Quantcast
subscriber help

the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Have copyright issues finally entered the mainstream with the rise of the Swedish Pirate Party?

ars technica reported this week on a surprise showing in the recent elections for the European Parliament:

The final returns are still being counted, but Sweden’s Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) has secured at least one seat in today’s elections for the European Parliament. According to Sweden’s election authority, the Pirate Party has crossed the four percent threshold needed for a seat and currently has 7.1 percent of the vote.

“We have just written political history,” said Swedish Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge. “Tonight, politicians have learned that doing what the lobby asks will cost them their jobs. We’re the largest party in the segment below 30 years of age. That’s building the future of liberties.”

With more than 700 legislators in the European Parliament (see the complete breakdown), a vote or two won’t do much to set the agenda. But for a party formed only a few years ago with a narrow set of concerns, this is an excellent showing.

What is the Pirate Party all about? From its manifesto (here in a Swedish PDF, and here in an English translation):

The current copyright legislation can not be combined with freedom of information and protected private communication. Since the fundamental principles of the open, democratic society is more important than conserving old business models within the business of entertainment at all costs, copyright has to fold.

But this is not negative. A reformed copyright legislation, expressing a balance between different interests in society instead of being an order form from the large media companies, has its own benefits.

The copyright legislation must be changes so that it is made perfectly clear that it only regulate use and copying of works done for commercial purposes. To share copies, or in any other way spread or use someone else’s work, should never be forbidden as long as it is done on an idealistic basis without the purposes of commercial gain.

Unfortunately, the legislation has developed in quite the opposite direction. On July 1, 2005, a million ordinary Swedes were suddenly turned into criminals over night, simply because they download movies and music. This doesn’t only hurt our possibilities to take part of culture. In the long run it undermines the trust of our entire judicial apparatus. This development has to end.

In a similar fashion, patents are used to inhibit the spread and use of knowledge, which hurts society as a whole.

Can the Pirate Party hope to have any significant impact? Or is it just a stunt that will fade away as quickly as it arrived? Have copyright issues finally entered the mainstream with the rise of the Swedish Pirate Party?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/flick/public_html/wptest/wp-content/themes/FlickFilosopher/loop-single.php on line 106
  • AJP

    Does anyone seriously think that seperating “commercial use” from “idealistic sharing” is going to be feasible to figure out? Given how good many organizations are at trying to cloak one thing as another for tax purposes, is there any reason to think that they won’t do the same for the bigger bonanza of making money using costless intellectual property?

  • Victor Plenty

    Separating commercial use from idealistic sharing is not only feasible, but in many cases is so easy to figure out, a child can do it.

    Of course the exact boundary between those two broad categories would give lawyers plenty to fight about, even in a world freed from the excessive litigation of organizations like the RIAA and MPAA. However, there are a large number of cases that are clearly nowhere near that boundary, and easy to place into one category or the other.

    Selling illegal copies of CDs and DVDS on the street is easily recognized as criminal copyright infringement.

    Suing people into the poorhouse because they use file sharing software is easy to recognize as an abuse of power, unjustifiable by any sane standard of criminal or civil law.

    The key point here is to remember the original purpose of copyright law. Copyright was not invented to guarantee a revenue stream for any particular business or person. The purpose of copyrights is to encourage the creation and diffusion of useful works.

    Excessive “intellectual property” laws subvert that purpose, and threaten to slow down innovation in the arts and sciences.

  • AJP

    Actually, copyright (and patent) was invented to create a revenue stream for a particular business or person: the copyright holder. The revenue stream was supposed to encourage the creation of useful works, but the purpose of the law was to create a situation in which the copyright holder could make money off their creation.

    Any time someone says something is “so easy a child could do it”, it makes me think it is actually going to be fiendishly difficult. The reason you think it is easy is that people have not begun to try to exploit the ambiguity (since there is none as of yet). If you think that people will keep doing things exactly the way they are doing it now after the law changes, then you are not thinking things through.

