There Is A Better Way
Today’s copyright legislation is out of balance, and out of tune with the times. It has turned an entire generation of young people into criminals in the eyes of the law, in a futile attempt at stopping technological development. Yet file sharing has continued to grow exponentially. Neither propaganda, fear tactics, nor ever harsher laws have been able to stop the development.
It is impossible to enforce the ban against non-commercial file sharing without infringing on fundamental human rights. As long as there are ways for citizens to communicate in private, they will be used to share copyrighted materials. The only way to even try to limit file sharing is to remove the right to private communication. In the last decade, this is the direction that copyright enforcement legislation has moved in, under pressure from big business lobbyists who see their monopolies under threat. We need to reverse this trend to safeguard fundamental rights.
At the same time, we want a society where culture flourishes, and where artists and creative people have a chance to make a living as cultural workers. Fortunately, there is no contradiction between file sharing and culture. This is something we know from a decade’s experience of massive file sharing on the Internet.
In the economic statistics, we can see that household spending on culture and entertainment is slowly increasing year by year. If we spend less money on buying CDs, we spend more on something else, such as going to live concerts. This is great news for artists. An artist will typically get 5-7% of the revenues from a CD, but 50% of the revenues from a concert. The record companies lose out, but this is only because they are no longer adding any value.
It may well be that it will become more difficult to make money within some parts of the cultural sector, but if so, it will become easier in some others – including new ones, that we have not even imagined so far. But as long as the total household spending on culture continues to be on the same level or rising, nobody can claim that artists in general will have anything to lose from a reformed copyright.
Should this also have the side effect of loosening up some of the grip that the big distributors have over cultural life, then so much the better for both artists and consumers.
When public libraries were introduced in Europe 150 years ago, the book publishers were very much opposed to this. The argument they used was the same one that is being used today in the file sharing debate: If people could get access to books for free, authors would not be able to make a living, and no new books would be written.
We now know that the arguments against public libraries were wrong. It quite obviously did not lead to a situation where no new books were written, and it did not make it impossible for authors to earn money from writing. On the contrary, free access to culture proved to be not only a boon to society at large, but also turned out to be beneficial to authors.
The Internet is the most fantastic public library that has ever been created. It means that everybody, including people with limited economic means, has access to all the world’s culture just a mouse-click away. This is a positive development that we should embrace and applaud.
The Pirate Party has a clear and positive agenda to end criminalization of the young generation, and provide the foundation for a diverse and sustainable cultural sector in the Internet age. We invite all political groups to copy our ideas.
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