How The Copyright Industry Drives A Big Brother Dystopia

All too often, I hear that the copyright industry doesn’t understand the Internet, doesn’t understand the net generation, doesn’t understand how technology has changed. This is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong. In order to defeat an adversary, you must first come to understand their state of mind, rather than painting them as evil. The copyright industry understands exactly what the Internet is, and that it needs to be destroyed for that industry to stay even the slightest relevant.

Look at the laws being proposed right now. General wiretapping. Mandatory citizen tracking. Excommunication, for Odin’s sake. Sending people into exile. All these laws follow one single common theme: they aim to re-centralize the permission to publish ideas, knowledge, and culture, and punish anybody who circumvents the old gatekeepers’ way beyond proportion.

Having this gatekeeper position – having had this gatekeeper position – teaches somebody what power is, in the worst sense of the word. If you can determine what culture, knowledge, and ideas are available to people – if you are in a position to say yes or no to publishing an idea – then it goes much beyond the power of mere publishing. It puts you in a position to select. It puts you in a position where you get to decide people’s frame of reference. It literally gives you the power to decide what people discuss, feel, and think.

The ability to share ideas, culture, and knowledge without permission or traceability is built into the foundations of the net, just as it was when the Postal Service was first conceived. When we send a letter in the mail, we and we alone determine whether we identify ourselves as sender on the outside of the envelope, on the inside for only the recipient to know, or not at all; further, nobody may open our sealed letters in transit just to check up on what we’re sending.

The Internet mimics this. It is perfectly reasonable that our children have the same rights as our parents did here. But if our children have those same rights, in the environment where they communicate, it makes a small class of industries obsolete. Therefore, this is what the copyright industry tries to destroy.

They are pushing for laws that introduce identifiability, even for historic records. The copyright industry has been one of the strongest proponents of the Data Retention Directive in Europe, which mandates logging of our communications – not its contents, but all information about whom we contacted when and how – for a significant period of time. This is data that used to be absolutely forbidden to store for privacy reasons. The copyright industry has managed to flip that from “forbidden” to “mandatory”.

They are pushing for laws that introduce liability on all levels. A family of four may be sued into oblivion by an industry cartel in a courtroom where presumption of innocence doesn’t exist (a civil proceeding), and they’re pushing for mail carriers to be liable for the contents of the sealed messages they carry. This goes counter to centuries of tradition in postal services, and is a way of enforcing their will extrajudicially – outside the courtroom, where people still have a minimum of rights to defend themselves.

They are pushing for laws that introduce wiretapping of entire populations – and suing for the right to do it before it becomes law. Also, they did it anyway without telling anybody.

They are pushing for laws that send people into exile, cutting off their ability to function in society, if they send the wrong things in sealed letters.

They are pushing for active censorship laws that we haven’t had in well over a century, using child pornography as a battering ram (in a way that directly causes more children to be abused, to boot).

They are pushing for laws that introduce traceability even for the pettiest crimes, which specifically includes sharing of culture (which shouldn’t be a crime in the first place). In some instances, such laws even give the copyright industry stronger rights to violate privacy than that country’s police force.

With these concepts added together, they may finally – finally! – be able to squeeze out our freedom of speech and other fundamental rights, all in order to be able to sustain an unnecessary industry. It also creates a Big Brother nightmare beyond what people could have possibly imagined a decade ago. My undying question is therefore why people waltz along with it instead of smashing these bastards in the face with the nearest chair.

For instance, we hear that ISPs in the United States of America will start to serve the copyright industry in the treatment of its own customers, up until and including a possible exile of them as citizens, and most likely scrapping their right to anonymity for the already-going industry game of sue-a-granny.

This is bound to become a textbook example of bad customer relationships in future marketing books: making sure that your customers can be sued into oblivion by entire industry organizations in a rigged game where they’re not even innocent until proven guilty. Seriously, what were the ISPs thinking?

Today, we exercise our fundamental rights – the right to privacy, the right to expression, the right to correspondence, the right to associate, the right to assemble, the right to a free press, and many other rights – through the Internet. Therefore, anonymous and uncensored access to the Internet has become as fundamental a right itself as all the rights we exercise through it.

If this means that a stupid industry that makes thin round pieces of plastic can’t make money anymore, they can go bankrupt for all I care, or start selling mayonnaise instead.

That’s their problem.

This column was originally published at TorrentFreak.

