Our Laws Are A Carefully Constructed Set Of Checks And Balances — And The Copyright Industry Fights To Bypass Them All

Just because you have a right, it doesn’t automatically mean you also have a right to have it enforced. Our laws are a complicated weave of checks and balances intended to put society’s interests at large ahead of millimeter justice at every turn. The copyright industry is blatantly fighting this, claiming that since they have monopoly rights, those rights supersede everything else. That is beyond arrogant.

Let me give you a concrete example of how laws are designed to conflict with one another and establish a ladder of priority: Whistleblower protection. In Sweden, you can go to jail for not respecting the secrecy of secret governmental documents, as is the case in most countries. However, you can give them to a reporter under whistleblower protection. What happens then is that other laws kick in: the invoked whistleblower protection means that the reporter can go to jail for disclosing your identity, and supervisors at the place where you work can go to jail for trying to identify the leak.

No joke. People have been convicted for violating the whistleblower protection for asking casually over coffee if anybody knew who leaked those documents. This is serious stuff.

So while leaking the secret documents is still illegal, other laws deliberately make that law unenforceable in certain well-defined conditions. This is not sloppy lawmaking; it is entirely intentional.

You see what’s going on here? Just because something is illegal, that doesn’t automatically make it wrong in the lawbook. Quite to the contrary; other laws that make it illegal to discover and enforce the crime is a carefully selected set of checks and balances.

Now, let’s jump to the copyright industry and the copyright monopoly. They are complaining that they can’t enforce the copyright monopoly if they don’t get to invade our privacy; “what we do is illegal”; “catching criminals is always a priority”, etc. You’ve all heard it.

But this is a lie. A blatant, superficial lie.

The postal secret is constructed so the copyright monopoly and other crimes can’t be enforced if they take place in private communications, just like file sharing is. This is the lawmaker’s way of restricting harm to society by these monopolies.

The copyright monopoly was designed to be unenforceable as long as you didn’t make money on somebody else’s monopoly. This is not somebody being “rightless”, “unfair” or similar; this is intentional.

What is going on right now is that the copyright industry is playing “The guy with the loudest voice is always right” and trying to reverse the priorities of these carefully constructed rights; that the enforcement of the copyright monopoly should supersede the postal secret of the citizens. That is outrageous. Worse, they are using blatant lies about the current legislation to paint a false picture of how our checks and balances are constructed.

It is often useful to compare the online part of the world to the offline part. To make that comparison here: nobody is allowed to open every letter sent in the mail to check for copied poems, even if it happens ever so frequently that the copyright monopoly is violated in this way.

This is intentional.

It doesn’t matter in a bit if the copyright monopoly can’t be enforced when people share culture and knowledge on the net.

It was never meant to.

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. Crosbie Fitch

    Rights are not ‘carefully constructed’. They are imbued in us by nature – we are born with them. Law is supposed to recognise them and protect them.

    Copyright is a privilege created by annulling our right to copy.

    Copyright was never created for ‘us’, but for the publishing industry and the crown – and that’s the way it remains.

    See http://culturalliberty.org/blog/index.php?id=283

    1. Anonymous

      You’re talking about natural rights. Some people believe they exist, others don’t. Regardless of which, there are also legal rights.

      For example, if two cars travel on roads of equal size and meet at a crossing, the car on the right usually has the right of way, that is, it has the right to pass first. This legal right is a very real fact of society; if you disrespect it, you may be fined or jailed. And yet, this legal right is completely arbitrary, so it’s hard to claim it corresponds to a natural right.

      In the same way, every law imposes legal rights and obligations on people, regardless of whether we believe these correspond to natural rights.

  2. Thomas Fullerton

    First of all, there is no such thing as ‘our laws’. Laws are written by legislators without consultation with the public. Even if each person had a vote on each law that was proposed, this would not legitimise any particular law. The law should be based on ethical principles of non coercion and nothing else.

    There is no such thing as ‘societies interests’ this is a fallacy of the Statists. The copyright industry is a direct result of democracy as it is practiced in the west, where governments and the monopoly on violence can be hijacked to serve the interests of criminals.

