Pirate Party in Sweden

There is an interesting debate article in the Swedish national newspaper Dagens Nyheter this morning about the Pirate Party written by the party leader, Rick Falkvinge. He explains what the problem with information policy today is and why it is necessary to have a political actor who understands the problems and possibilities in today's information soceity.

I had a discussion with my hosts about that over the breakfast table, they - and many of the discussion articles on the page - think that the Pirate Party is the same as the Pirate Bay, which was a file-sharing site. The party was founded as an answer to the shutting down of the site on the grounds that it was doing illegal stuff like letting people download intellectual property without paying for it.

We have had fights like this every time a new technology starts. Remember Betamax? And the fight with the networks? Sony vs. Universal Studios. Having a video recorder meant that you could tape a TV show and replay it at your leisure without having to pay the TV stations or the movie people again! Universal Studios took Betamax's creator, Sony, to court, and guess what: the Supreme Court found that even if there are illegal things that can be done with the technology, there are also many legal things that can be done with it. It's the people who misuse the technology, not the technology itself. And it is fair use to make copies and watch them some other time.

And gee, remember when old Gutenberg figured out how to make cheap books? That meant that people could learn to read and think for themselves, without having a priest or a politician tell them what to think. Bad news for the ruling class.

We now have the "Information Society" upon us. This is rapidly and radically changing the way that many things work - some for the better, some for the worse. Many companies and very many politicians do not understand how information technology works. They have very vague - and often wrong - notions about the underlying technology and what can happen if certain data is compiled and cross-referenced.

Too many people with knowledge of information technology have little or no interest in politics, and so they have left them to their own devices. Suddenly we discover that there are infringements being imposed on us that violate our basic rights. Sometimes we find information being kept on us that violates our privacy. And many times we discover that we are being asked to pay again and again for things that the taxpayer has already paid for, or we are expected to pay horrendus sums for things just so that the "distributors" (which are no longer needed) can make enough money to keep them in luxury goods.

Just as with Betamax, there are many legal uses for file-sharing and other technologies. For example, we can use them to enable Open Access, Open Source, and Open Content. There wouldn't be a Wikipedia without it!

It is time for people with technological knowledge to go public. To go political. Sure, this tends to be guys. I've been in computing since over 35 years, and I am often the only woman in the room. We have to get more women into technology, so that also more women can work politically with an understanding of how technology affects the world.

The Swedish Pirate Party has grown very fast and has over 50.000 members, making it the third largest party, according to their own web site and the Swedish Wikipedia. They will be standing for seats in the national and local government of Sweden in the elections next year. I hope that by then they manage to make it clear to the citizens of Sweden that they are not just about scoring free films and music, but that they are trying to bring an information technology perspective to politics.

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