    Even your claim of “idealistic use” has problems now. Suppose a file sharing service being used with the file sharing software has ads on their site. They don’t charge for the files, but get money for the ads. Is their use still idealistic? Or is it commercial? This is just the leading wedge of questions that will have to be dealt with, and which will probably never be completely settled.

  • JoshB

    Selling illegal copies of CDs and DVDS on the street is easily recognized as criminal copyright infringement.

    Ok, you’ve given an example of obvious copyright infringement. Now give an example of obvious idealistic use.

    That’s a tricky thing to do. There’s very few situations that are purely “idealistic”, and tons of gray area. And tons more plain thievery.

    On July 1, 2005, a million ordinary Swedes were suddenly turned into criminals over night, simply because they download movies and music without paying for them.

    For the record, I consider those Swedes thieves. I don’t claim to be innocent. There was a time when I did the same thing, until I stopped lying to myself and admitted that I was stealing.

  • Victor Plenty

    AJP, the original copyright laws allow an exclusive revenue stream from creative works for a limited time. The limited time is the key phrase for understanding the real purpose of copyright, and it is exactly what has been subverted by the more recent perversions of “intellectual property” law.

    The exclusive revenue stream is acceptable only insofar as it serves to encourage the production of NEW creative works. Limiting the time span of the exclusivity accomplishes that purpose elegantly and effectively. Copyrights and other creative “property” rights that continue into perpetuity (as they now threaten to do, having been captured by narrow corporate interests) serve no such purpose. Over the long term they stifle the creation of new works.

    You are confused because you are conflating unrelated cases together. The cases that are simple are quite different from the cases that are complicated. You have fallen into the trap of thinking they are all equally well described by the destructive concept of “intellectual property.” They are not.

  • Victor Plenty

    JoshB, it’s sad that you consider those Swedes thieves. What have they stolen? Nothing. There is nothing that anyone else no longer has and can no longer use because those ordinary Swedes took it away.

    Theft is a useful concept for material goods. It is not so useful for thinking about creative works.

    Consider the related cases of listening to music on the radio, or watching movies on television. If downloading music without paying for it is theft, then listening to it on the radio without paying for it must also be theft. There is no way around this fact. To be logically consistent, you can’t call one stealing unless both are stealing.

    Every music track heard on the radio for free is a lost sale for the artist, according to the insane perversion of logic we are being asked to believe here.

    Paying directly for a physical copy of a creative work is just one way of creating revenue that can be shared with the artist. It is far from the only way. This is proven, because there is already a system in place making it legal to listen to music on the radio. It would not be all that difficult to create a similar system making it equally legal to download music from the Internet.

    Why all the trouble, then? Why haven’t the giant media corporations just gone ahead and done that?

    Because they want to achieve another goal at the same time, a goal incompatible with the design of the Internet. They want to maintain centralized control of distribution and promotion. They want to keep the power that has let corporations keep the lion’s share of revenue generated by creative works, while trickling only a pittance to the actual artists who produce those works.

    This massive propaganda effort, to convince us all that file sharing is the same thing as stealing, is just one small part of their campaign to hold on to that kind of power. It has nothing to do with any concern for the income of artists.

    Many artists realize this, and encourage online sharing of their work, because they know it is not the same thing as stealing.

  • JoshB

    There is nothing that anyone else no longer has and can no longer use because those ordinary Swedes took it away.

    What they have taken away is the money that would have gone to the authors of those works. They are getting something of value to them and giving nothing to the person who created that something. They are stealing a person’s livelihood.

    I once argued the same point that you’re making with a friend who was an aspiring musician. And I can tell you from experience, you’d feel a hell of a lot guiltier taking this stand against someone who actually depends on selling their IP for the food on their table.

    Theft is a useful concept for material goods. It is not so useful for thinking about creative works.

    Would you say the same thing about software? You can download, say, Adobe Photoshop, price tag $700, get that shit for free, and according to your logic that’s not stealing.

