Horace Engdahl pushes for Internet Control

This is our second article in Expressen. It’s a response to the Swedish Academy’s secretary Horace Engdahl, who strongly opposes decriminalizing file sharing. 13 Moderate-Party parliamentarians signed the article.

Led by Swedish-Academy secretary Horace Engdahl, a coalition of special interests is attacking our proposal to reform the laws that currently criminalize millions of Swedes. They argue that allowing file sharing would be a hard blow to tens of thousands of creative artists. However, those that signed the article are not creative artist themselves. Instead it is a group of lobbyists who join Engdahl in claiming that they represent the interests of artists.

The article writers’ clients are not artists but distributors. It is fully logical that the Publisher’s Association is skeptical to a technical development that enables writers to distribute their work without the help of publishers. The Recording Industry’s interest organization IFPI is in the same boat. Recording studios are obviously not interested in a market where they themselves are not needed.

There will always be some people whose goal is to preserve the current order. When the market changes, they get frightened and call for harsher legislation. Their interest in stopping progress must be weighed against the public’s interest in taking advantage of the opportunities that technology gives them. If politicians had met the demands from the copyright industry throughout history we would have had a considerably poorer media landscape; without VCR:s, mp3 players and online tv.

Of course the media industry needs reasonable rules to play by, but the public’s view of what is reasonable differs from the one that the Swedish Academy’s secretary expresses. Therefore the ban on file sharing has lost its legitimacy, and the law’s prospects of being successful are nonexistent.

The right to reasonable rules should apply also to Internet Service Providers, who don’t want to be an online police force. Making broadband suppliers watch what their customers download on the Internet would be like making postal services open every package. Those who defend creators’ rights should also defend everyone’s right to communicate without surveillance.

It appears to be news to Horace Engdahl and his allied file-sharing opponents that the Moderate Party values freedom of speech and freedom of information. Had they done their homework they would be aware that decriminalizing file sharing was part of our election platform. The following could be read on the Moderate-Party web site: ”Today’s harsh laws have suddenly criminalized millions of Swedes. Such laws are of course not acceptable. If the Parliament has passed a law that doesn’t work in the real world, one should not be afraid of changing the law.”

Horace Engdalh claims that some of us who want to decriminalize file sharing are only seeking attention, and that we don’t understand what we say. This is incorrect. We have researched the file-sharing issue well and take it seriously. The issue is exceptionally complicated and therefore we have opted for the only alternative that is possible if we want to avoid a society where individuals are subjected to unreasonable surveillance.

The Moderate Party is an open organization valuing free discussion as a tool for shaping better policies. Therefore we have full respect for those of our party colleagues who believe in tougher anti-piracy laws, even though we are convinced that our party must come to a more pragmatic position.

Stopping file sharing is not as simple as passing a law. For every file-sharing channel that is closed, new ones will quickly open, and soon file sharing will be anonymous. Besides, a large portion of all copying takes place outside of the file-sharing networks on the Internet. Everything from email to chat software and cell phones can be used send movies and music. How does the Swedish-Academy secretary plan to prevent this? By searching citizens on the street and making razzias in every private home?

What do writers living in control states around the world think of the Swedish-Academy secretary joining the special interests’ fight again free information flows? It’s easy to demand harsher laws, but more difficult to stand for the consequences. Is Horace Engdahl prepared to defend the control society that he has now become a proponent of?

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