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Winds of Change

Something's happening to the 'old media'. By Rick Falkvinge.

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As I go through today's news articles I get a funny feeling. When I bounce this around at the Pirate Party the others confirm they've felt the same thing.

The tone in the 'old media' in the home stretch before The Pirate Bay trial is changing dramatically.

I don't think it's individuals changing their opinion. I think it's editors beginning to understand this is an unbelievably important issue and giving assignments to well informed reporters so suddenly it's other people writing about the trial, people who understand the issues - and are generally automatically positive about a future where file sharing and a culture of participation is something self-evident.

Even Smålandsposten who otherwise are notorious for their beyond the pale anachronistic editorials by Marcus Svensson changed tack today.

The trial of The Pirate Bay is about the value of a digital file. Unfortunately that value is zero.

The real danger is another. Entire industries lock themselves into making litigation a part of their ordinary business strategy. In an era when things lose their value the opportunities of the future lie in learning how to successfully exploit the world of free things. But this is something being ignored by managers in the entertainment industry who choose instead to brutally harass and sue people. And to be successful with this tack one needs tougher legislation and more severe punishments. And in so doing they start a vicious circle that doesn't make things better for anyone.

Helsingborgs Dagblad suddenly take matters even further.

There was no copyright legislation when Shakespeare lived. Lucky for us. If there had been we might never have heard of the bard. When he died - well to do despite not having copyright on a single word he'd written - he'd made his a career out of borrowing inspiration from the work of others and doing it better.

Representatives for the copyright owners don't like to discuss these issues. Of course they don't. It's essentially absurd legislation.

[They've got one thing a bit wrong of course. Copyright became law in Great Britain 4 May 1557 and Shakespeare was born in 1564. But they're right in principle because copyright law as it existed back then didn't affect Shakespeare in the slightest and they're correct that Shakespeare didn't have copyright on anything he wrote. France had by the way gone another route other than state censorship and tried instead to categorically forbid the printing press in 1535. That worked about as well as today's outlawing of file sharing - which is to say it didn't work at all. And the sentencing for crimes was different in the 1500s. The short story is there were different forms of capital punishment depending on how serious the crime was.]

Aftonbladet's Eva Franchell points out that file sharing is Sweden's totally dominant cultural export. We gave the world not only The Pirate Bay - we also gave the world the file sharing infrastructure that came to dominate right after the Napster era. Kazaa.

In reality one can say the parliamentarians are greatly responsible for The Pirate Bay. Politicians have through many decisions encouraged Swedish technological development. We've invested in home computers, broadband, and study of computer science in our schools. Of course the new generations became hackers! We educated the network technicians and systems developers who became the basis of The Pirate Bay. So ponder it: the most successful Swedish cultural work of the 21st century is being carried out by hackers who now risk prosecution for their talents.

We must most likely accept the fact that file sharing is the new way to access cultural experiences such as films, games, and music. At least half of those under 30 years of age engage in file sharing. The younger generations take whatever is available, sample music, and share their experiences. Culture belongs to them all. The trouble isn't their doing no matter how things turn out in the courtroom.


The trial of The Pirate Bay should therefore been seen as a defining moment. It's doubtful even the movie and music conglomerates hope the outcome can stop the spread of intellectual property. Their police complaints, lawsuits, and demands for new laws are symbolic only - they're proof they don't accept what's happening.

At the same time some editors desks show an almost irritating caution in printing what ordinary people are actually saying. As for example Opassande reports today that an article was removed from a newspaper because it was uncritically positive to file sharing from the artists' perspective.

We see it as a positive thing if our album ends up on The Pirate Bay. There's an honesty to file sharing - the better the music the more it spreads. It's impossible for a smaller band to survive only on record sales today. We've invested in this record with our own money and we hope to get a return on our investment in ticket and merchandise sales.

The trial of The Pirate Bay starts on Monday. Dagens Nyheter note that the 'old media' have the competition of the blogosphere in reporting on it. (Dagens Media call themselves 'old media' now.) This is true but the competition began earlier - we were already at Sunday's press conference.

Then I wonder what the copyright lobby have been smoking when they say they believe a conviction will have an impact. The truth is closer to what EFF staff solicitor Fred von Lohmann told Wired.

During prohibition you could bust people for running a still but you weren't going to take alcohol away from people. If The Pirate Bay go down they'll be replaced by somebody else tomorrow.

Finally Monique Wasted is a totally special case of the copyright lobby's reality distortion field. She calls the critics of copyright 'a small sect', something Leo, Isobel, and Christopher comment on profitably, claiming that young people won't start wearing The Pirate Bay t-shirts. Here's a wee secret: they already are. I can comment on her statement with fewer letters than either Leo, Isobel, or Christopher.


The circus is about to begin.

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