    Consider the related cases of listening to music on the radio, or watching movies on television. If downloading music without paying for it is theft, then listening to it on the radio without paying for it must also be theft.

    Not remotely the same. Not at all. The copyright holder authorized those things for the purpose of making money. When you watch a program on television you are paying for it by watching commercials. When you listen to a song on the radio it is essentially an advertisement intended to get you to buy the album. These are both things that have value to the author in an indirect but still real financial sense.

    It would not be all that difficult to create a similar system making it equally legal to download music from the Internet. Why haven’t the giant media corporations just gone ahead and done that?

    Yes, not difficult at all. It’s called Itunes, and it’s legal because you pay for it.

    They want to keep the power that has let corporations keep the lion’s share of revenue generated by creative works, while trickling only a pittance to the actual artists who produce those works…This massive propaganda effort…It has nothing to do with any concern for the income of artists.

    Ah yes, the anti-corporate argument. A crowd pleaser. As I said, it disappears the moment you meet an unsigned artist who depends on the works they create for day to day subsistence.

    Hell, take MaryAnn as an example. I used to use adblock software, and I didn’t think anything of it. It never occurred to me that I was essentially getting her content for free while denying her a portion of her livelihood. I just wanted to get rid of the annoying ads. That very night that she pointed it out I turned off my adblock software completely, because I was stealing (in this case it was even legal stealing) from her and every other site that I love.

    That’s a tough realization to make, that you’ve been a thief. But I couldn’t make any claims to integrity if I kept using adblockers, and I won’t download content that I haven’t paid for.

  • Victor Plenty

    JoshB, by your logic, the television viewer who leaves the room during an advertisement, then returns to watch the rest of the program, is also a dirty rotten thief. It’s an utterly preposterous argument.

    Your reference to unsigned artists is particularly revealing, because in reality, such people have not yet experienced the full ruthlessness of the record labels. Musicians who have had record contracts, and been fortunate enough to escape from them, are much more likely to support file sharing.

    You recognize that listening to a song on the radio can function as advertising, and that people will pay for music they discovered that way. Artists know this. The smarter ones know the exact same idea also applies to file sharing. People discover music by downloading it from the Internet, and then pay to support artists they like, to encourage them to produce more work. This happens all the time, just as it does with radio.

    This is why savvy artists encourage file sharing, knowing that it will help them make a living from their work.

    It is also why iTunes, despite the positive qualities it does have (such as giving artists a much higher cut of the revenue than any traditional record label), absolutely does not yet qualify as an example of a truly decentralized system for artists and fans to promote new creative works.

  • JoshB

    JoshB, by your logic, the television viewer who leaves the room during an advertisement, then returns to watch the rest of the program, is also a dirty rotten thief.

    No, because people who show their work on TV take that risk. It’s the same as ignoring the ads on Flickfilosopher. People who leave the room during commercials ARE responsible for advertisements appearing during the program and covering up the bottom third of the screen. And then they bitch about that.

    Musicians who have had record contracts, and been fortunate enough to escape from them, are much more likely to support file sharing.

    Laughing Out Loud. So the guy who hasn’t made millions selling his music gets discounted from the argument. The little guy doesn’t matter in your crusade to stick it to the Man? Are you serious?

    But let’s see if you’re even right about that. I present to you an interview with Maynard James Keenan, successful musician from Tool and A Perfect Circle, who released a self-produced, self- distributed album under the name Puscifer. The whole article is here. Some relevant excerpts:

    I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of music being free….even if everything went digital, there’s still a lot of expense involved. It’s easy for me or Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails to be flippant about how we’re going to go about it, because we have a little bit of a bank account…But I think who gets hurt are the guys in between—those guys who aren’t just a local band, who are starting to get around a little bit, and people are saying “Well, the standard for paying for somebody’s CD online is two bucks.” What?!? That thousand bucks is the difference between those guys going on the road or not going on the road, or being able to make the next record or the next song.

