Sudden Mass Support From Oldmedia: "Patents Do Prevent Innovation"

It appears that the world of oldmedia has woken up like one to the fact that patents prevent innovation — in fact, that it’s their very function — and how harmful they are to the economy and our development.

The Pirate Party has been saying exactly this since its inception in 2006. The patent system drains resources from innovation and research to administration and litigation, and allows incumbent companies to kill innovative upstarts in courts of law rather than forcing them to compete in the marketplace against newer and better companies. In short, the existence of patents ensures that the biggest company wins, rather than the one with the best products.

The problem has been that this has been a very hidden aspect of the economy. But with Apple forcing Samsung to take popular products off the shelves, and Google spending over 12 billion US Dollars on litigative capability rather than innovation, all the oldmedia have woken as one and are decrying the patent system, not unlike ye olde dragon. Everybody is repeating what the Pirate Party has been saying just like those papers were our own flyers.

There was the American public service National Public Radio / This American Life with the longer in-depth When Patents Attack. New York Times is calling the whole deal “disturbing”. The Economist has a piece which explains why patents hinder rather than help innovation. The Guardian notes that patents make companies find it more valuable to sue each other than “actually making things”, and calls the whole construct “foolish”. Washington Post writes that “instead of spurring innovations and entrepreneurship, patents are being used … by cynical lawyers to stifle and discourage them.”

These are certainly no small words. It is extremely strong language, and from some of the most respected oldmedia, condemning the patent system and its effects as a whole. I didn’t think I would see this from oldmedia for many years yet.

In Sweden, we have the paper Expressen who went all out in an editorial and demanded that companies should be forced to compete on the market rather than in courtrooms.

The patent system as a whole is harmful and needs to be dismantled. It can not be “fixed”. Its very function is to monopolize innovation and forbid people from improving technology.

I am happy to see that oldmedia and eldermedia is finally coming clear on this, and in this very unambiguous language to boot.

Hat Tip to TechDirt / Mike Masnick. Others: Christian Engström, member of European Parliament.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Anteater

    I don’t believe- but I hope, that what we’re seeing here could be the start of a serious, relevant, fact-based debate about the functionality of the patent system. As I said, I don t believe so. But I hope.

    Oh, and it’s “This American Life” Not “The…”

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks, fixed.

    2. hardcore monarchist

      “Serious, relevant, fact-based debate”? In a democracy? WTF?

  2. Don Kongo

    I have a hard time grasping why the (we) pirates still use the derogatory term Oldmedia (Gammelmedia). It was fun and a “good” way of get some attention in the beginning, but even then I never really really got it. How would you ever expect to reach Jan Guillou and make him even consider his opinions if all you ever start your arguments with is “the dinosaur Guillou”? Or was the idea just to score cheap points by making fun of another human being and get cheers from 14-year olds and those who already are supporters?

    Oldmedia is far from the worst insult one could imagine and I’m sure some will say it’s not even an insult, just a term. Bullshit. It’s meant to make the writer himself feel superior, and the supporters feel superior, since they are the “OLD” (and therefore senile, stupid, behind the times, afraid of everything new, slow etc) and we are the NEW”. It’s a master suppression technique I am not comfortable with it even when it’s as innocent as this.

    More importantly though, in this day and age where pirates are taken somewhat seriously and get interviews and media time by “Oldmedia”, can you think of a more certain way to have this same media NOT bring up your article or view than by insulting them? It’s perfectly fine to point out that you were saying this long before and that you are happy that they are now catching up and saying the same – shouldn’t this be a cause for welcome and celebration rather than pointing fingers and saying “I told you so?” The only ones who cheer it are the ones you’ve already convinced, and as you see here, not even all of those.

    Yes, I extrapolate and and take this example way to seriously. But only because I see it as a part of a much bigger tendency and it’s both sad as a human(istic) thing and because it’s so contra productive when there no longer is any need to make the most noise.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      You undoubtedly have a point.

    2. Travis McCrea

      I would also raise the point of the different classes of media we have what you call “old” media which is really “new” media and what you call “new” media I call “social networking”. At least in a US context OLD media actually asked hard questions, they uncovered serious scandles within the presidency and they did it knowing that they would get good ratings from publishing the most juicy stories about politicians and things. Now it seems as though their various agendas have created alliances with the politicians and the big businesses instead alliances with the viewers.

      Of course, since they all do it the viewers just assume thats how news SHOULD be and don’t ask questions like good little sheep.

      Old Media is good in my opinion, new media is horrible, and social networking is great if you really look at all sides of an argument.

      And thats the way it is.

