by Rick Falkvinge
August 5, 2013
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 these matters.
Externally, the United States puts significant unilateral pressure on any
country that doesn’t submit to these agreements, up to and including trade
(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
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
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
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
skeptical 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
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.
The plan was to win Sweden, Europe, and the world. In that order. And it’s