We need Pirate Parties. Governments and corporate oligarchies are for all practical purposes the same and the Pirate movement provides a second voice. The interests those in power have in disruptive technology like the internet is first to control and second to profit and the interests of the populations affected by these disruptions are not considered. So we need to evolve a voice and take coordinated action to protect our interests such as the Pirate Parties and other hacktivist alliances. They’re in response to crackdowns on newly discovered abilities to transfer information, communicate and organize and they represent the missing second side in the dialogue, They have arisen around the world and attracted massive support against a tide of ridicule and corporate opposition both directly and via co-opted governments, many of whom are at this point no more than rubber stamps. They represent our only alternative to having our entry into the future be dictated by greed, fear and short sighted arrogance. We need governance based on facts, change based on compromise and forward planning based on thought. The Pirate movement is our best hope for these things because it hasn’t been co-opted, gains popular support by positive action rather than playing to fears and is a response to reality rather than an artifact. And because it works.
The Pirate Bay certainly works. It is the largest and most notorious of the disorderly digital property distribution networks and the government of Australia has recently implemented the Great Firewall of Oz to block access to Pirate Bay servers and torrent swarms and punish those who carry out filesharing activities. This approach has been tried before by IPRED, the Swedish anti-filesharing network, in a 2009 crack down on Swedish file sharers. Almost immediately internet traffic dropped by about 16 % and sales of music on physical media increased.This was hailed as a major victory. However, a little over a year later internet activity bounced back and sales of music on physical media has decreased to a point lower than before. This has been attributed to a lack of vigorous enforcement but when cases such as China, which certainly doesn’t lack vigorous enforcement, are looked at it’s apparent that even the draconian fist of a totalitarian state can’t suppress widespread technological capabilities. And perhaps neither the Swedes nor the Australians want to live in a totalitarian state for the sake of eliminating file sharing? Do you?
One definition of insanity is continuing to do something after it’s clear it doesn’t work. And there’s no doubt that copyright doesn’t work. Even more than the War on Drugs the Copyfight has never been shown to work by empirical evidence and reasoned analysis. Here’s what Ruth Towse and Rudi Holzhauer said in their 2002 edited volume,The Economics of Intellectual Property: “For all the sophisticated analysis by economics, economic historians, law-and-economists and lawyers, we still cannot say with any conviction that in general IP law stimulates creativity or promotes innovation, “. Creativity and innovation are what we desperately need to survive the avalanche of change we’ve provoked and we can’t afford to have our corporate and government institutions locked into thinking and decisions based on self-serving assumptions. This is denial not survival.
And before I get accused of denial I want to address the problem so well summed up by Monica Marier in her cartoon ‘Pies and Art’ on why stealing art is bad. Stealing is bad and it’s defined as an act that removes value without replacing it with something of equal or greater value. We can’t afford to simply rip off our artists for their writing, our workers for their work or our farmers for the food they grow. But the existing system of distribution monopoly backed by copyright actually creates theft because it prevents the evolution of systems that properly control the unrewarded copying of digital work and provide mechanisms for allowing our artists to survive. I’m merely a tongue tied bytepusher from Saskatchewan and can’t tell you what these mechanisms will be, but I’m absolutely certain they are not going to come from Hollywood.