There Is Never A Need To Justify Sharing Culture And Knowledge

Just as some misguided people react with hostility to the fact that the copyright monopoly is not a birthright, they can react with hostility and demand a response to how sharing is “justified”. This, too, is misguided.

One example could be seen in the Reddit thread about The Pirate Bay being the world’s most efficient public library. For a while, the top comment was “whatever helps you justify it” (as in, “invent whatever excuse you like to try justifying the sharing of culture”). This is a misguided expression based on the false premise that sharing knowledge and culture needs to be justified.

It is completely the other way around.

Humankind and civilization have advanced due to and because of people sharing knowledge and culture, and humankind has never advanced when culture and knowledge have been locked up and contained. Sharing knowledge, information, and culture is also a good deed on an individual-to-individual basis. Whenever the ability to share and partake in knowledge and culture has been prevented, such as the burning of the library at Alexandria, it has always been regarded as a disaster for humanity in the history books.

And yet, some people believe that sharing – whether over The Pirate Bay, direct handover, or whatever other mechanism – needs to be justified.

It is true that the copyright monopoly has come at odds with the natural behavior of sharing and the right to share. But to enforce this monopoly, much more vital ideas in society – such as the postal secret – must be sacrificed, not to mention our cultural heritage. That is neither just nor reasonable, so that is what needs justification. It’s not just the copyright monopoly law itself that needs to be justified, but also individual compliance with the unjust monopoly law, on a case-by-case basis.

When somebody angrily asks you how you can share this and that knowledge “without permission”, state it as it is, that they are misguided, and ask how they could possibly justify requiring permission to share knowledge and culture. That goes counter to all of humanity’s history. Also, make sure to make a point that sharing never requires any kind of justification. (The current copyright monopoly laws are not enough of a justification, obviously, as they are unjust and completely out of touch with people’s actual and natural behavior.)

Sharing knowledge and culture is the natural state.

Therefore, any restrictions on sharing require very careful and strict justification.



  1. Anonymous

    the only justification that seems to be needed is the supposed losses the entertainment industries manage to convince governments are happening. everything else is totally ignored. everyone else is branded a criminal and whenever, wherever possible, those ‘criminals’ are arrested and imprisoned. the whole issue of entertainment is way out of hand. it is now a much worse offence to share files, to obtain pics of celebrities (10years in prison! r u kiddin me?) than commit murder! what the hell are governments and courts thinking, for God’s sake!!

  2. GeorgeV

    The same is true about companies, competition and copying each other, and then building on those ideas to differentiate. The most competitive markets are those where companies could copy each other’s features, and then try to one-up the other one. This has always led to higher quality of products and lower prices for consumers.

    The exact opposite is true where only one company in the industry can build-up that type of product, and sues everyone else into oblivion who dares making anything remotely similar.

    Nothing that is created is truly new, even the biggest breakthroughs out there. They all make use prior knowledge, discovered and created by many others before. This is how humanity is has worked, and that’s how it has progressed. The copyright and patent laws that state the opposite, and try to do the opposite, are simply anomalies created by rich people and their lobbyists, and they should be rectified.

  3. I was a teenager during Reagan’s terms. Communism was the enemy. In theory, everybody works hard and shares with others. It simply doesn’t work, though.

    1. No matter whether you’re communist or a capitalist liberal, the copyright monopoly has no place in your ideology. It is a market distortion, it is a government-sanctioned private monopoly.

      Sharing is the natural state. Monopolies were never the natural state.


  4. Isak

    Isak Öqvist While I absolutely agree with your values and think this might be an effective rhetoric, please don’t mistake this as a good argument in favor of file sharing. Arguing that something is right or justified because of how it is or has been is what is referred to as the naturalistic fallacy. In Hume’s words; you can’t derive an ought from an is. While you might argue that something terrible, like murder, should be illegal because it has been forbidden in the vast majority of societies, you can use the same argument to defend killing animals for meat or, up until the 19th century, to argue for the right to own slaves.

    Just to clarify: I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect pirates to always stand ready with an extensive argument for the morality of sharing culture. I can certainly see the virtue in being bold and standing up for ones values. Like the founding fathers of the US wrote; “we hold these truths to be self-evident” – to me this rhetoric is the equivalent of saying “We have good reasons supporting our values, but feel no obligation to explain ourselves to those who doubt them.” I only wish to point out that, logically, your argument can’t stand on its own.

  5. rockyshaw

    I have only one thing to say to politicians that we are screwed and the future generation is going to curse us for the deeds we do, like people curse Hitler now. There is a short movie , the name of the movie is Duality available on youtube which highlights this.

    1. passstab


      1. rockyshaw

        Sorry, my mistake it is plurality.

  6. Morten

    This is just a non-argument. I might ask how you can require permission for me to share knowledge of your passwords, share your car with all my friends, kill someone, etc. There is no answer to it. I support laws because I think they are in my best interest, or in the interest of people I respect. End of story. I do not wish you to justify your actions towards me. Do what you want and think is in your best interest. But I will still sue you if you start distributing information originating with me just because you can. I will still do that if copyright laws are gone. You are still aiding and abetting in contract breach. What if you hack into some online service and get my information there? Who cares whether you think you are justified? I probably have some agreement with them that the information will not be shared. If you share the info, you are helping in the breach of that agreement.