    3. Mårten

      I agree that oldmedia is a problematic term (the pirate party is a good name though).

  3. Zacqary Adam Green

    Now we can only hope that, say, Apple will retaliate by declaring copyright to be harmful to cultural innovation.

    1. That "Ball" Guy

      Hear hear!

  4. Lennart Lindgård

    I agree that the term “oldmedia” is a bad way to start a discussion. Also, the party name “The Pirate Party” will repell people since it signals that there are a bunch of crooks or outlaws, rather than a number of defenders of integrity.

    1. Don Kongo

      No, there’s a big difference: the pirates have successfully done the same thing as the gay community, taken a derogatory term and used it proudly and when done with enough confidence and force it really works. Pirate parties exist and even get elected in a large number of countries, and have already entered mainstream consciousness (for the most part).

      Before your post, it was a long time since I last saw that opinion – it could have been true, but the pirates succeeded. Noone is doing that mistake or connection anymore, unless actively trying to do so. The name takeover worked, just as it did for the gays. And just as for the gays, there will always be some people using it as an insult, but those people wouldn’t come “on board”, as it were, no matter the name.

      1. Don Kongo

        Would be an interesting move by “oldmedia” to try and do the same though, perhaps by trying to label it as reliable and high integrity etc – they’ve already said those things and more, but not tried to turn the insult back at the insulters. I think it could be done (not saying should, though :))

  5. Putte

    The established derogatory terms are Mainstream Media, or Corporate Mainstream Media. They are widely used and the paper based corporate empires are used to that label.

    1. That "Ball" Guy

      And the more recent insulting label: “lame-stream media”. Oh the puns, it burns!!!

  6. Lennart Lindgård

    @Don Kongo: You, I and a small minority of the voters, mostly young voters, succesfully have adapted the word “pirate” as a positive thing when it comes to politics. But the majority has not. In fact, “pirate” is still vastly connected to some extremely vicious sea bandits that constitute a huge problem in the worlds seas. That “extreme villan” image is rubbing of on the pirate prty because of its name and makes many people think two things: 1. A party for people who want to steal – download – property, simply because the do not want to pay for it. 2. A party that only concerns itself with the one question of (illegal) downloading of films and music, and nothing else.
    Comparing with the term “gay” is not very intelligent, since the therm “gay” really means “happy”, a positive term. But it has been changed into a negative term for homosexuals and then converted back to a positive term for homosexuals, wich is much easier than to convert the negtive “pirate” to some positive meaning.
    The term “The Pirate Party” is, for many people, more or less the only thing they know about the party. The negative ring it has to them, makes them unvilling to find out anything more about the party, thus learning about the problems surrounding integrity, free speech, same laws online as offline, the patent system etc.
    The party name should invite people to learn more about the politics, not do its outmost to drive them away.

    1. Mårten

      “The term “The Pirate Party” is, for many people, more or less the only thing they know about the party. The negative ring it has to them, makes them unvilling to find out anything more about the party”

      Are you sure about that? While there is “real” piracy on the high seas i’ts only been highlighted in oldmedia the last couple of years (due to the escalating situation in Somalia). I would think most people are more likely to associate a pirate either with one of the countless romanticized pirates in literature and film (eg pirates of the Caribbean) if not a filesharing person (since the anti-piracy lobby has used the term to describe copyright violation for so long). I think most people recognize we didn’t choose the term, the anti-pirates did.

      Also, as I understand it, “real” piracy has an interesting history which is oddly democratic, anti-authoritarian and liberal. Somewhat simplified, the difference between a pirate ship and a military vessel back then was that one was plundering for the crown (eg privateers) and the other for the crew. On the pirate ship the crew typically had some sort of internal democracy as well, while the crew on the royal ships was more or less reduced to slaves (and deserters would be killed of course).

    2. Don Kongo

      Well, it’s all anecdotal from us both, since none of us present any actual data. I’m not young though, not been in a while 🙂 and I don’t see any such mistakes being made. I don’t see it in media, in chronicles, or even much on flashback which is where you have some of the worst debaters in the world in the sense that they will use any “argument” to try and “prove” a point no matter how irrelevant, What I do see are a few, very few, that made their mind up on the name being bad when it was introduced and just keeping on saying that it is. But again, no actual data to back my observation.

  7. Mårten

    … just to make it clear, my main point is that criticism of the misleading epithet “pirate” when used to refer to someone who do not follow copyright law should be directed towards the copyright industry. The name “the pirateparty” highlights their ridiculousness in a fun way.

  8. Don Kongo

    Perhaps “traditional media” or something would serve us better.

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