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The Question Was Never “How Do We Make Sure Artists Are Paid”. It Was Always “How Do We Ensure Art Is Made And Available”.

52

Copyright Monopoly

Copyright Monopoly

The copyright monopoly was never intended to ensure income for a particular group of people. This is a common false counterargument in the copyright monopoly debate, even among people who agree that the current monopoly is beyond insane: “but we must find a way to ensure that artists are compensated for their work”. This is simply a thoroughly false statement; the goal of policymaking is to ensure art is created and available to the public, and whether somebody is paid for it is completely beside the point.

This argument about rewarding creators of art is a very common way of trying to derail a discussion about the copyright monopoly. Regardless of the logical dishonesty in defending a system that locks 99.995% of artists away from any royalty with the argument that “artists must get paid”, and then steals most of the rest of the money from the 0.005% of the artists, it’s still a recurring argument. The problem is that it is utterly false and a diversion; compensating artists monetarily was never a goal with the copyright monopoly.

As I’ve written before, nobody is entitled to any compensation for any amount of work, ranging from minuscule to infinite. The only thing that entitles an entrepreneur – artists included – to any kind of compensation is a sale.

When no sales are made, is this a problem for an artist? Undoubtedly so. Sometimes even tragic. But does that make it a problem for the entire world? There are three answers to that question: No, no, and no, in that order.

No trade ever had special laws guaranteeing its income, especially not against the progress of technology. When households got electricity in the 1920s, and the biggest industry in most European and American cities went belly-up in a few years – the icemaking industry – nobody asked for a refrigerator fee, despite many personal tragedies.

Going back to the specifics of the copyright monopoly, the US Constitution is positively crystal clear in its justification for the existence of the copyright monopoly:

…to promote the progress of science and the useful arts…

Do you see anything about securing income for any particular group in society there? No? That’s because it’s not there. It was never a goal.

The copyright monopoly is a balance between two competing interests: the public’s interest in having new culture and knowledge produced, and the same public’s interest in having access to culture and knowledge. The public is the only stakeholder in the copyright monopoly construct. The only stakeholder. Somebody’s income or non-income does not factor into it.

So the problems that needs to be solved are two: how we make sure that new culture gets created, and how me make sure that this culture is available to the public at large. How somebody gets compensated is not a problem on the table.

(At this point, several people would argue that no culture would get made if people aren’t compensated for making it. That statement is blatantly false, as proven by successful authors like Cory Doctorow, whose books are free to copy. As are mine. Once you realize that successful authors do earn money even with rampant copying, you can relax the neurotic “every copy must be controlled” attitude. But even if they didn’t, that would still not be an argument to give up freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, and expression online.)

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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52

  1. 1
    Cactux

    When has this article been published?
    I can not find any publication date in the page. This information is often usefull to put an article in perspective, especially on a web site with many articles ;-)

    Keep up the good job, thanks for all your work !

  2. 2
    Peter Eriksson

    I find using “one in a million” more politically powerful then the somewhat scary “0.0001%”. (Or 1ppm if you’re a chemist.)

    • 2.1

      That is an excellent point that also highlights that the numbers are not realistic. I must have misread them.

      When I read,

      Of the 2% that succeeded, less than a half percent of those ever got paid a band royalty from the sale of recorded music.

      …I read that as 0.5% of 2%. But the resulting number is just too low. It’s not realistic. The quote must be referring to …less than half a percent unit of those… , meaning a quarter of the 2%.

      I’m correcting the article to reflect this. Thanks.

  3. 3
    Anonymous

    Thanks for reiterating something that some people have a hard time understanding- that copyright was never supposed to be an income source, except as a side effect at best, and that it WAS intended to encourage the advancement of (originally) science and (as it expanded) culture.

  4. 4
    Roger Le Marié

    What I really, really miss as a small addition to the article is the reason why a «copyright monopoly is a balance between two competing interests: the public’s interest in having new culture and knowledge produced, and the same public’s interest in having access to culture and knowledge.» How does copyright and especially copyright MONOPOLY advance those two points?

    • 4.1
      next_ghost

      It doesn’t. This claim was used as a PR stunt to justify censorship in England 300 years ago and the people who adopted copyright monopoly into US Constitution 80 years later just didn’t know better.

