2006-06-28

Lobby boss claims freedom obsolete and transforms pioneers into activists

Monique Wadsted is a lawyer, who works for the law firm Maqs. She claims to be Hollywoods (MPAAs) legal representative in Sweden, and her job is basically being the one coordinating the lobby on the juridical system and politicians in Sweden. With this area of expertice, and the experience in the field, one would think that Wadsted knew alot of what she was doing. But yesterday, June 27, she has written a piece published on Page 4 in Swedish tabloid Expressen that shows such a lack of perspective that I begin to wonder if the opponents of us pirates has any other assetts than money.

They think they are above the law

In the childhood of internet, it was a place where scientists and people interested in computers were at work. In its limited culture, the idea grew that all information should be free. It was natural in that environment and made it possible for internet to develop in the way it has done by the work of developing standard protocolls among other things. We should all be greatful for that.

The rest of society started to establish itself on the internet in 1995. Already early on, it was clear that this was a development that was not desireble for the internet activists. The were more and more marginalized and the idea that all information should be free was of course impossible to maintain when internet became part of the rest of society.

The debate has at times been heated and the internet activists have become more and more aggressive. This is something we've seen examples of lately with threats and harassments against people of different opinions and representativs för rightowners, such as me. They have also attacked the websites of the government, the police and Antipiratbyrån.

What initially was a culture that worked for peace and globalisation has developed to an unhealthy subculture where the members deem themselves above the law and have the right to do and say what they want.

They simply do not accept that the internet is now part of society as a whole. Many of them, like the guys behind the Pirate Bay, have also left the ideal state behind. By using the large trafic on the Pirate Bay they now make alot of money by selling ads, for example from gambling companies and from young women stripping for the webcam.

The necessity of freedoms specifically for the internet is of course nonsense. The existing copyright rules is also at work on the net. The adaption made by the Swedish copyright legislation last year clearified that copying an illegaly produced copy for yourself was forbidden. Such a change in legislation can hardly be concidered controversial. The internet activists have not given up, however, and the group got a renewal with the invention of file sharing programs. Swedish internet activists created nodes to simplify this illegal handling. A large part of these were placed in Sweden because of its large bandwidth capacity and the lack of police resources to handle this criminality. More and more people started uploading and downloading movies and other things without paying. Not primarily because they thought it was the right thing, but because it was possible.

To download a movie from Pirate Bay often take several hours. Many swedes can, during that amount of time, go to the nearest video store many times. For those living far from such stores there's a possibility to rent movies via mail. Sites with legal access to movies exists nowadays. To rent a new movie in Sweden costs 30 SEK; an acceptable price for someone with a slim income.

Why are people illegaly downloading from the net? My guess is that it is because it's cool, that on the net one can get a hold of illegal movies before they go up on theaters or arrive at the video store and that the risk to exposure has been very small. The fact that alot of youths and adults break the law is of course a problem. The cure against this, however, is not to legalize this activity. Just as little as any politician would get the idea to legalize speeding because many drivers drives too fast, there are no reasons to change the copyright legislation simply because many people are engaging in illegal up- and downloading. Nor is civil disobidience a good reason to take advantage of education without paying for it.

A large part of the Swedish economy is now based on trade with different types of immaterial rights. If the lack of respect for copyright and other rights gets further foothold, it will have effects also on the Swedish economy. The rightholders, not only in the US but also in Sweden and the rest of Europe, are concerned by the development here. The respect for copyright thus needs to be strenghtened also for the sake of Sweden.

Pioneers becomes activists
Wadsted somewhat accurately begins to describe the childhood of the internet as a place where universities, hobby computerists and scientists dominated greatly, and that the culture developed a culture of free information exchange. And she saw that it was good. We should be greatful, she says, for this development, making the internet what it is - possible for anyone to use.

But then something happens. The rest of society catches up, she notes, and moves onto the net.

When this occurs, something also happens to Wadsteds ideas on history and people on the internet. All of a sudden, the people that roamed the net in these distant, prehistoric times, the scientists and computer hobbyists and university people, all these dinosaurs, suddenly changes form. Now they are suddenly "internet activists". They're no longer the pioneers, the upholders of a free culture, the people making innovations, the highly educated, the ones that made the internet possible - they are "internet activists", with their own evil agenda. And this is the term by which these people, that happened to be on the net before "the rest of society" moved in, are henceforth to be known.

