Return Of The High Court And Low Court

Opinion

If we have learned anything from the wars over the copyright monopoly, it is that the high court and low court have returned. Being equal before the law is a key cornerstone of our society that people don't even pretend is reality anymore.

trialIn the Middle Ages, there were sometimes two sets of justice systems.

A “high court” for nobility, where people would be sentenced to pay a fine, issue a formal apology, or to lead armies into would-be colonies for ten years and return as rich as dragons. And a “low court” for the common folk, where people would be sentenced to branding, have their hands cut off, or sometimes just thrown in jail if it was a petty offense; like killing another commoner, which was a lesser offense than stealing from merchants.

When I grew up, school taught me that democracies in the West are proud of how everybody is equal before the law. It was not until I became a full-time politician that I realized what a joke this is.

In reality, the high courts and low courts have been reintroduced in silence. When Sony BMG broke into millions of computers worldwide in 2005, rootkitting them to disable their ability to run instructions that would violate Sony’s own interpretation of its copyright monopoly, Sony was sentenced to send out marketing material for its own products and no individual executives were charged. When LulzSec members were arrested for breaking into systems in the singular, they get the low court treatment.

When a commoner is accused of violating the copyright monopoly, in some draconian countries like France, they can be sent into social exile without even getting a trial in the low court. In contrast, the noble Voddler (a video-on-demand service) violated the GPL egregiously by using free software to build its service — but without resharing the code, thus violating the copyright monopoly that GPL builds on, and for thoroughly commercial purposes. They were never prosecuted. In contrast, they are now speaking at hearings in parliaments on how successful they are.

As a politician, I have learned that the rights of the commoners are never enforced against the noble, but that the monopolies of the noble are always enforced against commoners. This is not being equal before the law. When did this division of people happen? How did some become more equal than others?

And don’t get me started on how the copyright nobility sat at the tables of the ACTA drafting, but where the rest of us creators — who only hold just as strong monopolies in theory — were mere commoners who should not interfere with the regulations of the monopoly on truth and culture.

There are many more examples. In Sweden and several other countries, commoners have to pay a fee to the copyright nobility just to play their own music — as in their singlehandedly composed and performed music — in their own hair styling salon.

This is just a symptom. The high and low courts go well beyond the scope of the copyright monopoly.

Isn’t it about time we reconquered democracy and abolished the high and low courts? Again?

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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