Political scientists have this concept called “natural rights”. It’s a right you have innately, even if there is no law enforcement or indeed any government. Such rights include the right to think freely, the right to use your senses, the right to speak your mind, and the right to hold property (starting with your own body).
In contrast, laws that restrict such rights cannot exist without a government to enforce such laws. This is crucial to understanding what can be considered a starting point for society; if you have a blank slate, what laws and rights exist before you’ve put the first ink to paper.
The copyright industry tries repeatedly to portray itself as in the moral right from a high horse, when advocating restrictions to copying and sharing. That’s not just wrong, it’s also blatantly dishonest and false, and knowingly so. The copyright monopoly is a protectionist mechanism, a remnant from before the free-enterprise reform of the mid-1800s, that has no place in a society built on creativity and innovation. The monopoly is not just destructive and wrong, but also draconian and arbitrary.
Let’s examine how natural rights come into play when sharing knowledge and culture.
To create a bitstream of a file, say Gameofthrones.s05e10.1080p.WOOT.mkv, we observe that this file exists somewhere. We use our own senses, and technology extensions to our own senses using our own property (a computer, a router, network cables, etc.), to observe the existence of this stream, and the bitpattern that makes up particular stream. After observing what the bitpattern looks like, we rearrange our own property – magnetic fields on our hard drive – to match what we are observing with our senses.
From a natural rights perspective, this is identical to a painter using their property – paint, brushes, bristles – to record onto a canvas what they’re seeing with their eyes. It’s not just perfectly fine, it’s completely expected behavior.
Now, it may be that exercising natural rights in this case interferes with dreamed-up business models by the copyright industry. But natural rights don’t take a back seat to somebody’s imaginary right to profit. They’re on a different level altogether. While there are laws that limit natural rights, they are generally seen as hideously immoral and to be practiced with enormous restraint.
However, the conclusion here is that copying is the natural state, a mere exercise of natural rights, and restriction of such copying is an arbitrary and draconian intrusion into natural rights, an anachronistic remnant from the pre-free-enterprise era which has no place in the age of the Internet.
Finally, I said that the copyright industry is “knowingly” deceptive on this point. By that, I am referring to the fact that they keep reiterating that people who are exercising their natural rights are “stealing”, despite the U.S. Supreme Court clearly having ruled the opposite, which they are well aware of, and also that the copyright industry has been explicitly banned by court from using such deceptive and disingenuous language.
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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