Copyright laws threaten our online freedom

If you search for Elvis Presley in Wikipedia, you will find a lot of text and a few pictures that have been cleared for distribution. But you will find no music and no film clips, due to copyright restrictions. What we think of as our common cultural heritage is not “ours” at all.

On MySpace and YouTube, creative people post audio and video remixes for others to enjoy, until they are replaced by take-down notices handed out by big film and record companies. Technology opens up possibilities; copyright law shuts them down.

This was never the intent. Copyright was meant to encourage culture, not restrict it.This is reason enough for reform. But the current regime has even more damaging effects. In order to uphold copyright laws, governments are beginning to restrict our right to communicate with each other in private, without being monitored.

File-sharing occurs whenever one individual sends a file to another. The only way to even try to limit this process is to monitor all communication between ordinary people. Despite the crackdown on Napster, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer services over the past decade, the volume of file-sharing has grown exponentially. Even if the authorities closed down all other possibilities, people could still send copyrighted files as attachments to e-mails or through private networks. If people start doing that, should we give the government the right to monitor all mail and all encrypted networks? Whenever there are ways of communicating in private, they will be used to share copyrighted material. If you want to stop people doing this, you must remove the right to communicate in private. There is no other option. Society has to make a choice.

The world is at a crossroads. The internet and new information technologies are so powerful that no matter what we do, society will change. But the direction has not been decided.

The technology could be used to create a Big Brother society beyond our nightmares, where governments and corporations monitor every detail of our lives. In the former East Germany, the government needed tens of thousands of employees to keep track of the citizens using typewriters, pencils and index cards. Today a computer can do the same thing a million times faster, at the push of a button. There are many politicians who want to push that button.

The same technology could instead be used to create a society that embraces spontaneity, collaboration and diversity. Where the citizens are no longer passive consumers being fed information and culture through one-way media, but are instead active participants collaborating on a journey into the future.

The internet it still in its infancy, but already we see fantastic things appearing as if by magic. Take Linux, the free computer operating system, or Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Witness the participatory culture of MySpace and YouTube, or the growth of the Pirate Bay, which makes the world’s culture easily available to anybody with an internet connection. But where technology opens up new possibilities, our intellectual property laws do their best to restrict them. Linux is held back by patents, the rest of the examples by copyright.

The public increasingly recognizes the need for reform. That was why Piratpartiet – the Pirate party – won 7.1 per cent of the popular vote in Sweden in the European Union elections. This gave us a seat in the European parliament for the first time.

Our manifesto is to reform copyright laws and gradually abolish the patent system. We oppose mass surveillance and censorship on the net, as in the rest of society. We want to make the EU more democratic and transparent. This is our entire platform.

We intend to devote all our time and energy to protecting the fundamental civil liberties on the net and elsewhere. Seven per cent of Swedish voters agreed with us that it makes sense to put other political differences aside in order to ensure this.

Political decisions taken over the next five years are likely to set the course we take into the information society, and will affect the lives of millions for many years into the future. Will we let our fears lead us towards a dystopian Big Brother state, or will we have the courage and wisdom to choose an exciting future in a free and open society?

The information revolution is happening here and now. It is up to us to decide what future we want.

By Christian Engström

Related
Statute of Anne
Food Copyright
Staking Claim to Your DNA
Demand Progress

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Question Copyright

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Cory Doctorow on copyright

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Rick Falkvinge about copyright

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added 01/12

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same lecture with questions

Demand Progress


“The intellectual property comes from the public domain, it should by law re-enter the public domain in a reasonable time.  Thomas Jefferson thought during the founding of America and the Constitution 14 years- not lifetime plus 75 years! That’s perpetual copyright that’s giving society a collective lobotomy and these guys are copyright cartel who are destroying the economy” – Max Keiser
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8 Comments

Filed under Business, computers, Congress, film, food, Health, History, Justice, Media, Music, Nature, Politics, psychology, Science and Technology, Social Epistemology

8 responses to “Copyright laws threaten our online freedom

  1. Pingback: Copyright laws threaten our online freedom

  2. jmonk2011

    I’ve been reading this book called “Nonzero” by Robert Wright, and the section I’m on right now is all about information technology revolutions, and what you’re talking about it here.
    I think, that inevitably copyright reform will happen. It may happen illegally, and if thats the case it may erode the legitimacy of government, but I’m sure it will happen.
    Its too easy to make happen, no one could stop it. How can you stop it, when it’s at every computer accessible fingertip? Even China has tried to stop and control it, and people find a way around it.

    • I’ll look into the book – thanks

      I think what we will need is to find or build is a respectful society that can create the best of both worlds. Right now a number of Europeans seems to be heading in the right direction.

  3. Pingback: 9 July 2009 – Brief « "No doubt about it- that nut's a genius"

  4. nu55

    should a musican, writer, painter, who studies for years, have a right to earn a living from creating their art? of course– and copyright laws enable that. do you want great art? then you need to be able to do it full time, not as an (unpaid) hobby. musicians CAN ALREADY cover a song, or sample it (and pay a % to the originator). a painter can look at another artist’s work and reference it (Warhol, Koons, etc.) take personal responsibility. buy music, so that more music can be made. if more people buy music, then we will have a ‘middle class’ of musicians who don’t have to work three jobs. you wouldn’t take a painting off a gallery wall and walk out the door without paying forit, citing ‘art is free’. (privacy, on the other hand, is separate from copyright, and should be preserved. google ECHELON and PROMIS for how much privacy we don’t have.)

  5. Pingback: End of YouTube « "No doubt about it- that nut's a genius"

  6. Copy? Right!
    The European E-battle of ideas against Intellectual Property Terrorist Dell took 10 years to be finally lost against one of the world’s most aggressive corporations…
    So what’s the use of registering your IP with http://Wipo.int or http://Ohim.eu ?
    You can even win initially on a European level, but lose in the end due to national crooked lawyers and corrupted judges.
    It’s all in the system’s situation boom of amassing costs and victims.

    Tychon v. Dell:

    http://ohtm.eu

    European Office for Harmonization in the Transatlantic Market.

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