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. jimbo

    i agree entirely. problem is, it isn’t the likes of me, of us who read articles here and elsewhere concerning this subject, it’s everyone who is in a position to do something about it that needs convincing. i am still of the opinion that there has been massive collaboration between the entertainment industries and the various governments. with the entertainment industries getting the flack for what they are doing, it is stopping governments from being accused of not being democratic and getting the flack. the governments want exactly the same thing because no government likes not being able to keep tabs on it’s citizens, not be able to regulate something and not be able to get money from something. once the entertainment industries have achieved what they want, then the governments will take control back. remember, none of what the entertainment industries are doing is being done solely by them. just about every government is falling over itself to help in every way possible, by the removal of as many fundamental rights as possible, including the right to be innocent until proven guilty and the right to a free and fair trial. under what other circumstances would someone be taken to court when the only ‘evidence’ is speculation and assumption? normally, that wouldn’t happen. even a charge of a few dollars or pounds is not the true cost. the person has to pay to get to wherever the case is to be held, pay to try to gather evidence, if that is possible. the £20 soon gets to £200+. if you dont dispute the charge, it will happen again, simply because one leads to the next. the first having been ‘proven’ makes the subsequent charges much easier to attain. suddenly, you go from being a law abiding citizen to having a criminal record all on accusations alone. and the governments are doing as much as possible to help it happen, not to aid the entertainment industries per se, but because it is a means to their end, and we are suffering for that yet again!

  2. Filino Rupro

    We need to circumvent ISP! The better way it’s a new infrastructure based on radio modems. Those must emitting on a random pattern across the entire radio spectrum. Reception must be continuous along the same radio spectrum, by continuous scan.
    Electronic hackers, think of it, urgently!

  3. Imaskar

    History has shown that nothing good comes out of oppressing the population and stripping the fundamental human rights. During the Cold War, soviet dissidents were listening to BBC radio channel as it was their only way to get reliable, unbiased and non-propaganda news. Same thing is happening now wherever copyright industries are trying to criminalize the youth (since when are we considering people living in the 3rd world “lucky” because their governments are usually indifferent to downloading ? Well, we do today). As the ISPs censored TPB in UK, the sole effect it had was to give more advertisement and therefore an opposite than the intended effect. Torrent communities always supported cryptography and means to anonymity on internet but I believe the phenomenon has evolved. It is now becoming a norm to hide your online activities. What the oppressors don’t get is that they can’t stop it and their every effort is just another challenge for a tech-frenzy population just looking for more advanced ways of hiding yourself. If they (mafiaa and similar lobbies) continue with their logic of censorship and more draconian laws we’ll get to an Orwellian dystopia with the Government controls the population with the lobbies as its state police.

  4. Per "wertigon" Ekström

    There is a very simple solution to this, that we really need to advocate more; to start boycotting as much as possible of the media cartels products. No filesharing, no buying. Just flat out ignore everything they produce, despite how good that thing is. To do anything less, you allow them to hold you hostage to their products, while they kills off the internet as we know it. There is a whole buttload of content that is legal to fileshare; doing this will help us get the locked up stuff in the long run.

    Rick, you really need to start advocating this view, before it’s too late.

    1. Imaskar

      To forbid ourselves any economical consumption of goods other than bread and water seems a little too radical. Firstly because I honestly don’t believe that a sufficient amount of people would support and live by the idea. Secondly, doing that would mean admitting defeat in the fight against culture sharing akin to submitting to the corporations. Without enough people to support the idea, who instead keep buying and feeding the demand for new products you’ll only be left with the handful of people you managed to convince while the corporations will start ignoring you. Corporations are necessary after all but they should be entirely forbidden from messing with the legislation of any country because this is where the law is no longer objective but influenced by the wealthy. Just my 2 cents.

      1. Per "wertigon" Ekström

        You’re not denying yourself very much. There are alternatives to total boycott, like the three month rule, but more importantly there are alternatives to the industry products. Linux is these days a great alternative to Windows, Jamendo has tonnes of free songs, and there are good shows for free out there. The free culture side is good enough to switch over whole-time, but I can understand people are antsy about the change, and yes it is a change.

        The good news are, few would have to go as far as I’m suggesting, if you wait three months to pick up anything the media industry produce – a simple three month delay on everything you share/purchase – then you will hit them deeply where it counts. Economicly.

