File Sharing, Break It Down! - Oh, Those Gargantuan Swedes
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Right now I want to invite you on a trip to a land that hasn't gone to war in nearly 200 years, where the average height is 6'6” and blond hair is common. I'm talking, of course, about Sweden. It's a beautiful country that has recently been in the forefront of the file sharing debate. They even have a political party called the Swedish Pirate Party, with goals to reform laws regarding intellectual property. It was founded on January 1, 2006.
(Swedish Pirate Party Logo)
They've been in the news recently over responses to proposed legislation that would “solve” the file sharing problem with the copyright industry. The legislation called for ISPs to monitor their customers' Internet activities, making sure they don't upload or download any copyrighted content. If customers were found to be participating in illegal file sharing, their Internet connections would be either cut off or seriously throttled. Needless to say, the ISPs denounced the proposal, saying that monitoring and/or banning users is not in the realm of their responsibility, despite the fact that other countries, such as France, have adopted similar legislation.
The response was made by seven Swedish MPs in an op-ed piece for Expressen calling for the legalization of file sharing as the only realistic solution. Their main argument was that the special interests against file sharing are never satisfied with whatever copyright protection is in place because file sharing cannot be stopped with laws. It says, “The simple truth is that almost all communication channels on the Internet can be used to distribute copyrighted information. If you can use a service to send a message you can most likely use the same service to send an mp3-song.”
The debate over file sharing will end up going on until all electronic communication is controlled by some entity working with the copyright holders. The article brought up the fact that the copyright debate has been going for a long while now (since the early sixteenth century). Most people nowadays will probably remember when copyright holders wanted to prevent people from recording television shows with a video cassette recorder.
Rick Falkvinge, the leader of the Pirate Party, maintains that copyrights have nothing to do with property rights, which, of course, copyright holders allege they do. Any law giving them more control would be a bane on society in general because it would be intruding on existing privacy rights. The op-ed piece that I mentioned earlier says, “We politicians have to make clear that we are not prepared to build the technology-hostile control state that would be necessary to satisfy the Antipiracy Bureau and their likes.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the media in Sweden are siding with the pirates. Perhaps they can not only begin the file sharing legalization process around the world, but can turn the tide against corporate lobbyists in general, giving democracy back to the people.
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