Reflections On The Long Fight Against The Copyright Monopoly – And What You Can Do

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It can be disheartening to see how long it takes to change the world for the better, but it's imperative to keep grinding - even if just through a choice of words.

copyright-brandedIt has been said, that nobody is as hard to convince of a fact as those whose paycheck depend on not understanding it.

This applies strongly to those copyright industry lobbyists who make a living dismantling our freedoms of speech, assembly, and opinion.

One of the more obscene arguments from the copyright industry lobby is that people who facilitate unlicensed manufacturing of culture and knowledge – breaking the copyright monopoly in the process – make money from facilitating this process, through ads and the like. At the same time, the people of the copyright industry lobby – the Dutch Tim Kuik, the Swedish Henrik Pontén, the Danish “child-porn-is-great” Johan Schlüter (yes, he said that), you all know your local antagonists – are raking in money themselves on introducing censorship, tracking and wiretapping, while somehow claiming it is immoral to do so for those who spread knowledge and culture to humanity. It is sickening, really.

We know that we are winning, only that it takes an enormous amount of time to shift the overall direction of society. We come from the Internet, we’re used to changing the world in a weekend of coding. The nightmare with today’s copyright and patent monopoly laws is that they have their origin in Industrial Protectionism (IP) in the United States directed against Japanese cars in the mid-1970s.

Yes, the anti-liberty, anti-market, and anti-humanity forces have been working for 40 years to take us where we are today. We’ve been making great strides in the past decade, but it’s going to take much more work – not to mention endurance – to save the world from a surveillance society nightmare where the copyright industry determines what we get to know, see, and learn.

The copyright industry has long been working in collusion with the wiretapping industry – the FRA, NSA, GCHQ, etc. – to get laws that enable more tracking, more wiretapping, and more surveillance. This, after all, is the only way the copyright monopoly can be preserved: by eliminating private communications as a concept. But we can turn the tide. Just look at the tipping point in public opinion brought about by Edward Snowden’s leaks, not to mention the outrage from affected politicians.

When activists fought software patent monopolies in Europe just under a decade ago, many of them burned out in the process and suffered from what can only be described as a post-traumatic stress disorder, even though the good side won the legislative process. (Which was immediately ignored by software patent monopoly lawyers, for which they should be sent to prison, but that’s a separate topic.)

That victory night, the activists met with the fell-funded corporate lobbyists where the activists had won, and the lobbyists smiled professionally, raised their glasses, and said “see you in another two years”. The corporate anti-liberty lobbyists, particularly from the copyright industry, will simply never stop. That’s why we need to strike at the root of the problem and work long-term, rather than thinking that a reduction or two in the scope of these monopolies will fix everything.

Christian Engström, one of the activists in that battle who is now an elected Member of the European Parliament, has a particularly good quote: “If you’re getting bitter and burnt out and feel you need to take a break from activism, that is always the right thing to do. There will always be something to do when you come back; you never need to worry about the world running out of evil while you’re away.”

Fortunately, there are small things that each of us can do every day that doesn’t require the exhausting effort of writing long articles or reading complex reports. When hundreds of thousands of people do these small things, it has a tremendous effect:

– Share articles with your social network on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Two kinds of articles are particularly valuable – those that expose the copyright industry’s bottomless cynicism, and those that propose a better alternative.

– Use correct language, and if you have the energy, call people out who don’t. Every time you say “copyright monopoly” instead of just “copyright”, it makes a difference. Every time you say “manufacturing their own copies” and reject “stealing movies”, it makes a difference. Every time you point out that people are manufacturing their own copies using their own property entirely, it makes a difference. Every time you point out that we never determined our freedoms of speech and expression based on who gets to make a profit or not, it makes a difference. See my previous TorrentFreak column on Language Matters.

These two simple actions, when done by tens of thousands, have an immense impact – and can be done even if you’re tired and bitter of fighting what seems like an uphill battle.

I write more about this kind of swarm intelligence in my book Swarmwise, which you can download for free, by the way. If you want more arguments against the copyright monopoly, I recommend the book “The Case for Copyright Reform”, also available for free.

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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