In reactions to my last column on TorrentFreak, concerning how we must go on the offensive for our freedom of speech, I saw many questions and emotions asking what it takes to get Big Monopoly – the copyright industry – to listen to the net and change their ways. A number of suggestions were made, from boycotts to petitions. Alas, this is entirely the wrong way to bring about change.
Big Monopoly has learned in the past century that when they look like a little spoiled brat having a tantrum, politicians will throw taxpayer money their way to shut them up. Therefore, this is a behavior they emulate as soon they are given a good enough excuse. It’s simply a reinforced, learned behavior.
A boycott against Big Monopoly will not work. Any noticeable drop in profits will cause them to throw a tantrum at policymakers and complain how their profits are dropping due to piracy, and request harder enforcement of their copyright monopolies at the expense of our civil liberties and the freedom of the net.
Buying more of their products (yeah, right) will not work. Any noticeable raise in profits will cause them to commission reports to policymakers illustrating their grandiose importance to the economy as a whole, suggesting that they are the direct reason for at least several hundred per cent of the gross national product. Therefore, they will argue, they need additional protection as a national interest.
Doing nothing will not work either, as we are constantly on the retreat in civil liberties.
There is no course of action or nonaction that the net or its individuals can take that would cause Big Monopoly to behave differently from today.
Attacking Big Monopoly is simply barking up the wrong tree. It’s a complete waste of effort.
Also, I’m quite concerned at the overall attitude. I see many on the net somehow trying to please the copyright industries – if they weren’t as obnoxious, would the copyright industry perhaps show a more lenient attitude…?
This attitude, I fear, is one of the most dangerous of all, for it puts the individual in a subservient position to the corporations. Reality is quite different, but we are only as powerful as we believe ourselves to be. Those who see themselves in shackles will behave with restraint. On the other side of that coin, those who refuse to accept any limitation placed upon them will find that most, if not all, limitations can be broken.
Obviously, the copyright industry’s dream is having us – the people – seek its consent for everything we do, just like they have trained politicians to do for over a century. When you discuss boycotts, you are playing straight into their game of thinking that it is the copyright industry’s desires that matter for the task of building a sustainable society.
They don’t. Their desires are irrelevant. As are they.
They are just one entrepreneur among many. The role of any entrepreneur is to construct a use case and a business case that allow them to make money, given the current constraints of technology and society. They don’t get to dismantle civil liberties, even if they can’t make money otherwise.
The target for any action isn’t the copyright industry. That’s just playing into their hands as imagined kings of the hill.
Rather, the target is – and must be – the policymakers. They are the ones who are actually cutting down on our civil liberties, not Big Monopoly. Normally, they see issues like the copyright monopoly and freedom of the net as totally peripheral to policymaking; the topics du jour are the same as they’ve been in the past 50 years: healthcare, schools, energy and defense.
This is both a problem and a blessing.
It is a problem, as they don’t realize the gravity of the situation. Most governments in the West would be completely baffled to realize that people are actually holding rallies for freedom of speech: they would not understand why. As in, “we have that already”. In their minds, we do. In ours, however, it’s being cut away.
But it is also a blessing, as they’re not politically entrenched on the issue, thinking it is peripheral. As most political parties haven’t identified themselves with one side or the other, thinking everybody were in agreement already, the policymakers can be made to turn quickly at little internal cost of prestige.
At the end of the day, there’s just one single thing that politicians care about, and that is their job. Their job must be put on the line over our freedoms of speech, or change will not happen. This was the (very successful) formula behind founding the Pirate Party in 2006.
This is also what we saw with the SOPA/PIPA battle in the United States, as politicians realized that there were a serious amount of votes to be lost or harnessed over freedoms of speech on the net. As that realization sunk in, the copyright industry’s efforts were dead in the water.
In Europe, 250 million people preserving and sharing contemporary culture in disrespect of an immoral and overreaching copyright monopoly is not “a business problem that you can put an end to”. It is a power base of 250 million voters. This is the message that policymakers must be sent in the loud and clear.
Once the policymakers get that message, the copyright industry can make their money any legal way they can or go bankrupt in the process, and nobody will care whichever way they go, not any more than you would care about the tire industry or the glass blowing industry.