Copyright Regime vs. Civil Liberties

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One of my first large keynotes, in 2007, was called Copyright Regime vs. Civil Liberties. In the 15-minute original keynote at OSCON, I outlined all the civil liberties that were at risk because of enforcement of the copyright monopoly, and that the copyright industry brutally understood these liberties needed to be killed to preserve their business. What was fringe paranoia five years ago is now becoming the law of the land.

The keynote in question shows how the copyright monopoly is fundamentally incompatible with horizontal unmonitored digital communication, and therefore, with the Internet and private communications as very concepts.

I outlined in 2007 how we could expect to see outright censorship, crackdowns on anonymity and free speech, erosion of privacy and of due process, annulment of whistleblower protections, and at length, cutbacks in the very right to form an identity. I spoke in 2007 of how child pornography was being used as a strategic excuse by the copyright lobby to create a battering ram against our fundamental liberties, even if it hurts children (which they don’t care about).

Five years later, practically all of this has either come true already or is in the pipeline. “Copyright Regime vs Civil Liberties“, indeed.

I went into politics for two reasons. The first is that the copyright monopoly is being taken care of by civil servants today. These people have three characteristics: they are not charged with seeing the whole picture, but just taking care of their lawn; they are completely unaccountable; and they are frequently lobbied by the copyright monopoly, for the two previous reasons. In contrast, a politician can say that “naw, this costs too much and upsets the balance of fundamental rights, let’s scrap it”, something a civil servant cannot.

The second reason I went into politics is that the only way to take this issue away from those same civil servants is to politicize it, and the only way to do that in turn is to take votes from the established politicians. At the end of the day, that is the only thing they care about — any other way of trying to influence policymaking is just another day at the job for them. You have to attack their job security directly. That creates change, and only that.

The most puzzling part is how senior politicians are pretending to embrace the democratizing aspects of the net as long as those aspects don’t happen in their own country. For some reason, it is perfectly possible for a politician to say that the copyright industry must be protected by dismantling the net and our civil liberties, and at the same time, say that the net must be protected against those who would rather keep their power. For anybody else, this means a choice. I made mine in 2006.

The copyright industry is a business like any other. They get to compete for money based on what they offer. They don’t get to dismantle civil liberties even if they can’t make money otherwise, and perhaps especially if they can’t make money otherwise. For some reason, the copyright industry has gotten away with doing exactly this: dismantling civil liberties.

In the United States, authorities are seizing domains on the net without any due process whatsoever, breaking the DNS namespace. This does not just stifle free speech and political speech — it also creates a wiretapping scenario as they see who is coming to visit the domain. Both of these actions would normally require a warrant, which if I were presiding, would never be granted. But they take it on word of mouth from the copyright industry.

In the United Kingdom, courts are giving themselves the right to break the net by ordering certain domains censored. They are even specifically ordering Internet Service Providers to use the previously-installed child pornography filter to censor infractions of the copyright monopoly. See? There is a reason the copyright industry loves child porn so much. If you search for the Swedish word for child porn on the copyright lobby’s Swedish site Netopia, you come up with no less than 62 articles. Unless you knew the reason for this very strong correlation between the copyright industry and child pornography, you would be very puzzled indeed.

At the same time in the United States, China and Iran are held as shining examples of countries which still have a working freedom of speech despite having given the copyright industry the privileges they want. (Even I could not have made this up; it is just too far out) And to applause from the Senate, no less. This was in the SOPA/PIPA debate, and I would have a hard time finding a better example of how completely incompatible the copyright monopoly is with fundamental rights.

In Sweden, there is hard evidence that the copyright industry and the United States was pushing for Data Retention — a fine word for logging all our communications and movements so they can be used against us in the future. This also kills reporters’ right to protect their sources, which I spoke of in 2007.

There is no shortage of further examples. I am sure you could add your own story in the comments field.

Indeed, it is copyright regime or civil liberties. Make your bets and pick your sides.

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 focuses on information policy.

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