        As for them winning… No, my friend, that is not the case. Last week I was helping my sister watch her three kids. And the youngest was throwing a temper tantrum, which is not unusual for children his age. Since it was rather cold outside we were telling him to put on his jacket, and he blatantly refused. After a few minutes of trying to talk sense to the stubborn kid, we finally said “Fine, then you go outside without your jacket.” And the kid went. He lasted fifteen minutes before he wanted his jacket on, which we were thoughtful enough to have brought with us. The kid learned a valuable lesson (if mommy says it’s cold and I should put on my jacket I should listen to mommy) and we had a good laugh about it. 🙂

        The problem with the content industry is that they need the filesharers much more than the filesharers need the industry, yet they act as if they don’t. Sometimes you need to take a step backward to be able to move forward…

    2. 6.941

      That’s a big effort by which you stand to gain very little. Total boycott is too much trouble for most people, and even most of those who will try it are likely to half-ass it or cave in. What gets attention is votes and protests and lobbying and campaigning and phone calls and donations (to pirate parties or the EFF, for example). Whatever your opinions of groups like NRA or the Tea Party, they carry political weight. (Or maybe you think US conservatives would do better in their campaign against abortions simply by refusing to have them?)

      1. Per "wertigon" Ekström

        Yes, that is a big inconvenience, but is the inconvenience so big that our civil liberties are worth it?

        A flat out boycott would ideally be best. But it’s not a pragmatic approach. A more pragmatic approach would be to boycott everything three months old or newer.

        Why do I believe this will make a difference? Because, most cultural products make 90% of their money the first three months they hit the streets. By boycotting that we’re hitting their main revenue stream, big time. But, yeah, it requires a few million participants to have any effect whatsoever.

        1. 6.914

          Is the convenience worth our civil liberties? Of course not. But suffering the inconvenience won’t do much, if anything, to guarantee us those liberties.

          I don’t think a few million three-month boycotters would even be discernible from noise. But activist groups tend to get heard.

        2. 6.941

          Is the convenience worth our civil liberties? Of course not. But suffering the inconvenience won’t do much, if anything, to guarantee us those liberties.

          A boycott is aimed at pressuring a company to meet your demands because that’s what’s good for business. In some situations, that’s the right approach: you want your lit in eBook format, you make a point of not buying hard copies. But sometimes the company should not even have a choice. If Uncle Farnsworth’s Sausage Factory makes its product out of ground up vagrants, you don’t organize a boycott. You organize a law against making sausages out of people.

          The greatest impact in our case would come from a advocacy/lobbying group. 2.5M people signed the Avaaz petition against ACTA. If one in ten of those people were willing to part with 1EUR every month for the cause, you could more than double the EFF’s income (for example). If none of the existing groups seem adequate, you can start your own. (There’s an inconvenience that can bear fruit, by the way.)

  5. Crosbie Fitch

    Meanwhile, the copyright cartel, their lawyers, and ministers of truth are already continuing with their corruption of Queen Anne’s 1709 grant of the monopoly we now call copyright via ‘legislatively created right=>legal right=>right’ into a civil right:

    The Real McCoy: Should Intellectual Property Rights be the New Civil Rights in America?

    “The civil rights movement was really about fighting for the economic rights of Black Americans – the right to equal pay, the right to spend their money anywhere they wish, etc. In the 21st century innovation-led world, economic rights are all about IP rights.”

    So, racial equality was about money, and because copyright brings massive profits to the cartel, therefore, being also about money, copyright must be just as much a civil right?

    Copyright causes brain damage – especially to those in thrall of the immortal corporations that thrive upon it.

  6. Another Fine Day

    As usual, another absurd polemic from those who demand the right to consume anything they like, for free, as long as it’s provided digitally, and then under the banner of ‘sharing culture’ allow everybody else to do the same.

    All well and good, for everybody, especially fat Russian mafia bosses who make a fortune out of distributing free content, Google and others who make a fortune out of advertising on those sites, ISPs who make a fortune out of fast broadband to get all that free content, and those who provide the hardware to watch and listen to it.

    When you start asking for all those things for free as well, then I might, possibly, believe a single stupid word you say. But in the meantime artists like me are at the other end of this. We see literally 100s of 1000s of copies of our work taken for free every day, yet NOTHING of all this ever gets back to us in terms of any meaningful income that helps us produce the work.

