Well, here’s a story we’ve heard before in a flavor we haven’t. The Swedish Young Pirates association had a tent at a local municipal festival, and were handing out free waffles as an attraction. They were targeted with eviction from the festival, not because they weren’t allowed to make food or give things away (they were), but because the traditional festival waffle makers couldn’t get paid anymore.
It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t.
As described by Gustav Nipe, chairman of Young Pirate and one of the people giving out waffles at the festival.
“Today a lady walked by and complained that we give our waffles away. Apparently, that is horrible behavior, as people are trying to sell waffles at the festival, and how could they get paid if there are free waffles?”
Instead of selling the waffles for 25 Swedish kroner [about 2.75 euros], the Young Pirates were sharing them for free.
In the minutes that followed the situation escalated quickly. Nipe tweeted, in sequence:
“… Status update on waffles: the giveaway continues. The responsible manager at the festival is busy and doesn’t have time to speak to us.”
“… Young Pirate is now being evicted from the festival. Security guards are on location, as well as the manager who has ordered the eviction.”
“… We called the police. The security guards are pulling back. No waffles being made right now. Our tent remains.”
“… Young Pirate is now making waffles again!”
Local media (in Swedish, linked above) picked up on the event rather quickly. But I think this serves as an excellent example of what’s happening in the world at large right now, even if this was a conflict over waffles in the remote parts of a frozen country the size of a shoebox on the Arctic Circle.
Guards and police are called in by businesses when there is a social or legal disturbance, on the assumption that maintaining the momentum of the economy is more important than people’s freedom to cause disruptions. But something interesting has happened lately.
The social norms have changed so much with the Internet, that business rules have changed unrecognizably for those who have run their businesses the same way for decades.
People are being pushed – no, shoved – out of their comfort zones. The waffle makers at this festival obviously viewed these youth (not of their social group) who were giving out free waffles as a social problem, for which security guards could be involved, and not a business problem, which would be their own failure:
The social norms have changed so quickly, that the forces upholding order in society have lost their ability to tell a social disturbance from a business disturbance.
The parallels to file-sharing are strong and present. If you can’t compete with the “free” that file-sharing offers, you can’t compete, period… but distribution executives around the world in monopolized copyright industries are trying to portray file sharing as a social disturbance to be dealt with forcefully, rather than a business failure.
In this, copyright industry lawyers and executives are no different from the sorry waffle sellers at this local festival who tried to get a political youth organization evicted for giving waffles to the festival visitors.