This is significant for a few reasons. The Swedish Pirate Party is clearly here to stay — having won seats (yes, that’s plural, “seats”) in the European Parliament, they are now concentrating on in-country elections. The leadership transition is a sign of stability: Falkvinge recognized that what the party needed now was an organization builder with new ideas, felt he’d done his best work in founding the Party and leading it to its first victories, and moved on. By all accounts Anna Troberg is exactly the right person for the job.
Rick Falkvinge will now be able to concentrate on political evangelism full time at his English-language site: Falkvinge on Infopolicy. In his words:
“…I feel there has been a language barrier from the Swedish discussion, which is several years ahead, to the rest of the world. I want to bridge that.”
This is welcome news, because here in the U.S. we need more of what might be called the “Swedish School” of copyright reform.
To the extent that copyright debate here has moved in a positive direction at all, it’s been largely through the rhetoric of artistic freedom, so-called “fair use”, and worries about gigantic conglomerates holding cultural monopolies. Those are important concerns, but there’s another aspect that doesn’t get enough attention: strong copyright enforcement inherently means weak civil rights, because to enforce copyright restrictions in an age of networked computers means someone must watch what everyone’s downloading. This is what Nina Paley was getting at in her Copyright and Surveillance Minute Meme for the EFF, and it’s been a major part of the Swedish Pirate Party’s platform since day one — in fact it’s essentially why the party was founded in the first place.
We helped Falkvinge bring that message here on his U.S. West Coast tour in 2007, and it’s only become more important since then. Consider that in the name of enforcing publishers’ monopoly rights, Amazon had to keep track of what its customers were reading in order to erase books from customer’s e-book readers in 2009. That’s not an exceptional case, it’s a structural inevitability: in the digital age, content monopoly means user surveillance. How else could it be? There is no other way to enforce the monopoly. If you don’t want that world either, help us keep a better one.
We’ve got Falkvinge on Infopolicy in our right sidebar now. We hope you’ll watch the site, as we will be. And if Rick Falkvinge says something that strikes you as overly worried today, please make a note of it, wait a couple of years, and see how it looks then. Chances are he’s just a little bit ahead… as he was when he founded the Swedish Pirate Party.