. Internet is not following that model. We are not only downloading culture and knowledge anymore; we are also uploading to others. We are sharing files. The knowledge and the culture have, amazingly enough, lost the central point of control.

Falkvinge's position is popular in Sweden, where, according to Wired News, file sharing is an institution. Sweden's Piratbyran ("Bureau of Piracy") is a think tank, or perhaps a rethink tank that opposes established ideas about intellectual property, arguing that information and culture should be shared freely.

[Cofounder Rasmus] Fleischer says the Piratbyran's message isn't so much about fighting the copyfight as explaining to the other side that they've already lost. "Their business model won't work with digital technology," he says.

In Fleischer's world, the Motion Picture Association of America and rights holders are attacking digital technology itself, trying to hang on to an outdated model. "It's an inevitability that digital data will be copied.... The alternative to peer-to-peer piracy is person-to-person piracy," he says. While some online pirates take pains to distinguish themselves from those who sell counterfeit DVDs and CDs, he sees such physical bootlegging as just "a symptom of underdeveloped computer networks."

When asked about compensation for artists, both men reject the language itself. No artist sits down to "create content," Fleischer says. "Culture has always been heterogeneous," and money is only one way of rewarding creativity. The idea of a rights holder, like a record label or movie studio, that patronizes and distributes human creativity is, for Fleischer, "a very strange utopia that has never existed."

But Piratbyran is not dedicated to copyright or patent abolition -- it has no legislative agenda. It holds a nuanced view of the created work itself: Each work must find its own social and economic niche. "I don't think of this (as) the big battle," says Fleischer, "but thousands of microbattles."

Obviously not everyone in Sweden supports file sharing or "piracy"; even Piratbyran "acknowledges that file sharing can do real harm to rights holders." However the genie is out of the bottle, and it seems evident that we have to rethink intellectual property and the business models it supports.

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Comments

At last, a solution to global warming! As the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster shows, the reduction in pirates worldwide correlates EXACTLY with the rise in global temperature.

Vote for the Pirate Party and save the glaciers!


Posted by: gmoke on 22 Aug 06

I could not disagree more.

I make my living writing and selling software. The views these people promote would make me a slave. The type of software I write takes a long time (first product took me 2 years to write and all my life savings and was then squashed by an industry event - second product took two years to write and all my life savings (for the second time) to launch and I am just breaking even. If these people had their way I'd have no income at all - the same definition as a slave - work for no return, except that a slave is provided housing and food, which of course I would be denied by having no income.

If they want to say Software Patents should only last for 5 years, then yes I agree. But for copyright - No.

Sorry about anonymous, but I don't want them focusing on me.

Michelle


Posted by: Anonymous on 23 Aug 06

>
> The views these people promote would make me a >slave.
>

Well then, you are a slave already. You would be well served to investigate a line of work that you actually enjoy and doesn't make you feel trapped in such an oppressively deterministic* environment.

Add value to the community and you will get value back, even, yes, monetarily. Plus, you won't feel like a slave.

You'll have the satisfaction of knowing that your work is helpful to all who need it, not just those with a credit-card.

>
>Software Patents should only last for 5 years,
>

it sounds like you are an independant developer trying to make a living off of 1-2 small programs. As such you should not support software patents of any kind. Name the top US software patent holding companies. Every one of them could sue you and win, if you ever got important enough to them to do so. Hopefully you never have to learn this the hard way.


*comp-sci definition


Posted by: Ryan Moszynski on 23 Aug 06

Michelle;

Proprietary software, which you seem to create, is without freedom for both the developer and the user. If you were instead working to create Free Software you would have a great pool of Free Software produced by the worldwide community of other Free Software developers available for use. The code is on the open and developers are there willing to cooperate. This cooperation would cut your development costs and increase chances of your software being adopted, ultimately providing means of commercial return.

Free Software is not about altruism and working for free. It is simply about freedom for software users and developers. It is about level playing field, a truly free market within the digital realm where everyone can benefit.

You are much closer to slavery now that you are making proprietary software, than you would be if you cooperated with the community and shared your work in exchange for the value themselves will share with you.

And if you have doubts about commercial viability maybe you should read this story: http://lxer.com/module/newswire/view/64720/index.html

It presents just one of the examples where Free Software (as in freedom) works for the benefit of all parties involved. Programmer gets the money for his skills, user gets the exact features they wanted and the community overall benefits of the added value.

Consider it. There is a better way and you don't even have to sacrifice so much to follow it, if at all really.

Thank you
Danijel


Posted by: libervisco on 23 Aug 06

Don't you know that copyright law is the opiate of the masses?


Posted by: Karl Lessig on 27 Aug 06



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