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Just a reminder: "Pirate Party" means everyone

Submitted by kmeisthax on Wed, 09/19/2012 - 01:00 in Rants

I just need to remind everyone about a little thing called reciprocity, mmkay? Or more specifically, how one's political convictions cannot be interpreted to mean 'everyone but me', and how we need to think about the implications of our actions.

This rant has been triggered by a news article from TorrentFreak about a Pirate Party politician who recently got a book deal and whose publisher started launching takedowns in her name when people inevitably pirates it. Irregardless of the inevitable political backlash and career suicide this means for Julia Schramm, we should all at least understand the full extent of our own political ideologies before trying to engage in actions that said ideologies condemn. "Pirate Party" doesn't mean "let's go share other people's work so I don't have to pay for it". It means protecting the free flow of information on the internet and removing the content industry's iron grip on creativity. Issuing takedowns for your own copyrighted property doesn't play into that ideology one bit, it works against it.

More importantly we should note that this is not technically Julia's decision (as far as we can tell). She signed a publishing deal to get the book out there, and a lot of these deals involve transfer of copyright or attorney-in-fact privilige. So essentially, she has no say in the matter (at least for 10 years, which is when she says the rights revert back to her). I don't think that absolves her of her responsibility to fully evaluate the extent of her political philosophy. There's an ethical component to signing away one's copyright, in that you are providing someone else with the legal ability to restrict and privatize a part of human culture.

Yes, there may have been no other way to publish the book traditionally. But in the same way, the Pirate Party isn't going to go anywhere if we feed into the publishing monster. Julia should have insisted, from the start, on Free Culture compatible licensing (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA) before any publishing deals are signed. What we need to move towards is a new publishing system where copyright plays a diminished or no role in the distribution and usage of human culture. In a sense, the problems with copyright law are themselves a result of a larger system where the only valid interactions with our culture have been boiled down to purchase and consume - in that environment, culture is just another commodity and copyright makes just as much sense as physical property.

The anti-copyright and anti-patent roles of the Pirate Party are very important. But we should not forget the larger goal is Free Culture, not just getting Hollywood's boots off our neck. In fact, this is where some parts of the Pirate Party actually conflict with larger Free Culture / Free Software goals. For example, one of them had a policy statement a while back which supported a limitation of five year copyright terms. This would effectively break the GPL as it currently stands - the whole point of the GPL is to deny software to the proprietary world so that they will move to the Free world.

A five year term would mean that proprietary software publishers could use five-year old Free software, but we could not do the same because proprietary software publishers are under no obligation to publish source code. (I am aware that you can disassemble and deobfuscate any amount of code given enough time, and I have done it myself, but that doesn't change anything.) It would be unfair - and the main problem with just focusing on only changing copyright is that the whole business structure is already built up around private ownership of human culture.

We need to completely remove ourselves from the publishing complex. At the very least, this means not assigning or sublicensing copyright, except as part of a Free Culture license.

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