For years – nay, for decades – net activists and freedom-of-speech activists have been fighting against the copyright industry’s corrupt initiatives. In country after country, the copyright industry was practically calling out for mail-order legislation, and receiving it every time.
The collateral damage to liberties has been immense, and has spilled far outside the net. In the US, people are complaining that copyright monopoly law is now unintentionally preventing them to modify items they legally own, such as cars or games consoles. They’re absolutely wrong: that was the exact intention with the most recent round of revisions to copyright monopoly law – to limit property rights and to lock people out of their own possessions. (The copyright monopoly is, and has always been, a limitation on property rights.)
Further, that collateral damage includes making messengers (“intermediaries”) liable for any damages caused by a message they carry, unless they immediately take sites offline – which they would of course rather do, rather than risking immense lawsuits. The messenger immunity was gutted around the turn of the century, by the EUCD and the DMCA alike. “Notice-and-takedown” has been abused by everybody and their corporate brother, up to and including the oil company Neste Oil who attacked a Greenpeace protest site by threatening the Internet provider of Greenpeace, thereby killing the protest site.
As activists fought – and won! – against software patent monopolies in Europe in 2005, it became clear that we couldn’t fight one bad thing after another, never having the initiative, always being on the defense against onslaught from corporate mail-order legislation. For every exhausting victory, there were nine bad laws being passed in the shadows. We had to go on the offense. We had to aspire to write the law ourselves, keeping corporate lobbyists firmly out of any corrupt influence.
On January 1, 2006, I founded the Swedish and first Pirate Party. It’s now on its tenth year, and on its second term in the European Parliament. This term, that European Parliament is revising the copyright monopoly – definitely once, possibly twice. It starts out by evaluating what works and what doesn’t with the current set of laws on the matter. And the rapporteur for that dossier – meaning “the person writing the actual legislative document” – is Julia Reda, representative for the Pirate Party from Germany.
Let’s take that again: a Pirate Party representative is writing the European Union’s official evaluation of the copyright monopoly, and listing a set of necessary changes.
In 2006, did I imagine that a pirate would be writing the European Parliament’s official evaluation of how well the copyright monopoly has worked – and what needs to be changed – in the European Union, the world’s largest economy? No, I didn’t, to be honest. But neither did I expect that the Pirate Party representatives would manage to get “three strikes” schemes outlawed across all of Europe in 2009, or take a radical reform proposal (allowing file-sharing and more) into the political mainstream in 2012. When you open the floodgates of the unrepresented, things can apparently happen fast.
Now, just because it’s a pirate writing the legislative document, that doesn’t mean that document is going to pass a vote in the European Parliament no matter what it contains. It needs to be negotiated to get majority support, as usual and as appropriate in a parliamentary democracy. The first of those votes is in the Legal Affairs committee on April 16, and the vote in the European Parliament as a whole is on May 20. So pirates aren’t “in charge”; democracy is, as it should be.
But the initiative has shifted. It is no longer solely initiated by mail-order lobbyists for corrupt incumbents who gladly sacrifice civil liberties and the entire Internet to preserve an unjust and immoral lucrative monopoly. For the first time, legislation on the matter is initiated by net liberty activists.
This shift of the initiative was what we set out to accomplish ten years ago. I think it went faster than most people had expected.