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Friends, Citizens, Pirates

Rickard Falkvinge's speech at the Saturday demonstrations in Stockholm. Published on this Sweden's national holiday.


Friends, citizens, pirates:

There's nothing new under the sun.

My name is Rickard Falkvinge and I lead the Pirate Party.

In the week that's gone by we've seen several abuses of power. We've seen the police abuse power. We've seen innocent people get hurt. We've seen how the media industry reacted. We've seen how politicians at the highest level scrambled to please and protect the media industry.

This is a scandal beyond comparison. It's why we're here today.

The media industry want to trick us into thinking this is about forms of payment - about how certain career groups are paid. That it's about their sinking revenues. These are but excuses. It's about something else entirely.

To understand the current situation in the light of history we need to go back 400 years to when the church had a monopoly on culture and knowledge. Whatever the church said was it. Pyramidal communications. You have one guy at the top who talks to many down the sides of the pyramid. Culture and knowledge had a source, and that source was the church.

And heaven help anyone who dared challenge the church's monopoly. They were harassed with the most unthinkable abuses of power. Under no circumstances would the church let citizens spread culture and knowledge on their own. They controlled the entire legal system in order to thwart, punish, and harass whenever this happened.

There's nothing new under the sun.

Today we know that the only right way for social development was to let knowledge be free. That Galileo Galilei was right. Even if he trespassed onto the knowledge monopoly.

In other words we're talking about a time when the church with full force went out and said it wasn't necessary for citizens to learn to read and write - the priest always told them anything they needed to know. The church fully understood what would happen if they lost control.

And then we got the printing press.

Suddenly there wasn't a single source of knowledge: there were many. The citizens - who now began to learn to read - could take part in unsanctioned knowledge. The church went berserk. The royal houses went berserk. The British royal house went so far as to make a law that only printers specifically approved by them could print books and spread knowledge and culture to the citizenry.

And they called that law 'copyright'.

A couple hundred years later we got freedom of the press. But everywhere it was the same old communications model: one person speaking to many. There were lots of different people to listen to, but everywhere it was one person speaking to many. The state exploited this, starting a system with the 'responsible publisher'.

Citizens may assuredly partake in knowledge, but there must always be one person to hold accountable in case - perish the thought - the citizens partake in the wrong knowledge.

And it's this which is fundamentally changing today. For the Internet no longer follows this model. We're not downloading only culture and knowledge. We're uploading as well - for others. We're sharing files. Our knowledge and culture have, fantastically enough, lost their central control point.

This is the central issue in my speech, so let me take this in greater detail:

Downloading is the old massmedia model with a central point of control, a point of control with a 'responsible publisher' who is held accountable and who can lose the support of this central point of control which grants and denies rights according to its own whims.

A monopoly on culture and knowledge. Control.

File sharing means simultaneous uploading and downloading for every person connected and totally lacks central control. Instead it's a situation where culture and knowledge move organically amongst millions of people at once. Different things entirely. This is something completely new in the history of human communications. There's no longer anyone to hold accountable if incorrect information is spread.

This is why the media companies talk so much about legal downloads. Legal, downloads. Because they're trying to get the only legal thing to be to get things from the central point they control. Downloading - not file sharing.

And that is precisely why we are going to change the law.

In the week that's gone by we saw how far they're prepared to go to keep control. We saw our constitution contravened. We saw forceful violations of personal integrity perpetrated by the police - and not to fight crime but to openly harass those involved and anyone near them.

There's nothing new under the sun, and history always repeats itself. This isn't about forms of payment to career groups. This is about control of culture and knowledge, for they who control it control the world.

The media industry have tried to make us feel shame, to say what we're doing is illegal - that we're pirates. They're trying to hide us under a rock. Look around you today - look how they've failed. Yes, we are pirates. But anyone who thinks it's shameful to be a pirate is wrong. It's something we're proud of.

For we've already seen what it means to be free of central control. We've already tasted, felt and smelled the freedom from a monopoly on culture and knowledge controlled from the top. We've already learned to read and write.

And we're not going to forget how to read and write just because it doesn't please yesterday's media powers.

My name is Rickard and I'm a pirate.

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