    1. Anyone

      you are doing all of this with other people’s property, so that’s beside the point

      why should I need permission from anyone to share my property (such as a song or movie I bought) with someone?
      I bought it, it is my property, I do with it as I please

      if you don’t want your work shared, don’t release it to the public

      1. Morten

        You didn’t buy it. You paid to use it according to a license. Much like paying for phone or internet service. You don’t suddenly own the phone lines. The guy who created the informational object has shared it on certain conditions. If you don’t agree to the conditions, don’t pay him, and don’t enjoy his works. You can probably “buy it” too, but it would be way more expensive. But you just want all the rights, but not to pay what the creator demands right? It’s like renting a hotel room for a night and then refusing to move out, saying that since you paid them you bought it.

        1. rockyshaw

          What about live in concerts and songs aired in radio and television channels, there is no license agreement between the watcher and content creator. Same thing for Bootleg. I have never seen a license in a DVD copy and neither did I was told. They say that it is illegal to distribute the copy and that is what we are discussing about so your point is pretty useless. Passwords and Cars was never made public by me. I pay for the telephone connection not the telephone lines, I can do anything with the telephone connection I wish. Renting any Buying is two different things which you seem to confuse.

        2. Anonymous

          >phone or internet service
          Scarce and rivalrous. An ordinary person cannot trivially duplicate phone or internet service; it must be provided over expensive infrastructure. It’s not even analogous, anyway: you are paying for access to (pardon the Stevens) a tube, which inherently has limited throughput.
          >hotel room
          Scarce and rivalrous. In any given hotel there are a finite number of rooms, and the amount of sharing anyone can do of those rooms is limited by the guest policy and physical constraints. You cannot trivially add rooms to the hotel to meet the number of guests who want to stay.
          >”informational object”
          Non-scarce and non-rivalrous. Computers are ubiquitous, as are the hard drives on which they store information. In most operating environments, Ctrl+C-Ctrl+V or “cp file file2” is sufficient to create a perfect replica of whatever the content is. Similarly, a few decades back we invented a global-scale copying machine called the Internet. You may have heard of it; it allows behaviours like these to approach the same level of triviality between any two computers anywhere. When anyone with a computer can so effortlessly copy an item to anyone else, without depriving himself of his copy, then we no longer have a scarce and rivalrous object to compete over.

          Argue about the morals of sharing non-rivalrous goods all you like, but please do not attempt to conflate them with scarce and rivalrous ones. They are not the same.

        3. Anyone

          buying a service or renting is different, of course, no need to compare it to that

          but when I buy music or movies I expect a property
          they can put whatever the hell they want in their EULA/TOS, it is still my property for me to do as I please

          if I couldn’t share it, what would be the point of buying it?
          that’s why I don’t buy anything with DRM on it, why should I pay for an inferior product when I can get a better product (without DRM) for free

    2. Billy Bob

      You sir, are a… Morten.

      If sharing constituteth robbery, thou stealest bread from the author’s mouth each time thou singest a song – in the shower, among friends, on the street, morality is the same – because thou hast not paid the author for the use of the said song.

      I also bet you jaywalk – in most countries it carries a five hundred dollar fine AND prison time. Or drive over speed limit. Your false sense of morality is disgusting as a troll’s hairy armpit.

      1. Morten

        There is this stupid strawman again. I didn’t say it was robbery. It is breaking of contract, or aiding in such. There are lot’s of ways to hurt an individual exept robbery.

        I couldn’t care less about whether or not you copy stuff., jaywalk, drive too fast, or what ever. I have no interrest in moralizing what individuals do. Indeed I some times do things that are strictly speaking against the licence of some informational object. Who cares? That is not a reason to make it legal. Besides, I never made an argument that breaking the law is immoral in itself, so I don’t get your point. You seem desparate to keep defending unauthorized copying when you use strawmen like that.

        I am talking about what I think the law should do, and one of those things is to protect peoples ability to live according to contracts and agreements, whether implicit or explicit. Thus I want a person to be able to sue for breach of contract, and also to sue those who helped him commit such a crime. If you order food at a restaurant, you should assume that you must pay for it, even though you never signed a contract, as that is the norm in restaurants. If you come accross a piece of entertainment, you should assume the author has some conditions for it’s distribution, as that is the norm. Like in all other cases, you do have a legal responsibility to check such things if you are in doubt. If you have a million Euro unexpectedly transferred to you account, you cannont simply spend it, but should assume something is wrong.

        To logically follow this purely materialistic view of the world you all seem to have, it seems to me we must also throw out all legal tradition of the western world. It would have to be legal to drive getaway cars, it would have to be legal to swindle people etc.

        The worst part is, I think this constant attack on the rights of creators, is making a lot of people afraid, and thus they are making stupid unprincipled attacks and compromises in the other direction, like DMCA, SOPA, etc. Discussing principles are out the window in every sphere, and it’s everyone against everyone in the battle for the legal system.

  7. […] ust as some misguided people react with hostility to the fact that the copyright monopoly is not a birthright, they can react with hostility and demand a response to how sharing is “justified”. This, too, is misguided.[…]  […]

  8. Roland

    What people often forget is that our very own government hires people to share knowledge. Those countries where governments don’t do so tend to be the poorest countries. I am, of course, talking about teachers. All western societies agree that teaching our children is the key to prosperity and yet those same governments allow companies to use our legal system, paid for by the people, to keep knowledge and information from those same people.

  9. iridesce

    In the wake of the loss of Aaron Swartz to humanity’s future, this was especially poignant.

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