The battle over control of the internet is not just about the freedom of speech, but our global future. It is the choice between a Big Brother and democracy unseen before, insists Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party.
RT:In the future, do you see an internet that is free, open and equal or do you see dark clouds ahead?
Rickard Falkvinge: We’re at a crossroads right now. This technology can be used to create such a dystopic Big Brother society that if you’d had written a book about it in 1950s-80s, it would have been discarded as being unrealistic. We’re at this dystopic stage seen in the 1950s where there were cameras in people’s homes. The only thing missing from the scenario [is] we bought them ourselves [personal computers] – that is the only thing that was not foreseen.
On the other hand, you can also use this technology to create the society where power holders are more accountable than ever to the voting citizenry. Where the ideas get to battle it out without interference from who said what. We can create a society where culture and ideas can flourish like never before.
That battle stands right now and the question is: who controls the internet? I want it to be the citizens. There are also people from the previous set of industries and if they win we get the Big Brother society. If the citizens win we get a democracy richer than ever before.
RT:The recent victory over SOPA and PIPA acts which met an unexpected amount of resistance. Do you think that this is perhaps a slap in the face to media companies that felt they could steamroll over the process?
RF: It is tremendously important. You have 250 million Europeans sharing culture in violation of the so-called copyright distribution monopoly. To them it is arrogant beyond description that a corporate structure takes the right to determine what they can say to other citizens.
We have a generation that has grown up learning that they can say whatever to whomever on the planet and just let the ideas battle out for themselves. We have this perfect enlightenment era when it is a real battle of ideas and it does not matter who says them.
All of a sudden corporations want to take it away and it is not enough to say that the younger generation perceives this as incredibly offensive.
SOPA and PIPA I think was the first case where the general population really woke up to realizing what [the Pirate Party] have been saying all along.
We saw literally millions rising up and demanding their rights. That was a beautiful thing.
The key element is the politicians started to fear for their jobs. If that have not happened, SOPA and PIPA would have already been passed. But politicians sort of saw the floor crumble beneath their feet.
RT: The anti-counterfeiting trade treaty ACTA – is it really so dangerous?
RF: ACTA means censorship of the net and that is not acceptable, neither to the generation growing up, nor to the people who understand what the net is about.
The net is the greatest equalizer that mankind has ever invented and that is not something we’re ready to give up.
The European Commission says this is not a big deal. Everybody will be free to keep and share governmentally-approved things. And that is not what they should be saying. They should say that “you can still have the freedom of speech,” not the freedom of speech for what we approve of.
RT: The case of the Pirate Bay website in Sweden ended up with a defeat: large fines and prison sentences. How do you feel about that?
RF: I think it is absolutely horrible. It was an excellent example of how the establishment takes its own privileges as under status quo of incumbent industries ahead of laws. Government cares for itself first, and then for citizens.
If you look at previous new political movements: the Liberal movement, the Social Democrat, the Labor movement, the Green movement – all of them challenged the establishment and the status quo to the point where the activists frankly went to jail. In History we regard those who went to jail as heroes.
It is a shame, but perhaps being cynical – that is the way it goes. These people [of the Pirate Bay] will be heroes in the history books.
RT: There are people who say “look, how much material went through that site and how much of it should have had some rights money going to the people who made it and did not get to them?”
RF: That is an interesting argument. What you are essentially asking me is an interpretation of the law. I did not become a lawyer but a politician because I think the lawyers are wrong and I want to change it.
Looking at the income for musicians since the appearance of Napster and the file-sharing era, we find that the average income for musicians has risen by 114 per cent in the past 10 years. The average income per musician has risen by 66 per cent.
The parasiting [sic] middlemen, who are, if I’m going to be a little bit derogative here, in the piece-of-plastic construction industry, have seen their sales go through the floor and that is excellent for artists, since the linking chain used to take 95 per cent of the cart. So this is much more money to the artists.
Having the lobbying power and links in legislative, these parasitic middlemen are trying to legislate their presence on the market, which from an entrepreneur perspective is just anti-market monopolistic and outrageous.
If you’re caring for artists, than you certainly should not look at the record industry which have done their utmost since their inception to rob artists of the money.
RT:The person sitting at a computer downloads a film, for example, not paying for it. There is no issue with that?
RF: None whatsoever. If you’re running a business, than it is your responsibility to find a business model within the current constrains of society that allows you to make money. You do not get to dismantle civil liberties even if you cannot make money, or perhaps especially if you cannot make money.
The corporations’ profitability does not factor into our degree of freedom of speech.
The Pirate Bay might have done something illegal. I do not think they did – but than again, I’m not a lawyer. In any case I’m absolutely adamant that what they did was beneficial to the society and to artistry so it should not be illegal in any circumstance.