The Pirate Party does not want to abolish copyright; we want to reform it. We want to keep copyright for commercial purposes, but we want to set all non-commercial copying and use free.
This reform is urgent, as the attempts to enforce today’s ban on non-commercial sharing of culture between private citizens are threatening fundamental rights, such as the right to private communication, freedom of information, and even the right to due process.
File sharing is when two private individuals send ones and zeros to each other. The only way to even try to limit file sharing, is to introduce surveillance of everybody’s private communication. There is no way to separate private messages from copyrighted material without opening the messages and checking the contents. Gone is the postal secret, the right to communicate in private with your lawyer or your web-cam flirt, or your whistle-blower protection if you want to give a sensitive story to a journalist.
We are not prepared to give up our fundamental rights to enforce today’s copyright. The right to privacy is more important than the right of big media companies to continue to make money in the same way as before, because the latter right does not even exist.
Today’s copyright also prevents or restricts many new and exciting cultural expressions. Sampled music on MySpace, remixes on YouTube, or why not a Wikipedia filled with lots of pictures and music in the articles? Copyright legislation says no.
The copyright laws must either be reformed or abolished outright. The Pirate Party advocates the reform alternative.
We want to set all non-commercial copying and use free, and we want to shorten the commercial protection time. But we want to keep the commercial exclusivity in a way that allows most business models that are viable today to continue to work.
Our proposal can be summarized in six points:
• Moral Rights Unchanged
We propose no changes at all to the moral right of the author to be recognized as the author.
Nobody should be allowed to claim that they are ABBA, or have written all of Paul McCartney’s songs, unless they actually are or have. To the extent that this is a real world problem, it should still be illegal to do so. ”Give credit where credit is due” is a good maxim that everybody agrees with.
• Free Non-Commercial Sharing
Until twenty years ago, copyright hardly concerned ordinary people. The rules about exclusivity of the production of copies were aimed at commercial actors, who had the means to, for example, print books or press records.
Private citizens who wanted to copy a poem and send to their loved one, or copy a record to cassette and give it to a friend, did not have to worry about being in breach of copyright. In practice, anything you had the technical means to do as a normal person, you could do without risk of any punishment.
But today, copyright has evolved to a position where it imposes serious restrictions on what ordinary citizens can do in their every-day lives. As technological progress has made it easier for ordinary people to enjoy and share culture, copyright legislation has moved in the opposite direction.
We want to restore copyright to its origins, and make absolutely clear that it only regulates copying for commercial purposes. To share copies, or otherwise spread or make use of use somebody else’s copyrighted work, should never be prohibited if it is done by private individuals without a profit motive. Peer-to-peer file sharing is an example of such an activity that should be legal.
• 20 Years Of Commercial Monopoly
Much of today’s entertainment industry is built on the commercial exclusivity of copyrighted works. This, we want to preserve. But today’s protection times – life plus 70 years – are absurd. No investor would even look at a business case where the time to pay-back was that long.
We want to shorten the protection time to something that is reasonable from both society’s and an investor’s point of view, and propose 20 years from publication.
• Registration After 5 Years
Today, works that are still in copyright, but where it is impossible or difficult to locate the rights owner, are a major problem. The majority of these works have little or no commercial value, but since they are still covered by copyright, they cannot be reused or distributed because there is nobody to ask for permission.
Copyright protection should be given automatically like it is today to newly published works, but rights owners who want to continue to exercise their commercial exclusivity of a work beyond the first 5 years after publication should be required to register the right, in such a way that it can be found by a diligent search of public rights databases. This will solve the orphan works problem.
• Free Sampling
Today’s ever more restrictive copyright legislation and practice is a major obstacle to musicians, film makers, and other artists who want to create new works by reusing parts of existing works. We want to change this by introducing clear exceptions and limitations to allow remixes and parodies, as well as quotation rights for sound and audiovisual material modeled after the quotation rights that already exist for text.
• A Ban on DRM
DRM is an acronym for “Digital Rights Management”, or “Digital Restrictions Management”. The term is used to denote a number of different technologies that all aim to restrict consumers’ and citizens’ ability use and copy works, even when they have a legal right to do so.
It must always be legal to circumvent DRM restrictions, and we should consider introducing a ban in the consumer rights legislation on DRM technologies that restrict legal uses of a work. There is no point in having our parliaments introduce a balanced and reasonable copyright legislation, if at the same time we allow the big multinational corporations to write their own laws, and enforce them through technical means.
This is, in essence, what the Swedish Pirate Party proposes, and the position on copyright that the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament adopted in September 2011.
The proposal is completely in line with ideas that have been voiced in the international debate, such as Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture or Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks. These ideas have been thoroughly discussed for at least a decade, both by academics and the Internet community.
”But how will the artists get paid, if file sharing is set free?” is the question that always comes up in the discussion.
Well, ”how” is not really for us to say as politicians. To find a business model that works is up to the individual entrepreneur, in the cultural sector just as in any other industry. But we are certain that the cultural sector as a whole will continue to do well, as demonstrated by economic statistics from more than a decade of rampant file sharing. There is no conflict between file sharing and the production of new culture, quite the opposite. Our proposal is good for the artists, both from a creative and an economic point of view.
But the issue is bigger than that. This is about what kind of society we want.
The Internet is the greatest thing that has happened to mankind since the printing press, and quite possibly a lot greater. The Pirate Bay, Wikipedia, and the Arab Spring have made headlines as dedicated people have put the new technology to work to spread culture, knowledge, and democracy, respectively. And we have only seen the beginning.
But at this moment of fantastic opportunity, copyright is putting obstacles in the way of creativity, and copyright enforcement threatens fundamental rights, including the right to private communication, the right to receive and impart information without interference by public authority regardless of frontiers, the right to due process, and the principle of proportionality when punishments are handed out.
We need to change the direction that copyright legislation is going in, in order to protect our fundamental rights. No business model is worth more than the right to private communication and freedom of information.
Copyright needs to be reformed urgently.