These "internet activists" have a very evil agenda - they are strongly opposing the idea that the internet should be extended beyond their own social circles and they definately don't want the rest of society to be represented on, or even have access to, the internet. This is a very strange assertion, concidering these "internet activists" (i.e. scientists, universities and computer hobbyists) have always maintained how much society benifits from a broader net access and lobbied for the internet to become more accessible to everybody. Guess it's only part of that obscure and outdated freedom agenda of theirs.

Freedom becomes obsolete
Other things also happened. Wadsted seems to want to claim that when the internet suddenly became something that concerned society as a whole, this idea of free information exchange, sharing ideas and concepts, helping each other find solutions and making things available for everyone in an equal amount and extent, became as outdated on the internet as it is in the rest of society.

This description of the history of the internet (once a playground for historical figures like scientists, hobbyists and students, now turned into a part of society), the people involved in it (the same scientists, hobbyists and students suddenly transformed into anti-social "activists") and the culture that developed on the internet (the concepts of freedom of equality that has always been obsolete in society but now is also obsolete on the net) is disturbing. But to be perfectly honest, it suggests more about how Wadsted views the internet, the people inovolved with the development of the internet, academics, and culture and society as a whole.

Go rent, damnit
Further, there's a suggestion that downloading of movies occurs because it can be done. This is absolutely correct. It can be done, and it will be done, and quite frankly, it's the only way to easily get a hold of a batch of one's and zero's and use it smoothly. Wadsted suggests that it's very easy for someone in Sweden to rent a movie - it only costs a tiny amount of money and if you don't live close to the video store, you can always get the rented movie via mail. Or use a legal access point.

There are some obvious problems with this. First of all, you might not at all be interested in watching the movies that the local video store (or legal online rental) happens to have in the shelves - most often the titles they believe will be rented out often. But if you have a taste that is somewhat different from the majority of the renters, these alternatives suddenly no longer give this possibility - the titles that interest people are not in the range of titles of all these stores.

The range of titles that you can access on the file sharing systems are by far greater than anything you can find in the videostore.

Wadsted also exaggregates when she uses the fictional sum of 30 SEK (roughly $4 or £2.25 or €3.25) as what it costs to rent a movie in Sweden. Some places offers you to rent for 30 SEK. Some offers you to rent for 20. New or popular titles will probably cost 50 SEK.

These 20-30-50 SEK might be a pity thing for many, but think about it for a moment. You can either pay 50 SEK to watch the most interesting movie that the rental place has on the shelf for a few times on your television set at 35-60 per cent of the cost of seeing it on the theater, but at a percent of the experience if you accept that movies should be seen on the white screen) and then go back to return it.

Or you could pay 50 SEK to have it mailed to you (waiting for a day to receive it, watching it and then go to the local post office - or store replacing the post office - and mail it back.

Or you can download it, and you use it at its own disposal. Since the downloaded version is a bunch of 1's and 0's you can basically do what you want to it. You can watch it whenever you want to. You can make a copy and give it away to someone else you know would like it. You can make your own fan subtitles for it. You can use samples of it, extract sounds from it to use as your windows startup noice, take screenshots and so on. You can also erase it. The only limit is yourself.

Obviously, there's no wonder why people download movies. It can be done, just as Wadsted notes, and it is downloaded into a form that is far superior than any form you can rent it in. And you can do whatever you want with it.

The only thing that Wadsted manages to do in her article is proving to have an outdated view on technology, a hostile view on both society and the internet, an absurd view on history, and an obscured view on what people might be interested in.

In her world, you pay for all forms of entertainment as a matter of principle and only take part of what entertainment a number of selected businesses have chosen for you to have access to, society is something that does not benifit from freedom or exchange of thoughts and ideas, and anyone not conforming to this weird view of the world is transformed from whatever they used to be (a scientist, a student, a geek, a lover of culture or simply a member of society) into a hostile activist with an agenda.

Guess what? I'm an activist with this agenda and take pride in it.

1 comment:

Kata said...

I think someone should start a site glorifying and encouraging 'internet activists' to be... active on the internet! I personally love the term as it inspires fear in the same way as 'animal rights activists' does.

I have a large collection of silly t-shirts displaying silly slogans such as 'everyone loves magical Trevor' (check out www.weebls-stuff.com/toons/magical+trevor/) and '1 4/\/\ |_||33R L3333337!!!11' and now I have another one, 'Internet Activist'!!