Monday, September 30, 2013

The Pirate Party

You have probably, like me, googled your books and felt slightly sick as you realised how easy it was to download pirated copies. Peter James's publisher reckons that these account for about 25% of the number read.

You've probably seen, too, the self-justification from those who reply, with some savagery, to author's complaints about the practice. My own favourite was the person who said, 'I wanted to read the book and I didn't have the money so what else was I to do?' Did he, I wonder, apply the same principle when he went to his local supermarket – and if so, how did that go down as an excuse when he was arrested?

Amelia Andersdotter
However, there is now a new kid on the block and she's ready to kick sand in our faces – the youngest member of the European Parliament, Amelia Andersdotter. She represents Sweden's Pirate Party and believes that there should be no barriers put in the way of illegal downloads.

Her argument? 'Using culture as a common reference point in social interaction is so normal and so human that I think that not allowing it in law does not make any sense at all.' She complains that the website linked to the party, the file-sharing Pirate Bay, has had to move around the globe in its attempts not to be held to account. 'They are being persecuted and they are living in legal uncertainty'.

Curiously enough, she seems to skirt over the question of how they can afford to move themselves all over the world; could it be that they are immoral enough to charge for giving access to these cultural common references? Unless their services are entirely free, they are just doing what, if carried out in a back street shop, would be called fencing stolen goods.

Her fire is mainly directed at musicians and film-makers who, she says, make quite enough money anyway, but the stated aim of her organisation – which, not surprisingly, has a lot of support from people who want something for nothing – is to abolish the copyright law.

It would be reassuring to think that we had a government to protect our legal rights but in Britain at the moment we certainly do not. Schools are just about to be given greatly extended rights over original material, a serious blow to the income of writers in these fields – which of course, according to Ms Andersdotter, is only right since currently people 'aren't having freedom to interact with the cultural material they want.'

We all write because we want to write, because we have a story we want to tell.  But as a statement from a music rights organisation said,
'If creators cannot earn from what they create, it is a hobby and not a business,' – a hobby that far too many of us would not have the income to allow us the leisure to pursue. 

And with far fewer books and far less music, where would Ms Andersdotter and her pirate friends find the 'cultural references' which are so important to the public weal as to justify theft?

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