    Whistle blowers should not be in the position of having to blow any whistles in the first place. No State should have so much power that they are able to do things in secret that harm people. In a country that has a ‘natural society’ (the polar opposite of a democracy) it would be impossible for a violent group of criminals to gain a monopoly on performing any service, wether that be the police, the courts or anything whatsoever. In a natural society, whistleblowers simply would not exist.

    Once again, I agree with Rik. This is serious stuff. The State is a very dangerous, immoral and illegitimate construct that is destroying people’s lives on a daily basis, both through its ridiculous laws and regulations and the outright murder of people with its unjustified wars.

    Lawmaking should not serve the purposes of the state. It should only serve the protection of property rights from which all your rights flow. The State, if you absolutely insist on having one, should be non violent, non coercive, and based entirely on voluntary contributions. If it cannot survive on that basis, then it should not exist, period.

    The biggest superficial lie is that we need the State do get anything done, to have justice, to take care of everyone’s needs, to educate everyone and to live in peace and safety. The vested interests, like the copyright criminals, in collusion with the State through its mandatory schools, do everything they can to bolster, justify and continue the State so that even thinking about a world without it becomes almost impossible for many people. The State is the biggest lie of all, and the sooner we get rid of it, the sooner all the other problems will melt away like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz.

    Copyright, wars, prohibition, immigration, racism, all of these social ills come from the State. Without it they are no longer problems at all.

    The guy with the guns is the one who is always right. The State, with its guns, battering rams, jails and bailiffs can steal your money, your business, your house and your life from you if you dare copy a CD. This is the truth of the matter; without the State and its violence to back up the threats of the copyright criminals, everything they say is nothing more than hot air. In order to permanently destroy this evil, the State must be de fanged. Your society must turn to 100% voluntarism if it is to live in peace and true liberty.

    That people still believe that violence from the State is justified is the true outrage here, because it is this mistaken philosophy that is at the heart of all these problems.

    No one opens each letter to see if poetry is in them, but the post office is run by the State as a monopoly, and if they wanted to open each letter, they certainly could, just like they did in East Germany, where rooms full of snoops steamed open tens of thousands of envelopes on a daily basis. With the State taken out of the business of the post, private companies that guarantee your privacy could compete against each other. This is not a digression; the State is behind everything in your society, even the post. They do not violate it, yet, only because there is no need, but the threat is there as long as they are in total charge of every business either by taking an explicit monopoly (postal service) or by licensing every business before you can make a single sale.

    Once again, the only way these problems are going to be solved is if everyone moves to a natural society where coercion is banished. The State is a cancer in the minds of men and the bodies of countries. If radiation therapy didn’t have bad connotations of war, I would call for it – no, excision is the answer here, and Libertarianism is the scalpel.

    1. random_thought

      Yes, Thomas, but it’s about the accumulation of power, power necessary to win out against the competition. It’s about survival. Power offers states the means of achieving this.

      Rest assured the wars are justified in their eyes, though not necessarily yours as you are allowed to know only what’s necessary to forward their aims. Truth is often said to be the first casuality of war, and there are many good reasons for this.

      Like it, or not, we are all slaves to these interests now. Man now cannot survive without the system.

      By the way, there aren’t really any such things as rights, they’re just artificial constructs conjured by men which have no true basis in reality. These such rights are merely granted to you by the proclaimed higher authority, and can, and will, be taken from you at any time it suits to do so.

      These states will always exist for as long as it is in our nature to be this way. The truth is it’s in all nature, it’s just that we were the first to evolve it into a highly advanced state.

      I agree that living in this way is probably a lie, and that this may reveal itself incontrovertibly when it kills us / when we have killed everything. But we are trapped in it now / we’ve become dependent on it and so must play it’s game. To do otherwise is to go against our very nature.

      Might is right, make no mistake.

      The common denominator here is that it is not a ‘state’ versus a ‘people’ and so on, it’s just people versus people. People are the common denomiator here, the system is an expression of those people, and it’s the relative positions of the people within the system that dictate particular stance. Swap those people out with others whilst retaining the same system and you will have the same result. Force a change to the system that conflicts with man’s true desires and man will act to revert that system until back to the same relative state.

