14 January 2008

An Intellectual Approach to File Sharing

I've always assumed the Swedish Pirate Party were a bunch of anarchists who wanted to cock a snook at authority by disrupting one of its precious intellectual monopolies, and have some fun along the way.

I was wrong.

It turns out that there is some pretty deep thinking behind what they are doing, as evidence by this fascinating interview with Rick Falkvinge, founder and the leader of the party:

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.

Intellectual capital? Hm....

And then he goes on to make this important point:

The people who have been led to believe that file sharing can be stopped with minimal intrusion are basically smoking crack.

Early on in the debate, we dropped the economic arguments altogether and focused entirely on civil liberties and the right to privacy. This has proven to be a winning strategy, with my keynote "Copyright Regime vs. Civil Liberties" being praised as groundbreaking.

The economic arguments are strong, but debatable. There are as many reports as there are interests in copyright, and every report arrives at a new conclusion. If you just shout and throw reports over the volleyball net at the other team, it becomes a matter of credibility of the reports. When you switch to arguing civil liberties, you dropkick that entire discussion.

Obviously I need to pay more attention to these people.


UtahPirate said...

Go, Rick!

Democracy cannot exist if it can only be achieved by purchasing it.

Glyn Moody said...