In recent years, the Swedish Green Party, which holds 19 seats in parliament, has taken a clear stance on filesharing. Following the raid on The Pirate Bay in 2006, the party board released a memo entitled “Free the files!” in which they suggested to fully legalize non-commercial filesharing.
When asked about the purpose of the memo in 2006, party spokesperson Peter Eriksson said: “Our aim is to make laws in line with the new technologies. The other option is to pretend that you can go on like you always have, although it’s practically impossible. Reality has changed.”
One of the driving forces behind the recent “I Wouldn’t Steal” campaign from the European Green parties was the Swedish politician Carl Schlyter, and his initiative seems to have spurred others in the party to join the debate. Earlier this week, an editorial was published in two local Swedish newspapers. It was titled “Filesharing is not theft” and was written by Akko Karlsson, member of the Swedish Green Party’s executive board.
In the editorial, Akko argued that filesharing can’t be compared to theft, as theft is when someone takes away the possibility for another person to use something, whereas filesharing only creates a new copy without erasing the original.
“For me, this is a generation issue,” said Akko Karlsson when TorrentFreak asked her why she decided to write the editorial. “You should always endorse the new technologies’ possibilities.”
In her editorial, Akko criticizes the entertainment industry’s failing to enter the information age with working business models:
“You could argue that filesharing hinders some people from earning as much money as they would have if filesharing was not possible. But now it is possible, the technology is there, and then the industry needs to find new ways of handling it. They’ve had the chance to work on new ways for 10 years but haven’t come up with much else than silly trailers that say filesharing is theft. [...] When new technology emerges, it’s not necessarily it that must be adapted to the old ways. Sometimes, the industry itself must adapt.”
Akko further told TorrentFreak that she’s convinced that filesharing, copyright and integrity will be important issues for Green Party in the 2009 elections for the European Parliament and the 2010 elections in Sweden.
“Because there is also the democratic aspect of this,” she says, “There are so many people under repressive regimes for whom filesharing and the Internet is the link to the rest of the world that inspires, gives hope and makes it endurable to fight for human rights and democracy. The state’s control system is expanding. We used to heavily criticize the intrusions of privacy and control systems in place behind the Iron Curtain, but now we are building this ourselves.”
In Swedish old media, there’s currently a heated argument against filesharing, with novelists like Liza Marklund and Jan Guillou using every inch of their weekly columns in Swedish newspapers to lobby for tougher measures. With the trial against The Pirate Bay coming up, the debate has sunk even deeper in the trenches. In this climate, for politicians to step up to the plate with sound arguments why filesharing should be legalized seems like a bold move.
But Akko Karlsson is not alone.
On January 31, an editorial was published in Gothenburg’s daily newspaper. It was written by Green Party’s Lage Rahm, member of Parliament, party spokesperson on IT issues and substitute member on The Committee on Industry and Trade. On the subject of the ongoing case against The Pirate Bay, he called for reason when it comes to impose tougher measures on filesharing:
“Not only is the struggle [to end illegal filesharing] doomed to fail, it also creates a risk that filesharing on the Internet becomes anonymized and encrypted. An increased availability of untraceable networks will make it harder to fight organized crime.”
As an example, Lage Rahm put forward the bust of a pedophile ring with more than 700 suspects in 33 countries last year. This was done by tracking chatrooms, downloaded photos and e-mail.
“Most people realize that the police and copyright interest groups are fighting against windmills. [...] Convicting sentences against The Pirate Bay would have merely marginal effects on the scope of illegal filesharing. More severe is that the hunt will lead to an increased interest for absolute anonymity among Sweden’s approximately 1 million filesharers. Their activity will move to untraceable darknets.”
He focused on the dangers of Internet communities going underground and concluded:
“New technologies mean we as legislators are faced with an entirely new reality. Tougher measures against filesharing means risking the police’s possibilities of fighting child pornography and organized crime. It is worrying that the Minister of Justice doesn’t seem to realize this. For The Green Party, this is one of the main arguments of legalizing non-commercial downloading. [...] The Minister of Justice should leave to the industry to clear up the mess they have made for themselves. Judicial resources should be diverted to fight severe online criminality instead of hunting filesharing sixteen-year-olds.”
So, what does this all mean for the European filesharer? Well, one thing is sure, political parties that actually have power are taking a pro-filesharing stance. A sign that things are moving forward, slowly, but in the right direction.