even i have limits

posted by tom / April 03, 2006 /

Check out this interview with Rick Falkvidge of Sweden's PiratPartiet, a political party founded around the issue of P2P sharing (and at least loosely affiliated with The Pirate Bay BitTorrent site).

It's not a joke: with just 4% of the vote they'd establish a presence in parliament, and their favorability ratings have been polled as high as 57%. Of course, favorability doesn't necessarily translate into votes — people would probably express basic support for the Free Lollipops For Everyone Party, but perhaps not spend any votes on them. Still, the PiratPartiet folks seem to be going about this process methodically and responsibly, and from the (admittedly biased) sources I've read, IP issues have apparently become a topic of national debate in Sweden. They seem to have a real shot.

I find this pretty encouraging. I have no idea if the IP debate will ever take hold in America, but PiratPartiet's rise makes it seem to be possible, at least.

With all of that said, I can't quite bring myself to endorse Falkvidge's positions. Five year copyrights seem likely to seriously hurt content producers. And his take on the patent system is pretty stupid (his mobile phone industry example is laughable).

It seems pretty clear that some form of patent protection is necessary. It's just the details and extent of the system that needs fixing. Kill off coverage for business processes, algorithms, software methodology and discovered (rather than synthetic) genetic information. Make life harder for patent trolls. Spend more money on examiners and fire those who grant patents to perpetual motion machines.

It'd be a start, anyway. But it seems obvious that eliminating the patent regime entirely would be bad, bad news. Technology companies are going to protect their revenue streams one way or another. If you remove legal protections entirely you'll end up with a world full of epoxied-shut black boxes, all of which will operate on proprietary, closed standards and fail to integrate with one another. The digital world is still just now learning how to speak the same language. It'd be a shame to scare the corporations building it into packing up their toys and going home.

Perhaps PiratPartiet is pushing for more radical reforms than it actually believes in, planning for an inevitable compromise. If so, carry on, fellas. But as things stand I'm not yet quite ready to apply for Swedish citizenship. Better to wait until the EFF seizes the means of conduction at home.

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