    And before you come back at me with all those ‘proofs’ that free downloading increases our sales etc, let me just tell you … it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. Most of my contemporaries have stopped making their art because it just doesn’t pay any money at all, really, anymore. I’ve just about given up making ‘records’ because I just can’t make any kind of realistic living out of it, not even minimum wage. In spite of the fact that about 10,000 people listen to my music every single week, according to my ‘stats’. Some pay, but very few.

    No, they don’t buy T shirts. No, I can’t make a living purely from gigs. I really don’t see why I should I ask for money upfront for my work (Kickstarter and all that), nor why i should spend half my life tweeting just to ‘engage’ fans and ask them to pay to paint me green (Amanda Palmer)

    And I certainly don’t see why the Pirate Bay decides that IT has the right to do what it wants with my work, that IT’s rights trump my rights to decide whether or not I allow my work to be taken for free. As it happens, I allow full length streaming of all my work on my site – you can listen to the whole lot for free- but if you want the files you can damn well pay. Why should the whole world demand to get my work – which costs thousands of pounds to produce- for free ? Just because it’s digital ?

    You don’t expect cars, bread, or clothes for free. Yet any art form that can be digitised is assumed to be free. You’ll pay $2.50 for a cup of coffee that cost pennies to produce yet demand that artwork that costs thousands to produce and lasts a lifetime should be free ?

    Quite frankly, how dare you. HOW DARE YOU DECIDE THAT MY WORK IS WORTH NOTHING ?

    You’re nothing but a bunch of freeloaders using after-the-fact arguments to justify your behaviour, which is nothing less than pure thievery. No one ever came up with this rubbish before technology allowed you to take stuff for free with little chance of ever getting caught. I’ve no doubt you’d come up for the same arguments to justify burglary, if you could.

    Let me put it this way. Technology, in the form of firearms, allows me the capability to shoot anyone in the head, if I choose to. Yet I don’t then say ‘the tech allows it, therefore it should be a right’ as you do, in this case.

    You have NO RIGHT to steal my work. Yet thousands of you do, every day.

    And that’s why I, and many others, can’t make a living anymore. Boo-hoo, you say, we don’t care.

    No, you don’t. You’re too busy pushing for a world which allows a whole bunch of people to deny creators the chance to make any kind of living at all, all for ‘sharing culture’.

    Well guess what. He who pays the piper calls the tune. And if no one pays the piper, the piper stops playing. I hope you enjoy your future world where all you’ll find will be rubbish produced by corporate entities and the fumblings of amateurs. Because everyone else will have stopped playing.

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      That’s a very long rant trying to claim that such entities such as Beethoven, Bach, Leonardo da Vinci and Mosart never existed, having been replaced by rubbish in an age where copyright and patents for all intents and purposes were nonexistent.

      And your historical revisionism aside, what on earth does that have to do with the tacit fact that if people have privacy and freedom to communicate then they can certainly copy what they want in said communication.

      All in all it boils down to you being mad about being unable to earn money and then telling us we all have to abolish our basic liberties because your business model cannot be sustained in an environment where basic civil liberty is observed.

      Tell you what, if it boils down to the choice of you not making a living out of creating “culture” which you can not sell, or of every citizen in the world being denied basic freedom of mass surveillance then it is no longer a sad thing if you need to cut your hair and get a damn 9-5 job.

      I have no sympathy at all to spare for a confused hippie who believes his “right” to earn money means we have to put up with mass surveillance.

      1. Scary Devil Monastery

        And, FYI, if you do allow streaming from your website then be advised that what you in essence do is send a copy to whoever clicks the link, just as surely as if you had put the work on TPB.

        Pray tell me, if ten thousand people stream that tune and you get no sales, does that mean that perhaps you simply aren’t a good artist? Or does it mean that said people are all, according to you, “thieves”?

        Because in an age where even authors can boost sales of their books by millions of copies after placing the work on TPB, it painfully follows that perhaps you just aren’t an epic artist and that lies at the core of you not being able to sell.

        Go ask Trent Reznor and Paulo Coelho about what downloading can do for you if you happen to be one of the great artists that people are willing to cater to. So far All i see is the disgruntled rant of a failed hack desperate to blame someone for the fact that he may not actually be a musical genius.

    2. moto

      “You have NO RIGHT to steal my work.”

      “And that’s why I, and many others, can’t make a living anymore.”