  5. 5
    Anonymous

    All normal laws are built with a balance of interest between the public and the public.
    When a law tries to balance someone’s special interest then it’s usually bad for the public, and it’s only one group that benefits. Be it a dictator or a company or an oppressive group.
    Copyright’s no difference.
    This is one of those big elephants in the room that people miss when talking about copyright.
    Copyright puts soceity on a second priority and gives the whims of some too big companies more importance.
    An open and more connected society is better for society. We get lot’s of good art, artists have more freedom. It’s just the bullish companies that complain, always.

  6. 6

    Besides yourself and Cory Doctorow, there are millions and millions of people who create culture without demanding, or even expecting, economic compensation. The Internet is full of them. Blogs, YouTube, etcetera. From simple puns and lolcats to amazingly well-produced films – it’s all culture and it’s all created without money changing hands. This may seem shocking to the Lars Ulrichs of the world, but to the rest of us it’s no mystery.

    The simple explanation is that expressing oneself is a far more important factor than money. This is also why people continue to remix culture to create new culture, even knowing that they might get sued. Or in even worse cases, why people continue to express themselves and create culture in places where the regime will crack down on them for doing so.

    (Hey, may I do a guest post on this matter? I feel like I’m half way there already.) :)

    • 6.1

      This is so important that I’ll take the liberty of repeating it:

      The simple explanation is that expressing oneself is a far more important factor than money.

      (of course you’re welcome to write a guest article! Sending credentials etc later today.)

      Cheers,
      Rick

  7. 7
    cara

    If I recall correctly, copyright wasn’t even intended “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts”. It emerged as (and still is) a tool of censorship. This alleged history of copyright as an incentive and protection of culture production is a myth, or propaganda of people with a vested interest.

  8. 8
    Jörgen F

    Most of those private mixing of cultures results in a total utter crap that is torture and would be considered a health problem if was made public to vast numjbers of people. Luckily one can turn it off. But if you want to get payed also? No. NOt by tax money or other subsidies.

    But My art created by me in mine alone, payed or not it is up to me to deside what it should be used for and not. This Issue of ownership or property (immaterial) right is essential for my freedom. And it should be my responsibility to get payed or make money in the system we have or in an entrepreneurial way change the whole industry or art world (if not commercial one). usic industry or Business are mainly here for one purpose alone. TO MAKE MONEY. for people to live on, and not art. Some are successfully in producing both art and money, SOme only art, that almost no one wants, except the gouvernements corrupted benefit organisation of payed artists by tax money because someone desided they were “good, or great or just someones relative or friend”. Art galleries should be opened as they are for anyone who has anything in value if the art gallery owner agree.

    The amazing thing about information technology is that every single man now has an art gallery, a music distribution system for almost no cost at all, to create the actual art is EXTREAMLY expensive still if you want quality in it. But a lot is spending those money for their art or nedds of expression or dreams of making money of their creative art.

    But I couldnt express more strongly that the way politicians of the “old” are selling out, and abolishing our democratic values and rights and freedoms are utterly breathtaking. How dare they, how D A R E they kill the freedoms so many generations before us died to obtain. For such a long time, thousands of years of struggle against tyranny and corruption. Now they are gonna watch us, record us, data store all about us, 1984 us, no, I do NOT agree willingly loosing these rights of speach, freedom of assemly, freedom of writing, freedom from oppression, registration and 1984isification.

    Still the issue about how to get payed as an artist is still a very important and vivid question and relevant. But for another time.

    • 8.1
      TG

      I sometimes imagine how the copyright clause of the US constitution would look if rewritten for today’s world:

      To promote the progress of Hollywood movies with ludicrously expensive special effects but banal plots, teeny bopper pop music, and tonnes and tonnes of porn (but retarding the progress of science by allowing parasitic journals to lock up research for decades to come), by securing for an insanely long time (and we’ll keep extending it) to corporations an exclusive monopoly -hey, that doesn’t sound good, let’s call it property – over whatever our lawyer are adept enough at arguing should be covered.

