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Rick Falkvinge: Pirate ideas reflect reality

Rick Falkvinge (Photo: Carl Johan Rehbinder)

Politicians of the old school tend to regard the Internet solely as a law enforcement issue or a trade or industry issue. The younger generation sees it as a civil liberties issue, which is one of our basic points.

Rickard Rick  Falkvinge is a Swedish entrepreneur  known as the founder and first party leader of the Swedish Pirate Party and campaigner for next – generation civil liberties and sensible information policy.

He is currently a political evangelist with the party, spreading the ideas across the world. His party became the largest in the below-30 demographic in the 2009 European Elections. Since beginning he went through a lot to keep party alive.   When not doing politics or exploring technical subjects in detail, his passions are  cooking, sampling a scotch whisky, or riding a fast motorcycle.

This year Rick  is coming to talk about how bloggers can change the world, but before you come to BlogOpen 2011 we do some interviewing with him in order to reveal some of his thoughts.

BO :  How do you comment the “Berlin success” of the Pirate party?

Rick : While it was a fantastic feeling to be there, it was expected that the German Pirate Party would have a major success soon. They have been growing steadily and predictably over the past few years. We see a lot of parallels to when the Swedish Pirate Party succeeded in the European Elections in 2009. and became the largest party for people under 30, getting a full 25% of those votes.

The party exists in some 50 countries, growing everywhere. Overall, we are communicating ideas and learning from failures and successes alike much, much faster than any generation before us.

BO:  Do you expect it to be repeated in other countries? It depends on what?

Rick : Absolutely. I expect Pirate Parties to be represented in many, if not most, European parliaments within a decade. We see how important these issues are to the younger generation.

Politicians of the old school tend to regard the Internet solely as a law enforcement issue or a trade or industry issue. The younger generation sees it as a civil liberties issue, which is one of our basic points. As the younger generation feels increasingly disenfranchised by the older politicians who don’t live much of their lives online, I expect this to reflect in the election results.

BO : How do you understand support you have in (part) of the online community?

Rick : I think it was very well reflected in social news reporting. The success of the Pirate Party in Berlin was on the front page of Digg, on the front page of Slashdot and twice in parallel on the front page of Reddit. No other political party comes anywhere close to this kind of social online worldwide presence.

Also, we come from the online community. Just like the Greens enjoyed large support among biologists and field researchers, which is where they come from, it is no surprise that we have a large support in the communities where we were born. After all, it is there that the issues are most thorougly understood.


BO : What would be the impact on creators, copyright owners, if your ideas about free sharing are to be implemented in local and general law practice?

Rick : First, these are two different questions. The creators are distinctly different from the middlemen who generally are the copyright monopoly beneficiaries (the “copyright owners”).

The creators are doing better than ever. The average income for musicians have risen 114% since the advent of file sharing, according to a Norwegian study. Swedish and UK studies show similar numbers. It’s the parasitic middlemen that are no longer needed that are in trouble — as for the actual creators, file sharing has been the greatest transfer of wealth from executives to artists since the start of recorded music.

As for the parasitic middlemen, the monopoly beneficiaries, they are no longer needed. Nobody needs producers and transporters of silly round pieces of plastic any more. On a functioning market, they would therefore disappear. However, the copyright monopoly presents significant resistance to this happening. We can’t therefore speak of a functioning market.

The record industry likes to cry blood and claim the music industry is dying. However, it is the record industry that is dying, which is excellent for artists. The music industry is doing just fine.

The creators are much better off when a parasitic middleman who has taken 90-95 percent of the cut out is out of the picture.

Second, the question assumes that our ideas would change the world if written into law. Our ideas already reflect reality. 250 million Europeans share culture and knowledge outside of, and in violation of, the copyright monopoly. Updating the law to reflect reality would not change a thing except make 250 million Europeans not criminal. Those who make money today, will make money tomorrow. We want to change the map, not reality.

Third, the instance somebody goes from plinking their guitar in their kitchen to wanting to make money off of it, they are no longer an artist but an entrepreneur. The same rules apply to them as to every other entrepreneur on the planet: they need to offer something which somebody else is prepared to pay for. If they can do that, they don’t need any laws to prop up their business. If they cannot do that, no conceivable law is going to save their business. We don’t have special laws for different kind of entrepreneurs: there are no special laws for bricklayers, not for electricians, and not for record label executives, that guarantee some sort of profit. There is no such right for any business.

In particular, the objective of any business is to make money, given the current constraints of technology and society. No business gets to dismantle citizen’s rights — even if, repeat, EVEN if they can’t make money otherwise.

Fourth, the copyright monopoly is no natural right. It is a monopoly, awarded under the assumption that culture would not be created if the monopoly isn’t awarded, with the public as the only stakeholder. With the rapid growth of Creative Commons, where literally millions of artists and creators are rejecting their already-awarded monopoly, this assumption is in dire need of revisiting as it appears to be plainly wrong.

BO :What about writers, should they look for a steady job, as they would not earn anything for what they are doing?

Rick : This exact question was asked in 1849, as the British Parliament considered public libraries. The publishers claimed, that if anybody could read any book without paying for it, it would be impossible to make a living as an author. As a result, nobody would write books anymore. Parliament ignored them, considering public access to culture and knowledge to be more important than publishers being paid for everybody to have their own copy of a book, and the first public library opened in the UK in 1850. (Publishers actually called for a ban on people lending books to one another, calling it theft.)

Anyway, as we all know, no books have indeed been written after 1850. Either that, or the assumption that it is impossible to make money if people can read books for free is plain wrong. (The small pennies that are awarded in some countries from library loans came much later, in the 1930s.)

Making money off of creative work has always been hard. For every creator that can make a living off of it, there are dozens who make some money on the side, and thousands that make nothing at all. In economic terms, there is a huge oversupply. But this is not going to change because of more efficient distribution methods and an obsoletion of a middleman structure. If anything, it opens opportunities for a larger income just because of the dismantlement of those parasitic middlemen.

That said, the vast majority of creators have always needed a day job, and I can’t see that changing in the foreseeable future. The key difference is that this vast majority has become visible, where before you needed a middleman to be visible to the public, and so all the millions of struggling creators weren’t considered creators at all.

BO : You have interesting and different subject for BlogOpen. So, how can bloggers go deeper and reveal more?

Rick : Since a few decades back, professional journalism has spent less and less reporter time per article. Today, there is barely time to check facts at all for the large majority of reporters. Bloggers, on the other hand, represent the new class of digging reporters, and they have no shortage of time to dig into a topic that intrigues them.

This is the one thing that really has changed with the net. With everybody being given a voice, lies are not standing unchallenged. Politicians are used to being able to getting the last word just by claiming seniority — but today, it takes less than 30 seconds for a 14-year-old to call them on a lie.

I will say much more about how this changes politics fundamentally in my presentation, and how it shifts power from the few to the many.

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