A Tipping Point Against The Copyright Monopoly Regime Is A Lot Closer Than You Think

Opinion

When I founded the Swedish Pirate Party and decided to change the political landscape of the copyright monopoly, I frequently told reporters that the plan was to change Sweden, Europe, and the world - in that order. They usually backed away wondering whether I was serious, so I laid out the plan for them.

The key to changing the world’s copyright monopoly regime lies in Europe and the European Union. The reason for that is that the United States is completely dependent on a number of Industrial Protectionism (IP) schemes since the failure of its industrial capacity in the mid-1970s, having moved ahead from that failure with disguising lopsided rent-seeking schemes as “free trade agreements”. The first of these was the WTO, the body created to oversee the TRIPs agreement. There have been many more since. You cannot change the United States from within on these matters.

Externally, the United States puts significant unilateral pressure on any country that doesn’t submit to these agreements, up to and including trade sanctions. (You will not have a hard time finding a case where the United States has threatened a country with trade sanctions or visa problems for having a too lax copyright monopoly regime, for example – the U.S. even does this on a regular basis in something named the “Special 301 Report”.) That’s why Europe is key to change.

Europe has the world’s largest economy, slightly larger than that of the United States. (China is in third place.) For trade sanctions to be effective, they have to be directed against a smaller player. This is why the United States can have effective trade sanctions against Cuba, but not the other way around. Therefore, the United States cannot execute trade sanctions against Europe without getting hurt more itself.

However, the laws and enforcement of the copyright monopolies, patent monopolies and other protectionism schemes are at the national level in the European Union. That means that a state in Europe can change its laws significantly, and still enjoy the shield against trade sanctions that comes with being a member of the European Union. (The country may get some heat within the EU, but that’s not going to have any consequences if there is political momentum in the direction of the change. EU rules are routinely ignored when politically inconvenient.)

So Sweden could change its copyright monopoly laws and be free to ignore the rattling of American sabers, knowing safely that the threats cannot be put into effect. So could Poland or Germany, if there was political will. But Sweden is not a very interesting country in terms of political clout. It was just meant to be the proof of concept; the important first stage.

Remember: Sweden, Europe, and the world. In that order.

(As a side note, countries in Latin America also have a politically expedient climate for this change and the gradual dismantling of Industrial Protectionism schemes, but lack the necessary shield from an economic union, and even so, their combined economy is roughly half of that of the US or the EU – not enough on its own.)

On June 7, 2009, the proof of concept materialized as the Swedish Pirate Party took two out of Sweden’s twenty seats in the European Parliament. That sent shockwaves through the political establishment. I thought that this would be the signal for Pirate Parties to form in more countries, seeing that success was achievable; that was actually wrong. There were already Pirate Parties in some fifty different countries by that date. Things had moved much faster than I had anticipated.

To see why Europe is the next step, we need to understand the political dynamics of the Industrial Protectionism supporters (copyright monopoly and patent monopoly rooters). These schemes have essentially been forced onto Eastern Europe by the countries in the west of Europe – notably the UK, France, and Germany. But tides are changing. In the European Parliament, there is now an estimated one-half still in favor of monopolistic protectionism, one-third sceptical or against it, and one-sixth undecided. Shift that balance by more than a sixth, and the protectionist dismantlers will get political majority.

But there’s more than just the European Parliament. Europe is run in many different ways in parallel, and I mentioned the UK, France, and Germany. It is enough to win one of those three countries to tip the political majority in Europe toward the line of the countries in Eastern Europe: the political line exposing copyright monopolies and patent monopolies of today for lopsided rent-seeking schemes that are generally bad for everybody with the possible exception of the United States.

Let’s take a closer look at Germany. The Pirate Party there has enjoyed quite a bit of success, but has come tumbling back down to a more baseline level of support after failing to live up to extreme amounts of hype around the party. If it manages to get a kingmaker position in the German Parliament, it has the power to shift Germany’s stance completely on these matters (and the other parties would gladly give up such a peripheral issue – peripheral to them, anyway – in exchange for the Office of Chancellor).

To do this, the German Piratenpartei needs 5% in the elections on September 22 of this year. If that happens, and the kingmaker move succeeds, then there will be a majority in Europe against copyright monopolies and patent monopolies.

The German Piratenpartei is currently polling at 3%-4%.

Just another small nudge forward for the German Piratenpartei, and Germany is won. The instant Germany is won, Europe is won.

And the day that Europe decides that it is not going to honor protectionistic monopolies, then that’s just the way it is. The day the world’s largest economy (Europe) decides that copyright monopolies are bullshit, they will practically cease to exist overnight elsewhere, too. The same goes for any gradual dismantling.

In other words, we are ridiculously close to a tipping point which will end this destructive war on information, knowledge, and culture. We are ridiculously close to a tipping point which will start dismantling the atrocious copyright and patent monopolies, worldwide. Specifically, we are about 1.5% of political support in Germany away from that tipping point.

The plan was to win Sweden, Europe, and the world. In that order. And it’s executing brilliantly.

About The Author

Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.

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