This weekend, hundreds of pirates from all over Europe gathered in the European Parliament to formally found the European Pirate Party. It was an amazing gathering of determined activists, many of which were absolutely electrified at realizing the sheer scale of this movement, seeing 400 of Europe’s brightest activists gathering for the occasion. I had the honor of giving one of the opening keynotes (below).
The exact sequence of words has been slightly edited for readability.
Amelia Andersdotter: Tonight, we have the honor of welcoming a very special keynote speaker. He was the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party in 2006, a reaction to changes in the Swedish legislation brought about by the same directive that Julia Reda [the previous speaker] asks us to pay close attention to in the coming five years. Since 2006, he has succeeded not only in forming a political party in Sweden, but also to bring all of us together here. I would like to welcome up on the stage — Rick Falkvinge.
Rick Falkvinge: Thank you so much, Member of European Parliament Andersdotter, all staff, and all volunteers, for making this possible.
I would imagine a lot of us speak almost daily about tactical operational details about how we go about changing the world. It’s what we strive for, after all: we are here to change the entire world for the better. Nothing more, and nothing less.
So instead of talking about operational details, having so many prominent people here today, I take the opportunity to remind us all how large our goal and our opportunities are.
The title of this conference is Internet Governance. You see a lot of conferences called Internet Governance these days. The problem is, it’s a total contradiction in terms. This term, Internet Governance — this is not an Internet term. Nobody on the Internet would talk about Internet Governance. This is a governmental term, this is a corporate term. And there are reasons for that.
In 2003, two writers named Searls and Weinberger wrote a short essay named World of Ends. How many in here have have read that – let’s see a show of hands? World of Ends. A few scattered hands. Those here who haven’t, please take the time to do so before tomorrow. World of Ends, a very short read. They’re talking about What The Internet Is, and How To Stop Mistaking It For Something Else, and describe in detail how a few actors in society are suffering from Repetitive Mistake Syndrome. This was in 2003, and they name six specific industries who, like blatant idiots, keep making the same mistakes over and over. Those six named industries, in 2003, were:
- Newspaper Publishing
- Cable TV
- Record Industry
- Movie Industry
- Telephone Industry
Nothing has happened for the past decade. These people keep making the same mistakes over and over – and the reason for that is that there is a fundamental disconnect in how they see the world versus how the net generation sees the world. (You will observe that these six industries can be generally categorized into copyright industry and wannabe gatekeepers – with telco and cable TV industries in the latter category.)
There is this concept of permissionless innovation – permissionless innovation – that these corporate behemoths just do not grok, can’t wrap their head around. In their mind, innovation takes place a bit like Google’s driverless cars are being developed. You have this huge corporate giant who sets out to build something new. So they go to lawmakers and say they need these new regulations to build this fantastic new thing, and then they both go to banks and VCs to raise funds for this new thing that everybody in the elite of society wants to build. This is their view of the world, this is how innovation works in their mindset. Every piece of innovation requires regulation, funding, and corporate actors. Otherwise, it cannot work, it cannot happen, it has no place in society.
Then, the net happened, and these actors are left standing completely dumbfounded and still try to do as they’ve always done, and kind of wonder why it doesn’t work any longer. That doesn’t stop them from just keeping on trying.
But the Internet is not a corporation. The Internet is not a department. The Internet is not a legal entity. The Internet is something much larger than that. It is an
- The easiest method to get a message from A to B
- The idea that everybody in this agreement is forwarding these messages on a best-effort basis
- The principle that every message and every participant in the network is equal
This agreement makes no difference whatsoever whether one of its messages comes from the President of the United States or the European Union, or from a doorknob in Nigeria. That’s one of the beautiful things about it. And here’s where this misunderstanding comes into play. Governments have this self-image… they define themselves by what they regulate. Corporations define themselves and their power by what they own. So governments want to regulate the internet because it’s beautiful and useful; corporations want to own the Internet. But it doesn’t work that way, does it?
This is why we are seeing gatekeepers-wannabe, in particular the telco industry, putting a lid on it. Trying to prevent this utility, this beautiful agreement that we have. Like they could just stand in the middle and say we may not agree between ourselves because they don’t like it? That’s a real threat today. I’m certain we’ll circumvent it sooner or later, but time is not on our side here. Governments are threatening the Internet for the exact same reason – if they can’t regulate it, they’re going to try anyway and apply as much violence as it takes, make as many examples out of people as it takes until they’ve regulated this thing. Because that’s what they do. Legislators make laws – that’s what they do.
But there are a few good forces that understand this on a conceptual level and everything that it brings to the table. There are a few good forces who understand that the Internet was not built to be… governed. [Applause.] The Internet was not built to be controlled, and it was not built to be owned. The Internet was built to connect people, and that brings beautiful possibilities.
Good forces who understand this are few and far between, so far, and the finest hope for humanity at this point sits in this very room, because this is not just about the European Union, and I really want to highlight that. When we are talking about founding an organization for the EU, it’s important to remember that the EU is the largest economy on the planet. Whatever rules are set in Europe, others will follow – either because they see it as good examples to follow, or in most cases, because they don’t have any other choice. When it comes to loosening restrictions [of freedom of speech] – any restriction that Europe does not agree to on the Internet does not exist in practice. That gives us a beautiful window of opportunity here.
In the end, this isn’t just about Europe. Yes, we are fighting for ourselves. Yes, we have been fighting from our own experiences. Yes, we understand this because we live it on a daily basis. But it’s so much larger than that.
We’re talking about freeing up knowledge for the six and a half billion people who don’t have access to it. We are talking about making medicine possible for the six and half billion who don’t have any, who cannot afford it because somebody realized it made a greater profit to let millions of people die and look good in the next quarterly report. We are talking about letting billions of people manufacture in ways they couldn’t before [with 3D printing], spreading means of production, as it’s called, to corners of the world where it’s never been before, where people didn’t know this was even possible. When I see the billions of people, our brothers and sisters around the world, being shut out of the opportunity to learn and to contribute to humanity… I just think what a sad waste and tragedy that is.
There’s so much we can do for humanity as a whole here by just tweaking a few parameters of Europe. We really can build a better humanity. We can make higher education available for all seven billion people on the planet. We can allow all seven billion people to contribute their brilliance to what we are building on a daily basis. This is not just about changing the laws of Europe. This is about making it possible to communicate love between billions of people on the planet. This is about making wars impossible to wage, because people can see through lies. This is about, in the end, making sure that we can feel like the good brothers and sisters that we are on this planet.
The people in this room today is humanity’s best hope towards that mission. We have work to do, and I’m absolutely confident that we can pull it off. I’m very proud to call myself your colleague in this distinguished crowd. Thank you.
The full-resolution of the image above, from the PPEU founding in the European Parliament on March 21, 2014, is here (free for any use).