      If you think you can beat it, form your own organisation and prove it!

      They already do violate your mail privacy where practical to do so. Ever heard of e-mail?

    2. Scary Devil Monastery

      Ideally speaking the “state” is a check/balance factor meant to guarantee individual rights are not transgressed against by other individuals.

      In that respect the “state” only has the function of being an arbiter – the violence monopoly is meant to level the playing field and stand as a guarantee of equity between citizens.

      And from that particular perspective the state is an absolute necessity unless we are willing to de facto abolish every law unenforceable by every individual for himself. A society where large companies find the cheapest anticompetitive solution would be to freely firebomb the competition will be a society where eventually the largest and most successful companies will be the ones implementing such solutions.

      However…I cannot honestly refute very much of what you’ve said either. The state in every country far exceeds the necessary mandates from any perspective.

  3. suchenwi

    @Thomas Fullerton

    Wow.. that was a strong anti-state statement. Do you happen to visit Tea Parties? ūüôā

    There are a number of ways of how to reduce a state. You can privatize (e.g. as you mentioned, postal services – and many others: jails, roads, hospitals, water, power networks …). It’s sometimes hard to say for each and any of those whether they’d better be under state or corporate control.

    For instance, decades ago, all telecom was a state monopoly in Germany: expensive, bureaucratic, slow-moving. Now at least wireless comms are totally deregulated. It has advantages. But sheer privatization needs its checks and balances, too.

    The last bastion is the rule of the (however carefully constructed) law. If that is diminished, or even privatized, we’re evolving into a merciless Darwinian “state” of existence (I wouldn’t call it society any more). I’m fully aware that states have bad features, but statelessness has worse.

    1. Anonymous

      You say “worse”, but worse is what allowed us to exist and evolve for billions of years.

      There’s no guarantee that the way we’re living now is sustainable at all, and if that ever proves to be the case, then there’s not a lot to be said for living in this state, is there?

  4. Fredrik

    Interesting notion, but I see a problem on the horizon: crypto-currencies like BitCoin. If money transfers become impossible to track, even commercial copyright may become unenforceable.

    Of course, there are many circumstances, and this will probably turn out to be a non-issue.

    1. PiratGurra

      I don’t see how that is a problem. Commercial copyright is already unenforcable because we have VPN services and cryptographic file sharing. The only thing related to digital immateria that has any value anymore is further work. The work that has already been done and published is by all practical means free. There is no economical room for copyright profiteering middle-men in the internet age. I hope there will always be an economical value in getting new culture from recognized talented artists.

    2. Mårten

      BitCoin isn’t impossible to track, quite the opposite. BitCoin relies on a p2p network instead of a central authority, but the p2p network keeps track of all transactions. The endpoints (“wallets”) are anonymous, but if you have resources to monitor the endpoints you can likely determine who the owner of the wallet is.

      Money that’s impossible to track already exist and have existed as long as humans have been using money. It’s called cash — paper notes, coins, gold, etc. These are both anonymous and transactions leave no trace.

      Unlike cash however, BitCoin is more secure, can be transferred electronically and can’t be counterfeited, etc.

  5. Henrik Brändén

    Very good point. I¬īll use it!

  6. Jacob Hallén

    A very good angle of looking at things. Very sharp analysis.

  7. Bonk!

    Is it just me or do anyone else here see Rick rapidly becoming more and more like Sweden’s own Anne Coulter?

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      That’s just you. I’d advise you actually listen to a diatribe by Ann Coulter before speaking out further.

      And given that what Rick is saying is actually basic Law 101, if you think he’s being a teabagger about it then that bodes ill for the tens of thousands of lawyer who read the same definition on how laws are made and maintained in their early university days.

      Did you have anything valid to say or are you as usual simply here with an inaccurate ad hominem one-liner?

      1. Bonk!

        Unfortunately for you and your heroic master what I stated isn’t inaccurate. Rick is closer to Coulter’s vitriola than any other Swedish politican/lobbyist is. His habit of spewing vitriol based on mostly flawed analytics is not very flattering for him or his ultracapitalist neocon-movement. Luckily not many more than Scary and a few others take him serious and follow him robotic..

