[pp.int.general] Christian Engstrom on FT on July 7

Alex Foti alex.foti at gmail.com
Sun Jul 19 13:35:09 CEST 2009

for archive-minded pirates. ciao, lx

Copyright laws threaten our online freedom
By Christian Engström

Published: July 7 2009 18:10 | Last updated: July 7 2009 18:10

If you search for Elvis Presley in Wikipedia, you will find a lot of
text and a few pictures that have been cleared for distribution. But
you will find no music and no film clips, due to copyright
restrictions. What we think of as our common cultural heritage is not
“ours” at all.

On MySpace and YouTube, creative people post audio and video remixes
for others to enjoy, until they are replaced by take-down notices
handed out by big film and record companies. Technology opens up
possibilities; copyright law shuts them down.

Curb on content threatens France Telecom - Jul-07E-retailers find big
brands hard to touch - Jul-07This was never the intent. Copyright was
meant to encourage culture, not restrict it. This is reason enough for
reform. But the current regime has even more damaging effects. In
order to uphold copyright laws, governments are beginning to restrict
our right to communicate with each other in private, without being

File-sharing occurs whenever one individual sends a file to another.
The only way to even try to limit this process is to monitor all
communication between ordinary people. Despite the crackdown on
Napster, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer services over the past decade,
the volume of file-sharing has grown exponentially. Even if the
authorities closed down all other possibilities, people could still
send copyrighted files as attachments to e-mails or through private
networks. If people start doing that, should we give the government
the right to monitor all mail and all encrypted networks? Whenever
there are ways of communicating in private, they will be used to share
copyrighted material. If you want to stop people doing this, you must
remove the right to communicate in private. There is no other option.
Society has to make a choice.

The world is at a crossroads. The internet and new information
technologies are so powerful that no matter what we do, society will
change. But the direction has not been decided.

The technology could be used to create a Big Brother society beyond
our nightmares, where governments and corporations monitor every
detail of our lives. In the former East Germany, the government needed
tens of thousands of employees to keep track of the citizens using
typewriters, pencils and index cards. Today a computer can do the same
thing a million times faster, at the push of a button. There are many
politicians who want to push that button.

The same technology could instead be used to create a society that
embraces spontaneity, collaboration and diversity. Where the citizens
are no longer passive consumers being fed information and culture
through one-way media, but are instead active participants
collaborating on a journey into the future.

The internet it still in its infancy, but already we see fantastic
things appearing as if by magic. Take Linux, the free computer
operating system, or Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Witness the
participatory culture of MySpace and YouTube, or the growth of the
Pirate Bay, which makes the world’s culture easily available to
anybody with an internet connection. But where technology opens up new
possibilities, our intellectual property laws do their best to
restrict them. Linux is held back by patents, the rest of the examples
by copyright.

The public increasingly recognises the need for reform. That was why
Piratpartiet – the Pirate party – won 7.1 per cent of the popular vote
in Sweden in the European Union elections. This gave us a seat in the
European parliament for the first time.

Our manifesto is to reform copyright laws and gradually abolish the
patent system. We oppose mass surveillance and censorship on the net,
as in the rest of society. We want to make the EU more democratic and
transparent. This is our entire platform.

We intend to devote all our time and energy to protecting the
fundamental civil liberties on the net and elsewhere. Seven per cent
of Swedish voters agreed with us that it makes sense to put other
political differences aside in order to ensure this.

Political decisions taken over the next five years are likely to set
the course we take into the information society, and will affect the
lives of millions for many years into the future. Will we let our
fears lead us towards a dystopian Big Brother state, or will we have
the courage and wisdom to choose an exciting future in a free and open

The information revolution is happening here and now. It is up to us
to decide what future we want.

The writer is the Pirate party’s member of the European parliament

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