Aug 19, 2007

The Pirate Party

Frank Pasquale of concurring opinions has a fascinating post on Rick Falkvinge, head of the Swedish Pirate Party.

You might be forgiven if you thought a Pirate Party was a bit comical, but it seems their positions are surprisingly thoughtful. They advocate a reform of copyright law, arguing copyright laws today "restrict the very thing they are supposed to promote." I think that's exactly right in some cases, as copyright protection should not provide an endless revenue stream. Mickey Mouse should not dictate the life of a right. It should reward creators for their original creations, not create endless monopolies. As they argue "a five years copyright term for commercial use is more than enough". They also advocate a respect for the right to privacy, and tie in such advocacy to recent European history, "We Europeans should know better. It is not twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and there are plenty of other horrific example sof surveillance-gone-wrong in Europe's modern history."

Falkvinge spoke in July about "Copyright Regime vs. Civil Liberties" at Stanford University. It sounds cutting-edge, and it would be great to get him to come to Aberdeen as a part of our visiting scholars program. From what I can gather, he argues copyright first came about as censorship and a way to preserve the stationer's guild in England after the advent of the printing press.

As Pasquale writes:
[H]e admitted that certain works that cost a huge sum wouldn't be produced if their makers had no hope of financial return, so he favored some copyright protection for commercial uses of those works. However, Falkvinge said the threat to privacy posed by modern copyright enforcement techniques was too great to allow any legal monitoring of personal use of works.
I will make a bold and unsupportable prediction that copyright and privacy issues will become increasingly contentious, and a major political issue as the generations which grew up with the internet mature and become a political force. Pasquale has written before on copyright and civil disobedience via an AALS panel. One argument seemed particularly compelling:

Larry Solum presented an impressive application of rival philosophical views to the issue of principle-driven disobedience of copyright laws. After canvassing the shortcomings of utilitaran and deontological approaches, he presented his own virtue theory, essentially arguing that we should seek congruence between societal norms and laws. He also noted how far our DRM-loaded, anticircumvention-obsessed predicament diverges from that happier state of affairs.
It's some really fascinating stuff, and the convergence between jurisprudence and copyright laws is interesting: Rawls and piracy or the morality of cartelization, seem very interesting and move the argument beyond mere utilititarian and economic justifications for the current state of affairs.
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