        1. Scary Devil Monastery

          Actually what you stated is 100% incorrect. What Rick is saying is simply chapter and verse basic law 101. A system of checks and balances is the foundation and basis on how to create a system which does not risk trespassing on civil liberties.

          It’s the very reason we have courts and juries in the first place even though justice would no doubt be more expeditiously served by simply cutting out such middle-men.

          It’s still very revealing that you keep right on claiming such statements are vitriol based on flawed analytics. At best you are incredibly off topic, at worst you are simply trolling.
          Should we understand that you are discarding Rick’s logic above and abolish the judicial procedures based on the check-balance system? If so, by all means do tell.

          Now let me give you a clue – when you can say what, specifically, in Ricks post is either vitriolic, flawed, or inaccurate then you may have a point. You aren’t. You’re simply showing up with a tired one-line insult. Backing it with a few more lines of baseless insult when confronted.

          Simply showing up and saying “You’re wrong because I say so” doesn’t give you any credibility whatsoever. Finding your opinion of us is low is in that respect nothing more than a real compliment. For which I must thank you.

          Oh, and by the way? Rick is so far away from neoconservatism he’s basically not even in the same political scale anymore. Again something where you seem to be making a 180-degree logical leap.
          As for “ultracapitalist”, it’s rather interesting to note that right-wingers appear to think he’s a communist. One of you just has to be wrong there.

          It’s astonishing. In your statement above you actually managed to make every sentence contain gross factual error and/or implied or direct ad hominems.
          Is lying a profession for you or just a hobby?
          Either way, do keep on trolling for as long as this forum will tolerate it. Your habit of substituting opinionated insults in lieu of fact isn’t earning you any respect among the readers.

  8. Bonk!

    Scary Monster If you can’t see or smell the vitriol. Rick is spewing in his “articles” Then I am sorry. You have by now surely reached far beyond the point of being a fanboy or should I say TEABOY? And turned into a worshipper oops almost wrote whoreshipper. As Rick is merging into a full blown teabagger, nonsense vitriol and all. Maybe he should change his name again to Rick Tevinge?
    As for Ricks political colours nobody who have read his articles can call him a communist. Neocon ultracapitalist describes him correctly.

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      And once again you prove – conclusively – that the only thing you are capable of producing is incorrect vitriol of the kind you seem to think Rick is “spewing”.

      I am a fan of truthful statements backed by historical fact and empirical evidence. And when Rick is saying such things, I heartily support what he is saying of course. I kind of like the idea of laws being created out of ordinary globally accepted jurisprudence. I also like civil liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of opinion.

      In your opinion having such views apparently turn someone into some form of dangerous libertarian fanboy which only makes me wonder just where on the political scale we can find you. Signs so far point to “old-communist Fascist”.
      You focus on your desire to insult and libel to the point where you seem to consider the source more important than the veracity of the message. Which leads to the only one here going off on a vitriolic off-topic tangent worthy of a Coulter or Limbaugh being you.

      Do you actually have anything to say founded on any other fact than that you personally hate Rick’s guts? If so, feel free at any time to say it. So far all you have to show are a few hate-filled diatribes prompted by a commentary on how a sensible set of laws are constructed according to the basic criteria demanded by most national constitutions.

      Feel free to keep up your “commentary”. I’m having good fun showing your latest entries to friends and colleagues.

  9. […] dialog om upphovsr√§tt som jag l√§st och t√§nkt till om. Jag har ocks√• kikat en del p√• det Rick¬†Falkvinge skriver.Den ene (Contentisking) pratar om artisternas r√§tt ,och den andre (Magnihasa) pratar om […]

  10. ghost

    In the UK we have postal orders, you can purchase these anonymously in any post office and the recipient only needs to know to which account to apply it to. Try them sometime, their great items. buy one here, buy one there never go to the same post office twice in a set period of time and your relatively safe, get a friend or a relative to get it for you and they will be running around looking for ghosts.

    Of course, you then get the satisfaction of knowing that the gov’t had a hand in your personal piracy act.

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