Why It’s Important For Each Of Us To Explain And Keep Explaining The Net And Its Civil Liberties

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We're all used to changing society over a weekend of coding. But changing the values of society takes much, much longer than that, and it requires all of us to keep patiently explaining what we understand to those who don't. Here's a primer on how.

I founded the Swedish and first Pirate Party on January 1, 2006. The party has now spread to 70 countries. When it was founded, I saw it as a really long project – from January of 2006 to September 17 of the same year, when the elections were held. I considered this timespan to be almost overkill in terms of changing the values of society.

It didn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way. Changing society for the better takes time. It’s easy to laugh at it in retrospect, but I’m taking the opportunity to share my experience and underscore the importance of understanding it. We were elected to the European Parliament in 2009, which was still record time.

What strikes me is that after seven years, I still find myself explaining the most basic concepts of why there is a conflict between the copyright monopoly and private communications as a concept, and every time I explain it patiently, the penny drops for a few more people. That’s how you change society for the better. You explain, explain, and explain again, until you are blue in the face. You need to increase society’s understanding one person at a time, one article at a time.

In marketing, they say that a message hasn’t started to take hold until you personally are absolutely fed up to your limits of sanity with hearing yourself saying it. That’s how it works. That’s how it works when teaching the world what we understand – in particular, the key insight that the copyright monopoly cannot coexist with fundamental civil liberties.

I’ll be returning to that insight and how you – yes, you – can share it. But first, let’s establish that all of us are in different social contexts, and have different experiences and skills in expressing ourselves. When an old insight is communicated in a new context or in a new form of expression, it can reach new people – sometimes, a lot of new people.

We’re used to changing the world in a weekend of coding. We come from the Internet, after all. We’re used to a very long project being on a timescale of weeks. Changing the world and defending civil liberties is a project on a timescale of years, possibly decades – and it’s up to us to do something small every day to make it happen, for the simple reason that nobody else is going to do it for us, as they haven’t understood the importance and connected the dots as we have. It’s up to us to explain it with the skills, words, and expressions that we have at our disposal.

Let’s take one such new expression as an example – the movie TPB AFK by Simon Klose, a movie that documented the banana-republic level miscarriage of justice that was the trial against the two operators of The Pirate Bay, its media spokesperson, and a fourth unrelated person. For all of us readers here at TorrentFreak and similar newsflows, it was old news, and we mostly saw the movie as a valuable expression of our own experiences at the time.

But others were knocked over backwards by the film’s message and its frank, factual documentation. Even people who are quite close to me, people to whom I had been describing all these events in real time with as they played out (and with all the anger that the thorough corruption of the Swedish justice system deserved) called me after having seen the movie – and they were downright devastated. They had no idea of the bigger picture that the movie managed to portray.

Most of us are geeks. We can take it as a personal insult when somebody tells us a fact twice, even if years pass between the two occasions: did they think we weren’t paying attention to what they were saying, or did they think we wouldn’t remember? However, reality outside of our sphere – where the battle of civil liberties, ours and others, are won or lost – is different. And it’s up to us to explain what we know, because people who don’t understand these key concepts are unable to share the the knowledge until we have shared it with them.

It’s a bit like a key message in the movie “Terminator: Salvation”, where people are listening to radio broadcasts from the Resistance, and wondering aloud who the resistance are – and then, the broadcast ends with these words: “If you are hearing this message, you are the resistance”. That’s exactly it.

If you are reading this column, you understand these crucial issues better than most, and therefore have a responsibility toward the civil liberties of yourself and everybody else to explain what you understand about the importance of free speech, the messenger immunity, and a free internet to people around you, in ways that you are personally comfortable with.

If you want a couple of key articles as a primer in explaining why the copyright monopoly cannot coexist with freedom of speech and communications as a concept, and why surveillance is bad, I’d recommend these two which contains reasoning and logic I’ve used successfully for the past seven years:

The Analog Letter explains why the copyright monopoly at today’s level cannot coexist with the concept of a private letter, and how it’s absolutely reasonable that our children have the same civil liberties that our parents had, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the copyright monopoly must be scaled back, and copyright industry profits are irrelevant to the discussion.

Debunking the dangerous “Nothing to fear, nothing to hide” debunks just that dangerous and blatantly false saying of “if you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide”, which is wrong on so many levels. (A short retort to that one is “I lock the door when I go to the bathroom, despite nothing unusual going on in there – I just think I have a right to keep it to myself”, which will make some of people think.)

Read them both, and start talking about them, wherever you are, in ways that you are comfortable with. Not just once, but for at least the next decade. Happy changing the world – one conversation, one person at a time. You are the resistance.

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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