    • 8.2
      augustus

      “But My art created by me in mine alone, payed or not it is up to me to deside what it should be used for and not.” 99% of your art wasn’t created by you. Like everything part of our culture and society it was built on top of layers upon layers of information processing since the dawn of time. Nobody in the stone age was able to write Hamlet, just like nobody alive during the age of Shakespeare could have designed the x86 CPU.

  9. 9
    Joel Fagin

    That you can create books without getting compensated for them is lovely for you but it doesn’t help, say, the movie industry or theatre, which need capital up front. It would also be foolish to suggest that you wouldn’t get more creative works if the creators were adequately compensated. Pay them enough and they can quit their job and create full time, refine their craft and generate more content.

    That the copyright law was originally not intended to ensure payment to creators does not mean that this is automatically right. The laws of economics also play a part. A market which is heavily unbalanced towards either the consumer or the creator cannot survive. In the case of creative industries, it is the customers who have disproportionate power to enjoy the content without compensating the creators. That is not a healthy market and, although it’s surviving for now, should it get more unbalanced, it will either collapse or re-balance the other way.

    For example, in the case of movies, DRM is an attempt to re-balance. If it fails and if the amount of users watching the movies without paying increases enough then funding movies will be incredibly difficult and the industry will collapse.

    (And, no, I don’t like or support DRM and, no, I’m not impressed with the endless remakes we’re getting either. I’m using it as an economic example that everyone is familiar with, not supporting the current market dynamics. The movie industry needs to fail a bit more before it rebalances so perhaps we can start getting good movies again.)

    • 9.1
      mijj

      .. and what about all that income lost to the Hollywood industry because people prefer to sit at home watching cat videos on YouTube!

      To save the movie industry there should be a requirement that only those who have MPAA approval be allowed to make videos. The videos should be submitted to an MPAA authorized body to approve and distribute them. Of course, nothing is free, so viewers will be required to pay so the studios, artists and distributors can be compensated for their hard work.

      • 9.1.1
        Daniel Phrmous

        That’s a fairly extreme direction to go from Joel’s comment, isn’t it?

        Hollywood doesn’t need to be saved. The producers don’t need to be saved. The MPAA bloody well doesn’t need to be saved.

        Just the artists and the art form.

    • 9.2
      next_ghost

      The sooner the copyright industry collapses, the sooner will a new market form. One that will recognize the necessity of unrestricted copying for progress and respect rights of its customers.

  10. 10
    Daniel Phermous

    Your ice making industry example is telling.

    The unique thing about this market that requires a question like “How do we make sure artists are paid?” is that the market is broken even while demand is strong. This simply hasn’t happened before. Normally, a market dies because it’s superfluous but in this case, we want the art to stay around. So, yes, we have to ask how we can do that. We have to ask how we can get money to the people who entertain us.

    • 10.1

      Give me one other example, from any time in economic history, where it has been seen as necessary to introduce a cost for the sake of introducing a cost.

      • 10.1.1
        Daniel Phermous

        Did you miss the part where I said this hasn’t happened before? There is no example. I already said so.

        I like how you have chosen to ignore my main point and, rather than discuss the meat of my comment, decided to snipe at a peripheral matter with an unrealistic request that requires me research the entirety of economics history in order to score against you.

        As it happens, my girlfriend is an economics professor but I won’t bother her with it. Like I said: I’ve already conceded this is new territory anyway.

        • next_ghost

          Here’s one topic you absolutely MUST ask your girlfriend about: “Demand always finds a way to satisfy itself.” Her explanation on that topic should make you realize why your point is actually quite pointless.

          When the copyright industry collapses, there will be less art with high technical quality (note how the word “quality” is qualified) on one side and lots of people with extra money they want to spend on entertainment on the other. Guess what happens next?

        • Sten

          @Daniel Phermous

          “like how you have chosen to ignore my main point and, rather than discuss the meat of my comment”

          That is classic Falkvinge argumentation.

          As is this kind of statement
          “When no sales are made, is this a problem for an artist? Undoubtedly so. Sometimes even tragic. But does that make it a problem for the entire world? There are three answers to that question: No, no, and no, in that order.”

          If people all over the world download the songs that a composer has written and an artist has recorded, than sales are being made, but in this case the downloader skips paying.
          When people all over the world are skipping paying than it´s a problem for the entire world.

