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Tuesday, August 6, 2013
A Tipping Point Against The Copyright Monopoly Regime Is A Lot Closer Than You Think
When I founded the Swedish Pirate Party and decided to change the
political landscape of the copyright monopoly, I frequently told
reporters that the plan was to change Sweden, Europe, and the world – in
that order. They usually backed away wondering whether I was serious,
so I laid out the plan for them.
The key to changing the world’s copyright monopoly regime lies in
Europe and the European Union. The reason for that is that the United
States is completely dependent on a number of Industrial Protectionism
(IP) schemes since the failure of its industrial capacity in the
mid-1970s, having moved ahead from that failure with disguising lopsided
rent-seeking schemes as “free trade agreements”. The first of these was
the WTO, the body created to oversee the TRIPs agreement. There have
been many more since. You cannot change the United States from within on
Externally, the United States puts significant unilateral pressure on
any country that doesn’t submit to these agreements, up to and
including trade sanctions. (You will not have a hard time finding a case
where the United States has threatened a country with trade sanctions
or visa problems for having a too lax copyright monopoly regime, for
example – the U.S. even does this on a regular basis in something named
the “Special 301 Report”.) That’s why Europe is key to change.
Europe has the world’s largest economy, slightly larger than that of
the United States. (China is in third place.) For trade sanctions to be
effective, they have to be directed against a smaller player. This is
why the United States can have effective trade sanctions against Cuba,
but not the other way around. Therefore, the United States cannot
execute trade sanctions against Europe without getting hurt more itself.
However, the laws and enforcement of the copyright monopolies, patent
monopolies and other protectionism schemes are at the national level in
the European Union. That means that a state in Europe can
change its laws significantly, and still enjoy the shield against trade
sanctions that comes with being a member of the European Union. (The
country may get some heat within the EU, but that’s not going to have
any consequences if there is political momentum in the direction of the
change. EU rules are routinely ignored when politically inconvenient.)
So Sweden could change its copyright monopoly laws and be free to
ignore the rattling of American sabers, knowing safely that the threats
cannot be put into effect. So could Poland or Germany, if there was
political will. But Sweden is not a very interesting country in terms of
political clout. It was just meant to be the proof of concept; the
important first stage.
Remember: Sweden, Europe, and the world. In that order.
(As a side note, countries in Latin America also have a politically
expedient climate for this change and the gradual dismantling of
Industrial Protectionism schemes, but lack the necessary shield from an
economic union, and even so, their combined economy is roughly half of
that of the US or the EU – not enough on its own.)
On June 7, 2009, the proof of concept materialized as the Swedish
Pirate Party took two out of Sweden’s twenty seats in the European
Parliament. That sent shockwaves through the political establishment. I
thought that this would be the signal for Pirate Parties to form in more
countries, seeing that success was achievable; that was actually wrong.
There were already Pirate Parties in some fifty different countries by
that date. Things had moved much faster than I had anticipated.
To see why Europe is the next step, we need to understand the
political dynamics of the Industrial Protectionism supporters (copyright
monopoly and patent monopoly rooters). These schemes have essentially
been forced onto Eastern Europe by the countries in the west of Europe –
notably the UK, France, and Germany. But tides are changing. In the
European Parliament, there is now an estimated one-half still in favor
of monopolistic protectionism, one-third sceptical or against it, and
one-sixth undecided. Shift that balance by more than a sixth, and the
protectionist dismantlers will get political majority.
But there’s more than just the European Parliament. Europe is run in
many different ways in parallel, and I mentioned the UK, France, and
Germany. It is enough to win one of those three countries to tip the
political majority in Europe toward the line of the countries in Eastern
Europe: the political line exposing copyright monopolies and patent
monopolies of today for lopsided rent-seeking schemes that are generally
bad for everybody with the possible exception of the United States.
Let’s take a closer look at Germany. The Pirate Party there has
enjoyed quite a bit of success, but has come tumbling back down to a
more baseline level of support after failing to live up to extreme
amounts of hype around the party. If it manages to get a kingmaker
position in the German Parliament, it has the power to shift Germany’s
stance completely on these matters (and the other parties would gladly
give up such a peripheral issue – peripheral to them, anyway – in
exchange for the Office of Chancellor).
To do this, the German Piratenpartei needs 5% in the elections on
September 22 of this year. If that happens, and the kingmaker move
succeeds, then there will be a majority in Europe against copyright
monopolies and patent monopolies. The German Piratenpartei is currently polling at 3%-4%.
Just another small nudge forward for the German Piratenpartei, and Germany is won. The instant Germany is won, Europe is won.
And the day that Europe decides that it is not going to honor
protectionistic monopolies, then that’s just the way it is. The day the
world’s largest economy (Europe) decides that copyright monopolies are
bullshit, they will practically cease to exist overnight elsewhere, too.
The same goes for any gradual dismantling. In other words, we are ridiculously close to a tipping point
which will end this destructive war on information, knowledge, and
culture. We are ridiculously close to a tipping point which will start
dismantling the atrocious copyright and patent monopolies, worldwide.
Specifically, we are about 1.5% of political support in Germany away
from that tipping point.