Monday, January 14, 2008

P2P fight is getting hotter in Sweden

Pirate leader Falkvinge:
"Our enemy has no intellectual capital
to bring to the battle"

In this special interview Rick Falkvinge, the founder and the leader of Swedish Pirate Party, gives his own views on the wildly heated political filesharing debate in Sweden, evaluates the political and technological prospects of P2P and talks about the dangers of citizen surveillance and Big Brother society.

Filesharing debate

Q: In last couple of months the copyright debate in Sweden seems to have got hotter than ever before, and especially the emergence of the reformist group within Moderate Party makes the situation look like the beginning of a 'final battle' before the legalization of filesharing. How do you read the situation? Is it possible that Reinfeldt government could actually end up assuming the reformist position and decriminalizing filesharing, or is it too otimistic to expect this to happen before your 2010 elections?

Rick Falkvinge: Gandhi once said something that has become a famous quote:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

I interpret the current situation as a definite shift to phase three. That mainstream existing MPs for the largest party in government pick up and fight for our ideas is a huge legitimizer. Our ideas are not out on the fringe, we were just a little bit ahead of time.

What was remarkable was that this was the point where the enemy - forces that want to lock down culture and knowledge at the cost of total surveillance - realized they were under a serious attack, and mounted every piece of defense they could muster. For the first time, we saw everything they could bring to the battle.

And it was... nothing. Not even a fizzle. All they can say is "thief, we have our rights, we want our rights, nothing must change, we want more money, thief, thief, thief". And shove some poor artists in front of them to deliver the message. Whereas we are talking about scarcity vs. abundance, monopolies, the nature of property, 500-year historical perspectives on culture and knowledge, incentive structures, economic theory, disruptive technologies, etc. The difference in intellectual levels between the sides is astounding.

So now we know what the enemy has, and that they have absolutely nothing in terms of intellectual capital to bring to the battle. They do, however, have their bedside connections with the current establishment. That's the major threat to us at this point.

However, I don't see the established parties picking up understanding at the necessary level just yet. Some parties advocate legalized downloading with uploading still being criminal, which is a clear sign they have not understood the current structural changes to society in the slightest, but just have a hunch that something needs to be done. Of course, that is good in itself, but not enough.

Karl Sigfrid's own party, the Moderates, are technophobically luddite to the brink of the Stone Age as the official party line. Even though MPs in this party were the first to understand the issue thoroughly, I don't see their party line changing before the next election.

What Karl Sigfrid et consortes have accomplished, though, is to make sure that this is going to be a major issue in the 2010 parliamentary elections, possibly even the 2009 European elections. That's exactly what we want. We want as many as possible to reflect over the issue, discuss it, and try to understand what is happening, and realize it's important - more important than petty squabbles over, say, day care benefits. The more that do, the more we win.

And the more we win - both in terms of the idea and support for the Pirate Party - the more pressure on established politicians.

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