      Then find another line of work. Go make mayonnaise. Or figure it out. Nina Paley (the creator of the video above) made 100,000 USD on a full length feature film movie that she released for free to the public. If she had dealt with distributors, and copyright, and all that BS she would have seen $20k, if anything at all (they could have not distributed the film and since contracts for indy producers are on net, not gross, she would have gotten $0).

      Jonas Salk released the vaccine for polio with no patent protection.

      You are not special. You are not ‘owed’ anything by society. If you want to take your toys and go home, fine. We don’t need your crap.

      1. Scary Devil Monastery

        I’ll second that. In real life 9 out of 10 people end up doing what they are actually good at, not what they’d like to be doing.

        Some self-proclaimed “artists” may make good accountants, and some would-be astronauts just have to settle for being damn decent dba’s. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

        But with the mindset of “Another Fine Day” I doubt he’d even make the cut in flipping burgers.

        The style seems familiar though, and the nick reminiscent of “Another side of the story” who published a similar post on Torrentfreak. I believe “Anonymous”, below, is correct in assuming that we are in fact talking about a bona fide troll.

    3. Anonymous

      i think that basically you are talking crap! i also think that rather than being an artist, you are an industry troll. it isn’t artists that are losing out, it is the gate keepers! they, more so than some artists, seem to think that the public owes you a debt and it must be paid, monetarily, whenever you say. i got news for you boy. your kind the public dont need! your kind, the public can do without! no one here or on any of the file sharing sites wants or expects things for free. what they expect is the right to be respected and the right to be treated as what they are, paying customers! they also expect to be charged a fair and reasonable amount for what they want, not to be ripped off, continuously, just so some 75 year old fat, fucking fart can sit behind a desk, doing nothing other than puffing on a giant cigar, giving the orders to sue another 10 school kids for sharing a song, rather than updating the business model to suit the C21st!

  7. printersMate

    It is not just the gate keepers that do not like the Internet, many governments and politicians dislike it as well because it allow people to organize themselves. This is why the gatekeepers have had as much success as they have in getting laws passed.
    A further problem is that the gatekeepers price too mush knowledge out of the reach of poorer people and countries. The drug cartels are pricing medicines out of reach of poorer people and countries as well. This can only perpetuate societies liable to domination by religious and political extremists, along with a hatred of western culture.

  8. […] How The Copyright Industry Drives A Big Brother Dystopia! […]

  9. Alan Light

    I think it was in the spring of 1994 when I was able to meet Michael S. Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, in person. We discussed a number of things, but I was surprised to learn that in making knowledge freely available to everyone his greatest opponents were the academics and librarians charged with keeping the public informed. At the time I was doubtful that these “gatekeepers”, as he called them, would act against the public interest and their own professed calling – but over time I have come to see that he was correct. To be a gatekeeper is to be in a position of power, and few people give up such positions willingly.

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      So it has always been. All you have to do is compare that stance with the position of the church before the lutheran reformation and you instantly see the similarity.

  10. […] All too often, I hear that the copyright industry doesn’t understand the Internet, doesn’t understand the net generation, doesn’t understand how technology has changed. This is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong. In order to defeat an adversary, you must first come to understand their state of mind, rather than painting them as evil. The copyright industry understands exactly what the Internet is, and that it needs to be destroyed for that industry to stay even the slightest relevant.    […]

  11. Ano Nymous

    Conspiracy theory or conspiracy truth – you decide:

    Do you think that the gatekeepers of culture are the same people, or collaborating with the people, who decide what the news should cover? I actually believe so, and they are connected with every big industry and every big event in society. Weapon industry, oil industry, surveillance tech industry, you name it. Most of the wars in the last decades, most of the CO2 emissions, most of the Big Brother society would have been avoided if there wasn’t a big lump of companies and governments secretly working behind our backs, and seeing to it that we don’t find out about their business through mainstream media – because they own or collaborate with main stream media.

    Take 9/11 for example. Some say it was staged, a false-flag-attack.

    I say IT DOESN’T MATTER if it was staged or not, what matters is that MSM made it big. They scared the public enough to accept such things as the Patriot Act. And what is small things like pirate hunting media companies, when you have already accepted that the government should be snooping on just about every aspect of everyone’s lives?

    The biggest prooblem of our time is to get the public to realize what is happening.

  12. […] are understandably trying to kill the net instead, the enabler of their successor industries. The copyright industry and the telco industry […]

  13. […] tentando matar a rede em vez disso, quem ativa as indústrias que irão sucedê-los. Ambos, a indústria do direito autoral e a indústriade […]

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