Interview with Pirate Party Leader: "These are Crucial Freedoms": Page 2

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The Pirate Party Platform

For Falkvinge, the current efforts to protect and expand copyright and patents are a repeat of history. He begins his discussion of copyright by noting that the Catholic Church's response to the printing press and its ability to spread alternative viewpoints was to have the technology banned in France in 1535.

Even more significantly, in England, the response was a commercial monopoly on printing. Although England did enjoy a copyright-free period following the deposition of James II in 1688, it was restored in 1709 by the Statute of Anne. A major influence on the restoration of copyright were arguments by the monopolists that copyright would benefit writers.

In fact, Falkvinge says, "Copyright has always been for the benefit of publishers. Never, ever, for creators. Creators have been used as an excuse for copyright laws -- and it's still like that, 300 years later. Politicians still buy the rhetoric that was used in 1709 -- that's three hundred bloody years ago."

Today, Falkvinge describes copyright as "a limitation of property rights" that has serious consequences for civil liberties. For Falkvinge, the efforts by groups such as movie and music distributors to enforce and expand copyright threatens what he calls "the postal secret" -- the ability to have private communications via public or commercial services.

Furthermore, the worldwide efforts to make Internet service providers responsible for the contents they carry undermines "messenger immunity." "That's like prosecuting the postal services because we know they happen to be the nation's largest distributors of narcotics," Falkvinge explains by way of analogy.

Still another issue is freedom of the press, both for journalists and whistle blowers. "If you can't tell a scandal to the press without knowing that private interest groups and law enforcement are going to read it on the way to the press, then what are you going to write about? Well, nothing will be able to be uncovered, because no one will come forward. Then what are you going to use freedom of the press for? Writing press releases?"

In Falkvinge's view, copyright should be reserved for commercial distribution only, and severely restricted; five years would be a reasonable amount of time, he suggests. "Copyright needs to get out of honest people's bedrooms. Copyright is actually clad in police uniforms and making dog raids on honest people. That's unacceptable."

He also believes that private copying is a social benefit, arguing that "We know that society advances when culture and knowledge spread among citizens. So we want to encourage all non-commercial copying."

In the same way, the Pirate Party opposes patents -- especially in software, but also in other areas.

"All patents, at their base, are innovation inhibitors," he maintains. "Patents delayed the industrial revolution by thirty years. They delayed the advent of the North American avionics industry by another thirty years, until the first world war broke out, and the US government confiscated the patents. It delayed radio for five years." Today, he suggests, advances in electric cars and eco-friendly infrastructure are similarly blocked by patents.

"We're seeing the Catholic Church reaction all over again," Falkvinge says. "When there's a disruptive and equalizing technology, the establishment doesn't attack the people who are trying to become equal. They attack the technology that enables that. This happens all over the world. The establishment is attacking the Internet.

“The excuses vary. In China, it's control. In Southeast Asia, it's public morals. In other places, it's law and order. In Egypt, I believe, the reason is keeping true to the faith -- Islam, in their case. In the US, there are three major excuses: copyright, terrorism, and pedophiles. These excuses are being used to crack down on the greatest equalizer of people ever invented.

"This is what is at stake in the debate. It's vital civil liberties that need to be eroded or abolished in order to maintain a crumbling monopoly for obsolete industries. It's understandable that an obsolescent industry is fighting for its life, but it's up to the politicians to say that, no, we're not going to dismantle civil liberties, just so you don't have to change. Get out, and adopt or die."

It’s in this situation, Falkvinge argues, that the Pirate Party's perspective becomes so important.

The Pirate Party is "taking a stance on civil liberties that politicians don't understand. They're listening to lobbies and attacking civil rights at an alarming rate."

The pro-copyright lobby's efforts may be ultimately futile -- Falkvinge likens their position to taking a stance against organic carbon compounds, for all the good they will do -- but he also warns that the lobby could do considerable damage before they are overtaken by inevitability.

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Tags: open source, software, free software, Copyright

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