        • next_ghost

          @Sten: Sale is by definition a two-way exchange. Getting something for free is not a sale. (And before you start, there’s nothing wrong with it either, unless other people’s physical property gets removed from their possession in the process.)

        • Sten

          @next_ghost

          “Sale is by definition a two-way exchange. ”
          Eh.
          Sale is by definition; the action of selling something.
          The composer is selling something, the downloader is receiving something, hence also an exchange took place.

          “Getting something for free is not a sale.”
          Well, no one is “getting” something for free they are taking it without paying which is a long way from “getting”.

        • Rick Falkvinge

          A sale is the mutual act of selling and buying between two consenting and communicating parties. It is not a unilateral desire to enter into such an agreement without a consenting counterpart.

          What you are taking about when somebody WANTS to sell something, and somebody else is manufacturing their own copy, with no communication whatsoever between them, is so obviously not any kind of exchange between those two parties that I don’t understand how you can even claim that with a straight face.

          Cheers,
          Rick

        • Sten

          @RIck

          “A sale is the mutual act of selling and buying between two consenting and communicating parties. It is not a unilateral desire to enter into such an agreement without a consenting counterpart.”
          Precisely, hence when person B would like a copy of a composers work person B would have to get the composers consent otherwise person B is just exercising a unilateral desire.

          “What you are taking about when somebody WANTS to sell something,”
          Yes the composers wants to sell their work.

          ” and somebody else is manufacturing their own copy,”
          You are perfectly within your right to manufacture you own copy of the composers work if you previously bought a copy.

          “with no communication whatsoever between them,”
          Without communication between the composer and person B, who would like to access a copy, person B would act on a unilateral desire to enter into such an agreement without the consent of the composer of the works.

          “is so obviously not any kind of exchange between those two parties” if there is no exchange between the two. person B would just have to accept that no copy would belong to person B. Person B would otherwise just be exercising a unilateral desire.

          ” that I don’t understand how you can even claim that with a straight face.”
          Likewise regarding your above expression.

          Cheers,
          Sten

        • next_ghost

          @Sten: The entire economy doesn’t work like that. The demand side always has other options to satisfy itself than buying from existing sellers. Those other options are crucial for the market to actually work.

        • Sten

          @next_ghost

          “The entire economy doesn’t work like that. The demand side always has other options to satisfy itself than buying from existing sellers. Those other options are crucial for the market to actually work.”

          None of the economy works in a manner where any other than the owner of the specific products gets to sell the product or give it away fro fee.

        • next_ghost

          > None of the economy works in a manner where any other than the owner of the specific products gets to sell the product or give it away fro fee.

          The concepts of “owner” and “copyright holder” are so vastly different that your post is meaningless.

        • Sten

          “The concepts of “owner” and “copyright holder” are so vastly different that your post is meaningless.”

          Not as vastly different as the difference between a composer and the performer, hence Falkvinge’s post – by your definition – is meaningless to begin with.

        • next_ghost

          @Sten: Differences between various types of artists don’t matter in this discussion. Arguments against copyright monopoly apply to all of them equally.

        • Sten

          @Next ghost

          “Differences between various types of artists don’t matter in this discussion. Arguments against copyright monopoly apply to all of them equally.”

          That is because you don´t understand the difference and the performers do not have copyright to the works.
          But that is something that Mr Falkvinge and you don´t understand.
          And the things you don´t understand you should actually avoid discussing until you actually understand them.

    • 10.2
      cara

      “Normally, a market dies because it’s superfluous but in this case, we want the art to stay around. So, yes, we have to ask how we can do that.”

      This is not a real problem because culture is still there. If nobody would choose to produce any kind of science or culture, I would agree with you that we had a serious problem. But this is simply, and surprisingly for copyright apologists, not the case. Culture is flourishing because of — not in spite of — digital technology, which simplifies creating and sharing information. For most of us a huge financial and technological barrier to publishing has been removed. Nowadays, if one wants to spread an idea, one clicks on a “Publish” button in a browser. This was unthinkable a few decades ago. To spread an idea, one had to have an approving publisher and a lot of money for printing and marketing. So, your premise that culture producers made money under a copyright regime was not true for most of them. They had to spend money to get their ideas out. Now they can do this for free. I don’t know what they (or you) are complaining about. Their situation has improved enormously.

