In Memory Of The Liberties Lost In The War on Piracy


In order to prevent us from discussing and sharing interesting things, the copyright industry has successfully eliminated civil liberties online. But it was all down to a wrong and stupid business assumption in the first place.

copyright-brandedThere are a couple of things we of the net generation knew all along in the so-called piracy debate that started.

The first of those things is that the copyright industry had a medical case of severe rectocranial inversion when they made the sloppy business assumption that an unlicensed copy of a movie or a piece of music was equivalent to a lost sale.

The second of those things is that it wouldn’t have mattered even if it were true (which it wasn’t), because no industry gets to eliminate fundamental civil liberties like the private letter, completely regardless of whether the continued existence of civil liberties means they can make money or not.

So we of the net generation knew all along that the copyright industry was not only wrong and stupid, but also that their assertion was – or should have been – irrelevant in the first place.

However, the copyright industry was absolutely determined to prevent people from discussing and sharing interesting things (which is what file-sharing amounts to), damn the consequences to civil liberties and society at large to hell. If you put it this way – what kind of measures would it take to physically and legally prevent people from discussing the things they want in private? – you should arrive at conclusions which make hairs rise on your arms. The measures required would amount to something beyond Orwellian, and that’s exactly what the copyright industry demanded.

Unfortunately and tragically, the politicians didn’t understand what the copyright monopoly was asking for. They regarded the Internet as some kind of novel and regulatable toy, and not as the space for private correspondence that it is. When you mistake a private conversation arena for something completely different, and regulate it like any ordinary commercial toy, disaster to civil liberties is just around the corner.

That’s exactly what happened. But what would you expect when lawmakers get their e-mail printed for them by their secretaries (yes, really), and still think they understand what the internet is.

Last week, we saw that the entire initial business assumption – that unlicensed manufacturing of music and movies had been the root cause of the collapse of profit – was utterly wrong. With unlicensed file-sharing reduced to a mere 4% in Norway, without a significant effect on revenues, it’s trivial to observe that file-sharing was never a business problem in the first place. To the contrary, we of the net generation assert confidently that sharing has a positive – not negative – correlation with sales.

So the copyright industry has successfully lobbied for laws that ban people from sharing and discussing interesting things in private, and done so from the sloppiest conceivable of false business assumptions. As a result of this dimwitted business sense combined with diehard foolhardiness, we’re left with nowhere to talk or walk in private.

It’s helpful to remember what rights have been lost to this dumb crusade, when you compare to the analog equivalent:

The right to communicate anonymously has been lost, due to the copyright industry’s lobbying. This was so fundamental a right – putting up anonymous posters – that the United States would not exist without it (see the Federalist Papers which were anonymously posted everywhere).

We no longer have the right to modify, rebuild, and repurpose our own possessions, because we may do so with an intent of discussing interesting things with our friends.cameraspy

Mail carriers no longer have messenger immunity, something that had otherwise been a sacred constant between the Roman Empire and the Dimwitted Copyright Industry.

We no longer have the legal right to point at or give directions to interesting places if what happens in that location breaks a law somewhere. (Just to illustrate the special treatment of the copyright industry here, compare this to the fact that Wikipedia has a helpful page on nuclear weapons design.)

The copyright industry has been given the right to write its own laws thanks to an intentional legal loophole that prohibits us from circumventing digital restriction measures, even when those measures prevent still-legal uses of our own possessions.

The right to send private letters is being lost, due to a long-standing tirade. The copyright industry has successfully lobbied the largest correspondence carriers today – Facebook and the like – to just ban anything they don’t like. Not long ago, if you posted a link to The Pirate Bay on Facebook, you would be interrupted by a message saying that you had discussed a forbidden subject. Imagine that happening in an old-fashioned phonecall or a conversation in the street, and you’ll realize what a horrifying development it is.

A diary has extensive protection in law against search and seizure in most legislations. However, a computer – which is far more sensitive – does not. After all, it may contain a copy of a bad movie.

The right to be presumed innocent has been lost, thanks to the copyright industry’s lobbying for things like Data Retention – laws that log all our conversations pre-emptively, whom we talk to and from where and when and how, just in case it was found out later that the copyright industry didn’t like what we discussed.

The right to have laws enforced by dedicated law enforcement has been lost – the copyright industry has successfully lobbied for laws that give them a fast lane past the slow judiciary with its irritating “due process” and other nonsense, when it comes to forcefully enforcing their commercial monopolies against dangerous single mothers. The copyright industry specifically intended to use this in combination with Data Retention above.

Did you know the copyright industry has even sued Internet Service Providers with the demand to install wiretapping-and-censorship equipment in the deepest of their switches, effectively demanding to wiretap and censor an entire country? We’re not talking about the NSA or GCHQ here, but a private dimwitted industry that are going on a crusade against its evil customers?

This is just a short list of examples. There are many more.

And these civil liberties – vital, fundamental civil liberties that aren’t passing from our parents to our children – were lost because of a damn dimwitted sloppy business assumption that turned out to be 180 degrees wrong. It’s beyond depressing. It’s enraging.

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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