On the occasion of the Pirate Party's first UK address

In The City

Opening Comments for the In The City P2P Panel, Manchester, on Sunday 18 October:

Although Rik [Falkvinge]’s in front of us in flesh and blood, he wouldn’t exist – the Pirate Party wouldn’t exist – without enforcement policies being the primary goal of the music business. The programme bills this as “two sides of a debate”, but as a journalist I get incredibly suspicious when I hear there are just two sides, because usually there are two, three or four more we don’t hear about. Let’s put this into context.

The Pirate Party exists because of a political vacuum. Politicians don’t do politics anymore. Compare them to Lenin and Thatcher, for example, who had ambitious programmes of what society should look like, that cut across social, economic and personal ideas of their time. If you look at what a politician does now, it’s focus groups.

So into this political vacuum you’ll have lots of fringe, single issue groups. The Pirate Party is the first and most successful.

Now Rik specifically evoked some Enlightenment values in his presentation – [individual rights against the church and state]. But I see this as a very conservative and reactionary movement in two quite specific ways. First it’s a techno-utopian movement that’s all about replacing politics. It presents itself as a political party, but it isn’t in politics at all. Politics is about people sitting down and working something out, a consensus.

It’s also reactionary in another way.

Because ever since the invention of machines that copy culture, we’ve had this political and social settlement called copyright. Contrary to what Rik says, all those technologies have flourished and each and every technology has made artists more autonomous and better off. What’s Rik’s saying is quite simple. He’s saying here’s a copying machine – and I agree, it’s just a bigger copying machine than the others – for the first time in three or four hundred years this copying machine will make artists less autonomous and worse off. Now I think that’s a reactionary and discriminatory point of view.
So this is a techno utopian view is a very deterministic view of history – get out of the way. That’s a rejection of politics. I’ll give you another example of techno utopianism, and this is a common mistake people make – and we all know it’s wrong as soon as you think about it.

Is that an accumulation of information transforms itself into power. This is one of the great myths of our time – information isn’t knowledge, knowledge isn’t wisdom. Gathering up a load of information doesn’t make you successful. This is a fantasy nerds have in particular.

Finally I have a view that makes me incredibly popular with the music business – which is that any technology that can copy should be legal. The business has caused all kinds of problems by fighting it. Person to person file sharing, things like near field communications – where we can share music by shaking hands. These should all be brought to market – but they should be on the market for the enrichment of artists themselves, and people who invest in music.

So to summarise – we’ll get lots of single issue groups in the next few years. It’s deeply reactionary point of view, it’s quite discriminatory – but it’s the results of the music business’ lack of courage and innovation. Thanks.

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