      • 10.2.1
        Daniel Phermous

        Computers are a great democratiser like that and I love how they make it easy for creators to, well, create. However, you’re ignoring some very real monetary needs.

        Firstly, training and education costs money. Not all art forms require this, of course, but most do.

        Secondly, many art forms require an initial outlay of capital, such as films. You need equipment, sets, costumes and so on.

        Thirdly, if we pay the good creators enough that they can earn a living from their art then they can quit their day job and focus on refining their craft as well as creating more. Clearly a painter who spends six hours a day painting will produce more, get better faster and be able to keep up with continuing his education in that area.

        This, on the other hand…

        “So, your premise that culture producers made money under a copyright regime was not true for most of them”

        I made no such claim and I would thank you not to put words in my mouth.

        • next_ghost

          > However, you’re ignoring some very real monetary needs.

          You’re ignoring a very simple fact that the market balances supply and demand against each other through exchange of goods, services and money. People will get exactly what they pay for.

        • Daniel Phermous

          @next_ghost

          Supply and demand is why the market is broken. With digital distribution, there is infinite supply. That cannot be easily balanced.

        • next_ghost

          @Daniel Phermous: The market is not broken, quite the contrary. It’s working exactly as it’s supposed to despite all the effort from copyright industry to make it stop.

          If selling copies is not profitable anymore, artists can still sell lots of other things related to their art. Musicians have been selling live performances centuries before sound recording was even invented and they’re in even better position to sell them today. Other artists who have managed to prove their abilities and gather some fans are using Kickstarter to get funding for their new art. Stop thinking about copies all the time and try to imagine other options.

        • sten

          @next_ghost

          Why are you and Falkvinge repeatedly talking about the artists?
          The artists do not have the rights to the works, the rights to the works belongs to the composers.
          Composers are rarely seen on stage since their job is to compose -and they very rarely make good artists.

        • next_ghost

          “Artist” is a catch-all term for anyone who creates art. That includes recording artists, composers, writers, actors, painters, photographers and others.

        • Sten

          @Next ghost

          ““Artist” is a catch-all term for anyone who creates art. That includes recording artists, composers, writers, actors, painters, photographers and others.”

          Maybe you should not use “catch-all term” since composers don´t makes records nor do they perform live, hence their income is not coming from concerts it comes from record sales.
          And it is the composers that have the right to the songs.

        • next_ghost

          @Sten: I don’t recall ever saying that “concerts are the One True Way(tm) to make money off art”. I specifically said that artists have many other ways to make money off their art. That includes composers.

        • Sten

          @next ghost

          ” I don’t recall ever saying that “concerts are the One True Way(tm) to make money off art”. I specifically said that artists have many other ways to make money off their art. That includes composers.”

          But I do recall you writing
          “Musicians have been selling live performances centuries before sound recording was even invented and they’re in even better position to sell them today.”
          since you wrote exactly that only a few comments away.
          And you don´t get it.
          Composers do not perform live, they do not perform at all hence your posts have no relevance.

        • scandinavianpirate

          Daniel-San writes:

          “Supply and demand is why the market is broken. With digital distribution, there is infinite supply. That cannot be easily balanced.”

          Answer:

          That is probably because you are staring yourself blind at the Copies. That Copies need to be the things which are bought and sold. That Copies are the only way to convey the Value for creative work.

          That is no longer true. It never was true. But for a brief period in mankinds history…. Second half of 1900s or so, it may have been the most practical way for both “sellers” and “buyers”.

          In the end it is the work and efforts of the creator which is what still can be bought and sold.

    • 10.3
      next_ghost

      > The unique thing about this market that requires a question like “How do we make sure artists are paid?” is that the market is broken even while demand is strong. This simply hasn’t happened before. Normally, a market dies because it’s superfluous but in this case, we want the art to stay around.

      The strong demand is for something else than the copyright industry actually provides. That’s what makes the industry superfluous and it needs to die for the sake of culture and artists. Independent artists who embrace copying are already pioneering new ways to get paid but they have to fight arduous uphill battle with the copyright industry for attention of potential fans.

