Copyright concerns more than pirates
article in Swedish [www.dn.se]
[This is a quick translation from Swedish to English of the above linked article. The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published this the other day and I thought it was a real shame that it couldn't be read by a wider audience than the Swedish speaking one. I mailed the newspaper and asked them to translate it. They replied that they haven't got time. But the journalist encouraged me to spread the word. So I do. This translation probably breaches copyright. However, it would be quite amusing for the newspaper publisher to come after me with a copyright argument after publishing this article.]
Copyright concerns more than pirates
The failed action against The Pirate Bay shows that the end of
the road has been
reached for Bodströms [Minister for Justice] hard-line copyright
approach. It is time to review last years changes of the law and start
discussing the real problems.
The raid against the file-sharing web site The Pirate Bay has ricocheted
into the election campaign. Instead of becoming a forceful blow against illegal
sharing quite the opposite has happened.
A question which primarily concerns young internet users has now landed
high on the agenda of the political debate. Essentially all the political parties
and a growing number of citizens are starting to question the sense in using
the police to track down people who distribute software that makes it possible
to download movies, music and other copyrighted materials.
Even Minister for Justice Thomas
Bodström, otherwise an un-flappable character,
has started humming and hawing, maybe in the insight that his uncompromised
approach can become a burden for the social democrats during the election process
for this autumn.
All of this is excellent. All to
long the copyright question has been dealt with in the outskirts of the political
debate. The risk is that many perceives
conflict as a battle between lawless net pirates and fat media moguls. But
the situation is more complicated and if we are going to progress in the
have to get rid of some delusions that mar the debate.
Firstly, the policy of copyright is not on the defensive, at least not in
a judicial sense. On the contrary, during the last decades there has been a
of the copyright across the world, strongly supported by the USA, whose entertainment
business has strong economical interests in protecting its products.
The time which a work is protected
by copyright has been increased in several countries and the ability to copy
materials for private use has been curtailed.
There are many reasons to be critical against the hardening copyright regime
without actually proposing to abolish the copyright. What is needed now is
rather a substantial timeout to discuss if there are other and better ways
the production of intellectual works. Bodströms enthusiasm for
stronger laws and to hunt file sharers has been the wrong approach.
Secondly, it is not the anarchic internet pirates who have been hit the hardest
by the new stronger copyright laws, but law abiding librarians, university
teachers, archivists and museum workers. Their ability to teach and to make
heritage more accessible to people has in one blow been made substantially
harder since the new copyright laws came into power last year.
On paper there are many possibilities to negotiate with the originators of
the works or their representatives, about permission to copy and publish their
But in reality it is essentially impossible, as the cultural institutions do
not have the resources required to gather all the necessary permits. The consequence
is a privatisation of our commonly owned culture.
Thirdly, the comparisons
between copying of intellectual property and theft of private property leads
the discussion away from the real issues. There are
differences between right of possession over physical objects and copyright.
Intellectual property is as opposed to material property not a finite resource.
theory of relativity or Marcel Prousts writings do not run out because someone
else shares them. What is important is whether the creators has
a sufficiently strong incentive, if the reward is in proportion to the actual
On the other hand we have the issue
of freedom of expression, the intellectual commons. If ideas, theories and
artistic works are easily accessible we increase
the possibility of improvements, new discoveries and creation of new works.
The argument that we can do without
patents and copyright are not convincing. The risk is that we go back to
the situation where artists, scientists and
other intellectuals will become dependent on a rich benefactor is acute.
But the efforts to turn back technical development with ever increasingly strong
copyright equally leads in the wrong direction. Sweden should as a first
step go back to the copyright law which was in place before 1 July 2005.
DN 20 June 2006