The P2P Revolution: radiating outward from Sweden

A lot has been happening in Sweden recently, especially after an open letter of Moderate Party parliamentarian Karl Sigfrid in favour of decriminalizing filesharing.

The P2P Consortium has an interesting interview with the Swedish Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge, of which we are reproducing two questions in full.

There’s lot’s of background material on our Policy pages. And check this quote by Falkvinge on “Infosocialism“.

The Interview:

In this special interview Rick Falkvinge, the founder and the leader of Swedish Pirate Party, gives his own views on the wildly heated political filesharing debate in Sweden, evaluates the political and technological prospects of P2P and talks about the dangers of citizen surveillance and Big Brother society.

Q: In last couple of months the copyright debate in Sweden seems to have got hotter than ever before, and especially the emergence of the reformist group within Moderate Party makes the situation look like the beginning of a ‘final battle’ before the legalization of filesharing. How do you read the situation? Is it possible that Reinfeldt government could actually end up assuming the reformist position and decriminalizing filesharing, or is it too otimistic to expect this to happen before your 2010 elections?

Rick Falkvinge: Gandhi once said something that has become a famous quote:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

I interpret the current situation as a definite shift to phase three. That mainstream existing MPs for the largest party in government pick up and fight for our ideas is a huge legitimizer. Our ideas are not out on the fringe, we were just a little bit ahead of time.

What was remarkable was that this was the point where the enemy – forces that want to lock down culture and knowledge at the cost of total surveillance – realized they were under a serious attack, and mounted every piece of defense they could muster. For the first time, we saw everything they could bring to the battle.

And it was… nothing. Not even a fizzle. All they can say is “thief, we have our rights, we want our rights, nothing must change, we want more money, thief, thief, thief”. And shove some poor artists in front of them to deliver the message. Whereas we are talking about scarcity vs. abundance, monopolies, the nature of property, 500-year historical perspectives on culture and knowledge, incentive structures, economic theory, disruptive technologies, etc. The difference in intellectual levels between the sides is astounding.

So now we know what the enemy has, and that they have absolutely nothing in terms of intellectual capital to bring to the battle. They do, however, have their bedside connections with the current establishment. That’s the major threat to us at this point.

However, I don’t see the established parties picking up understanding at the necessary level just yet. Some parties advocate legalized downloading with uploading still being criminal, which is a clear sign they have not understood the current structural changes to society in the slightest, but just have a hunch that something needs to be done. Of course, that is good in itself, but not enough.

Karl Sigfrid’s own party, the Moderates, are technophobically luddite to the brink of the Stone Age as the official party line. Even though MPs in this party were the first to understand the issue thoroughly, I don’t see their party line changing before the next election.

What Karl Sigfrid et consortes have accomplished, though, is to make sure that this is going to be a major issue in the 2010 parliamentary elections, possibly even the 2009 European elections. That’s exactly what we want. We want as many as possible to reflect over the issue, discuss it, and try to understand what is happening, and realize it’s important – more important than petty squabbles over, say, day care benefits. The more that do, the more we win.

And the more we win – both in terms of the idea and support for the Pirate Party – the more pressure on established politicians.

Q: During your US speech tour last summer you came up with the idea of global IPR revolution starting in Sweden, then spreading to other European countries and from there to the whole world. Things seem to be so far on the track for your plan. How do you see the global situation yourself? Which countries and forces do you consider as biggest threats to this positive development you have envisioned? Any encouraging developments outside Sweden that you would like to mention?

Rick Falkvinge: What politicians at all levels have not understood is that the enemy is working internationally. If they get a victory in one country, their forces in every other country points there as a positive example and whine that they don’t have the same advantages where they live.

For instance, France recently introduced a bill which would cut off Internet access for file sharers. This is one example of a draconian Orwellian measure that makes IFPI’s and MPA’s mouths water. The European Commission, frequently courted by the enemy, has not been given the time or opportunity to reflect on the situation as a whole – and so keep pushing for more draconian measures too, with European-wide DRM as the latest profound stupidity.

Sweden was a little bit ahead of its neighbors in terms of high-speed broadband penetration; I had 10/10 Mbit in 1998 and 100/100 today, neither of which is remarkable. When you give technology to the people, they discover what it can be used for. Whether this is the cause of Sweden’s being ahead or not can be discussed, but I honestly see Sweden as leading the fight for free file sharing. When I speak to reporters abroad, I always get the question “with your proposal, how will the artists get paid?”. I almost never get that at home anymore.

So in my experience, positive developments originate in Sweden and radiate outward, mostly underground at first. There is some significant intellect in Silicon Valley about the situation, but they are not able to pressure politicians under the US’ political system like we are.

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