Copyright laws turn 'young people into criminals'

Europe's copyright legislation is 'out of balance and out of tune with the times', argues Christian Engström.

Next parliamentary term, the European commission will present a proposal for copyright reform. This is very welcome. We don't know yet what the commission will propose, or even in which direction the proposal will go. Will it be yet another call for expanded copyright and more repressive enforcement? Or will it go in the other direction, and start the long overdue process of realigning copyright with reality?

Perhaps some would venture a guess, but to be perfectly honest, it makes more sense to focus on two things that we do know for a fact. We can be absolutely sure that whatever the commission proposes, the European parliament will make a lot of changes to the proposal. And we can be equally sure that citizens, especially young ones, demand an end to the war on non-commercial file sharing.

Today's copyright legislation is out of balance, and out of tune with the times. It has turned an entire generation of young people into criminals in the eyes of the law, in a futile attempt at stopping technological development. Yet file sharing has continued to grow exponentially. Neither propaganda, nor fear tactics, nor ever harsher laws have been able to stop its development.

"It is impossible to enforce the ban against non-commercial file sharing without infringing on fundamental human rights"

It is impossible to enforce the ban against non-commercial file sharing without infringing on fundamental human rights. As long as there are ways for citizens to communicate in private, these ways will be used to share copyrighted materials. The only way to even try to limit file sharing is to remove the right to private communication by mass surveillance. This is not an acceptable price to pay.

At the same time, we want a society where culture flourishes, and where artists and creative people have a chance to make a living as cultural workers. Fortunately, there is no contradiction between file sharing and culture. This is something we know now, from 15 years of experience of massive file sharing on the internet.

The cultural sector is doing better than ever. Many creators have had to adapt their businesses models to new realities, but they are sharing a bigger pie than ever, and in many cases getting a bigger slice out of it as well.

When public libraries were introduced in Europe 150 years ago, the book publishers opposed this with the same argument that is being used today in the file sharing debate: If people could get access to books for free, authors would not be able to make a living, and no new books would be written.

We now know that the arguments against public libraries were wrong. On the contrary, free access to culture proved to be not only a boon to society at large, but also turned out to be beneficial to authors.

The internet is the most fantastic public library that has ever been created. It means that everybody, including people with limited economic means, has access to all the world's culture and knowledge just a mouse-click away. This is a positive development that we should embrace.

The Pirate party has a clear and positive agenda to end the criminalisation of the young generation, and provide the foundations for a diverse and sustainable cultural sector in the internet age. We invite all political groups to copy our ideas, like the Greens/EFA group already has. The upcoming copyright reform will be a great opportunity for the next European parliament. Sharing is caring.

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