  11. 11
    Questioner

    Artist that put more effort and resources to live performances have less time for the composing and creative process. Live performances also are a huge burden for the left alone families of the said artists. In this case the music should be the main factor not the merchandise. Because now the artists are drifting from the original form of art called music towards being fashion designers and businessmen when using all sorts of pre-order packages, junk merch, uncertain crowdsourcing etc.

    One thing that I’ve always wondered is what would protect the original creators from direct copying of their compositions/pictures/other copyrightable work by larger and wealthier creators/businesses.
    Without copyright wouldn’t it be possible that the still big companies or big names in the industry would deprive the smaller creators of their own pieces of art by copying and plagiarism? And when comparing say the music industry to the other industries in the past, wouldn’t it be fair to recognize that maybe some forms of creativity (especially music) deserve more protection even through monetary mechanisms. For those who wan’t to create for their own enjoyment or give free enjoyment to other can do that easily e.g though Creative Commons.

    The music profession sure differs a lot from the traditional business where good are being sold B2C or B2B.
    My point is to ask whether the complete deletion of the copyright is the right thing to do?
    What if there was say a much shorter copyright term for music compositions (maybe 1-2 years?) or texts? Could it be possible that if the copyright system was erased the now big companies would try their hardest to find profits through complex contractual efforts and NDA’s which would (at least for a while) devastate a small part of the artists? I’m fairly new to this conversation and haven’t read too much about this subject and I would love you guys to prove me wrong.

    As I see things now the majority of people (mostly in the comment sections of different websites e.g. TorrentFreak etc.) opposing the copyright system are just wanting to make their movie or whatever downloads free. It’s simple as that. People wan’t stuff for free and as easy as possible. The free speech justification in the above mentioned contexts are irrelevant but it is still used in every text regarding copyright.

    It sure seems that digitization has lead us to a situation that the old model of copyright doesn’t work, but erasing the copyright as a mechanism on the spot sounds a bit hasty.

    • 11.1
      next_ghost

      Since you’re new to the conversation, I’ll start by giving you a few tips for must-read books on the topic: Free Culture and Remix by Lawrence Lessig and of course Rick’s and Christian Engström’s The Case for Copyright Reform.

      Copyright was originally designed as a tool of censorship. It’s primary use is to stop competition. Securing income for artists is an afterthought. If your primary concern is securing income for artists and protecting them from being screwed by big corporations, the legislative solution is obvious: Permit all copying and use of art without permission but when there’s profit being made, the creator is entitled to a share of the revenue.

      This also secures income for creators but unlike copyright, it encourages using new ways of making money off art.

      • 11.1.1
        Questioner

        Thank you for the great literature suggestions!

        I would like some clarification for one of your thoughts. You wrote: “Permit all copying and use of art without permission but when there’s profit being made, the creator is entitled to a share of the revenue.”

        From which revenue stream is that “share” going to be cut? And who would pay if something is there for free? (well obviously quite a few since the same situation takes place at this moment, at least in some respect) How would the mechanism work in practice?

        • next_ghost

          > From which revenue stream is that “share” going to be cut?

          From any revenue stream that is connected to that particular use of art. For example when art is used in advertisment, the company should make really sure that they have a contract with the artist which clearly specifies the remuneration, otherwise the artist could ask for a cut from gross sales (which might be huge).

          > And who would pay if something is there for free?

          If there’s no money being made (not even through indirect sources like donations or ads on the website that offers download/streaming of the art), there’s no reason to require payment.

  12. 12
    next_ghost

    @Sten:

    > That is because you don´t understand the difference and the performers do not have copyright to the works.

    Yes, they do. In addition to the composers’ monopoly.

    > Composers do not perform live, they do not perform at all hence your posts have no relevance.

    Coincidentally, writers and graphic artists don’t perform either, so why are you talking only about composers? The arguments against copyright monopoly apply to all of them equally. If there’s no profit in selling copies anymore, all of them will have to find something else related to their art to sell. All of them have other options than selling copies.

  13. 13

    Testing comment field after reinstall

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About The Author

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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