My Address To The European Pirates

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).

[youtube lRgILciI6Gc&w=621&start=1877]

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
  • Broadcasting
  • 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 agreement. It is an agreement between everybody in this room and several billion other people. And it’s a very simple one. At its core, this agreement is about three things:

  • 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).

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. Anonymous

    very good speech, Rik. i sincerely hope we are able, through the representatives of the Pirate Party, to fulfill what needs fulfilling. the hardest job is to get those governments that are still looking at things the old way, trying to keep control by making the Internet theirs and not ours (everyone’s) through laws that punish people for being able to use the ‘net more to it’s extent than the governments can and restricting it because of the old ways of doing things, putting people in prison because they want to have control over something they have paid good, hard earned money for and want to share it with others. the legacy industries need to be put in their place, not in any bad way but by persuasion and example. here’s hoping to many new EU Pirate Party members!!

  2. k-h

    You forgot the book publishing industry in your list.

    1. Anon

      Rick was referring to the essay by Doc Searls and David Weinberger

      “This is especially true for magazine and newspaper publishing, broadcasting, cable television, the record industry, the movie industry, and the telephone industry, to name just six.”

  3. Caleb Lanik

    Excellent speech, Rick. I’ve never read A World of Ends, I’ll have to get a copy. You have such a talent for explaining the world as it is, and why things must and inevitably will change.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks. Do read it – it’s really a very short read, it takes less than 10 minutes to get through the whole thing, and it lays out the land very clearly.

  4. LennStar

    “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. ”

    That reminded me of TTIP – the treaty between EU and USA that is Lobby-discussed and could (and likely will) harm a lot.
    The Pirate Parties have announced a world wide Demonstration day for 2014-04-19, international coordination wiki at – its just 2 days old, so there is still work to be done 😉

    If you want to end another ACTA clone, now is the time. Not just Pirates, but all people, because all could suffer.

    @Rick: It would be nice if yo could write about it. I will include you in the media list then, because I have read your book 😉

  5. mijj

    the Corporate Government invaders into the Internet are intent on treating the Native Internet inhabitants the same way as the interlopers to the American Continent treated the American Natives.

  6. aaaaaa

    When I read what you write usually, I agree and like it. This just made me feel… uneasy. I’m not sure why.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks for the kind words. Could it be that, unlike all my articles, this was made for an oral presentation, and the sequence of words written down later?

      My written and oral presentations have completely different layout and approach, as they are two different media. It could be that the crossover here shows through.


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  8. […] με μετάφραση από: INFOPOLICY, “My Address To The European Pirates“, απομαγνητοφώνηση της ομιλίας του Rick Falkvinge, από τον […]

  9. Anonymous

    after the very misleading announcement by the UK government concerning the ‘right to make backups of legally owned/purchased media disks (except software?) i hope there will be intense pressure put on other politicians by a marked increase in the number of Pirate Party members winning seats on the EU Parliament!
    this half measure by the UK government yet again highlights the ridiculousness of how laws are made ‘to benefit consumers’ when, in actual fact, the consumers are as stitched up as they can be by laws that cater for industries and just a minimum allowance for the public, to ‘make it seem as if they have won something’!!

  10. Googla

    “Nothing has happened for the past decade. These people keep making the same mistakes over and over”
    Rick it sounds that you don’t keep up with the times as there undoubtedly has happened a LOT in the last ten years in those industries. As for mistakes well everybody including companies and you make them now and again hrmmmm Mt GOX comes to mind for some reason.

  11. J

    I have a problem. I want to vote but I don’t know which Portuguese political party can contribute to a real free and open internet.

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