Christian Engström, Pirate MEP

The Pirate Party on Copyright Reform


File Sharing = Love

(This text in Swedish)

The Pirate Party does not want to abolish copyright; we want to reform it. This is why and how.

Today’s copyright laws are out balance, and out of tune with the times. It has turned the entire young generation into criminals in the eyes of the law, in a futile attempt at stopping the technological development. Yet, file sharing has continued to grow exponentially. Neither propaganda, fear tactics, nor ever harsher laws have been able to stop development.

File sharing is when two private individuals send ones and zeros to each other. The only way to even try to limit file sharing, is to introduce complete surveillance of everybody’s private communication. There is no way to separate private messages from copyrighted material without opening the message and checking the contents. Out goes the postal secret, the right to communicate in private with your lawyer or your web-cam flirt, or your whistle-blower protection if you want to give a sensitive story to a journalist.

We are not prepared to give up our fundamental rights to enforce today’s copyright. The right to privacy is more important than the right of big media companies to continue to make money in the same way as before, because the latter right does not even exist.

Today’s copyright also prevents or restricts many new and exciting cultural expressions. Sampled music on MySpace, remixes on YouTube, or why not a Wikipedia filled with lots of pictures and music in the articles? Copyright legislation says no.

The copyright laws must either be reformed or abolished outright. The Pirate Party advocates the reform alternative.

We want to set all non-commercial copying and use free, and we want to shorten the commercial protection time. But we want to keep the commercial exclusivity in a way that allows most business models that are viable today to continue to work.

The Pirate Party’s proposal can be summarized in five points:

  1. No changes to the moral rights
    We propose no changes at all to the moral rights of the author, i.e.: the right to be recognized as the author, and his right to say no if he feels offended.If somebody has taken a picture of his county’s flag over a beautiful (presumably national) landscape, and some neo-nazis use it on their web page, he should have the same right as today to have the picture removed by referring to his moral rights.Nobody should be allowed to claim that they are ABBA, or have written all of Bono’s songs. To the extent that this is a real world problem, it should still be illegal to do so. ”Give credit where it’s due” is a good maxim that everybody agrees with.
  2. Free non-commercial use
    Up until twenty years ago, copyright was hardly anything that concerned ordinary people. The rules about exclusivity on the production of copies where aimed at commercial actors, who had the means to, for example, print books or press records.Private citizens who wanted to copy poem and send to their loved one, or copy a record to cassette and give it to a friend, did not have to worry about being in breach of copyright. In practice, anything you had the technical means to do as a normal person, you could do without risk of any punishment.

    But today, copyright has evolved to a position where it imposes serious restrictions on what ordinary citizens can do in their every-day life. As technological progress has made it easier for ordinary people to enjoy and share culture, copyright legislation has moved in the opposite direction.

    The Pirate Party wants to restore copyright to its origins, and make absolutely clear that it only regulates copying for commercial purposes. To share copies, or otherwise spread or make use of use somebody else’s copyrighted work, should never be prohibited if it is done non-commercially and without a profit motive. Like, for example, file sharing.

  3. Five years of commercial exclusivity
    Much of today’s entertainment industry is built on the commercial exclusivity on copyrighted works. This, we want to preserve. But today’s protection times — life plus 70 years — are absurd. No investor would even look at a business case where the time to pay-back was that long.We want to shorten the protection time to something that is reasonable from both society’s and an investor’s point of view, and propose five years from publication.
  4. Free sampling — codified ”fair use”
    Today’s ever more restrictive copyright legislation and practice is a major obstacle to musicians, film makers, and other artists who want to create new works by reusing parts of existing works.We want to change this, so that the default rule becomes that it is legal to create new works out of existing ones. To the extent one wants to limit certain forms of commercial adaptions, like for example translations of new literature or the use of new music in films, these restrictions should be explicitly enumerated in the law.
  5. A ban on DRM
    DRM is an acronym for ”Digital Restrictions Management”. The term is used to denote a number of different technologies that all aim to restrict consumers’ and citizens’ ability use and copy works, even when they have a legal right to do so.We want to introduce a ban on DRM technologies in the consumer legislation. There is no point in having our parliaments introduce a balanced and reasonable copyright legislation, if at the same time we allow the big multinational corporations to write their own laws, and enforce the through technical means.

This is what the Pirate Party proposes.

The proposal is completely in line with ideas that have been voiced in the international debate, such as Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture or Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks. This is bigger than just the question of how the current big rights holders should should continue to make money. This is about which kind of society we want.

”But how should the artists get paid, if file sharing is set free?” is the question that always comes up in the discussion.

Well, ”how” is not really for us to say as politicians. To find a business model that works for him is up to the individual entrepreneur, in the cultural sector just like in any other industry. But we are certain that the cultural sector as a whole will continue to do well, and this of course makes us happy.

In the economic statistics, we can see that household spending on culture and entertainment is slowly increasing year by year. If we spend less money on buying CD records, we spend more on something else, like for instance going to live concerts. This is great news for the artists. An artist will typically get 5-7% of the revenues from a CD record, but 50% of the revenues from a concert. The record companies lose out, but this is only because they are no longer adding any value.

It may well be that it will become more difficult to make money within some parts of the cultural sector, but if so, it will become easier in some other — including new ones, that we have not even imagined so far. But as long as the total household spending on culture continues to be on the same level or rising, nobody can claim that the artists as a group will have anything to lose from a reformed copyright.

Should this also have the side effect of loosening up some of the grip that the big distributors have over cultural life, then so much the better for both ”artists” and ”consumers”.

The world will become a little more fun.

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