    And regarding the possibility of his album being leaked before its official release:

    The only reason I’m really concerned is that I put a lot of money into this and put a lot of time into it, and I wouldn’t have made CDs if it wasn’t for the artwork that I got attached to them…and if I didn’t have the physical artwork in mind, I would have just done it all digitally. Of course, there’s a similar issue there with THEFT, but it wouldn’t have been such an output of money. I’m kind of relying on the sales to pay back what I’ve put into it.

    So there you have it, a musician who escaped record contracts. He surely sounds supportive of people downloading his music without paying for it, yes?

  • Victor Plenty

    JoshB, “the little guy doesn’t matter” is a gross distortion of what I’ve said, and you know it.

    You attempt to paint everything I’ve said here as an attempt to justify the ability to easily get stuff for free. That’s not why I care about these issues.

    But as long as we’re on the music business, surely you are aware that the musicians who support file sharing are not limited to the already successful and famous.

    In reality quite a few musicians, including both the well established and the ones who are just starting out, look at file sharing as a low cost way for their fans to promote their work. NOT as “theft.”

    Here’s a nice link to just one of many examples of what I’m talking about.

    You cite particular examples as proof that you are right and I am wrong. Unfortunately for you, your examples prove nothing of the kind. They merely indicate how many people inside and outside of the media business are still deeply confused about these issues.

    Some respond to new technology by finding new business models that are a better fit with the new reality. Others scream “theft!” and try to lock down innovation in a futile attempt to guarantee a future revenue stream similar to what they enjoyed in the past.

    The problem with that approach is not only that it is doomed to failure, but that it has dire unforeseen consequences. The ongoing attempt to lock down “intellectual property” threatens to impede the vital diffusion of knowledge and innovation, along with creating dangerous barriers to political and social criticism.

    And that’s why I care about these issues. If you want to really understand what I’m talking about, you could spend some time looking at the work of Lawrence Lessig.

    Good luck.

  • JoshB

    Here’s a nice link to just one of many examples of what I’m talking about.

    I surely hope that’s not the best example you can come up with. MC Lars, whose best claim to success is opening for Simple Plan? Simple Plan, who are themselves signed to Atlantic Records?

    Let’s take a look at youtube, shall we? That’s free. Should be a good indicator of popularity. The top Simple Plan view count is 1,640,031
    MC Lars: 413,485
    Metallica: 11,072,975
    Britney Spears: 75,738,491

    What was that you were saying about business savvy?

    But maybe MC Lars isn’t the best example after all. MC Lars has been a guest judge for the Independent Music Awards, whose most recent winners are listed here, and whose homepage claims is an “influential & effective international program that helps top-ranked indie artists & releases overcome mainstream obstacles…” Let’s see how effective they are. Back to youtube!

    Leerone, winner for Best Music Video: 7,341 views
    Sweatshop Union, winner for Rap/Hip Hop: 175,664
    April Smith, Pop/Rock: 5,251

    your examples prove nothing of the kind. They merely indicate how many people inside and outside of the media business are still deeply confused about these issues.

    Yes, obviously Maynard Keenan, who has actually had success both as a label artist and as an independent artist, is deeply confused about these issues that are his life’s work. You know better than him.

    And that’s why I care about these issues. If you want to really understand what I’m talking about, you could spend some time looking at the work of Lawrence Lessig.

    I checked out the link. If you want to play “Who’s got the better sources on Intellectual Property Law and Philosophy” then I suggest you take a quick gander over at http://www.groklaw.net, which is where I gained my layman’s appreciation for the value of IP. And I’ll set your mind at ease about corporate propaganda: Groklaw is an independent, non-profit website owned and operated by a marvelous woman named Pamela Jones. Her purpose is to defend Open Source software licenses like the GNU GPL, under which Linux is distributed, from corporate giants like Microsoft (as well as lesser scum like SCO, but I doubt you’ve heard of them unless you follow Groklaw).

    Now mind you, I don’t expect you to spend more than a few seconds glancing over it, maybe reading a few of the headlines. That should be plenty.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This