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<nettime> Lars Gustafsson: "Why my vote goes to the Pirate Party"
Rasmus Fleischer on Thu, 28 May 2009 05:05:32 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Lars Gustafsson: "Why my vote goes to the Pirate Party"


Lars Gustafsson is probably Sweden?s most profilic living writer. Since the
late 1950?s he has produced a steady flow of poetry, novels and literary
criticism. At the same time, he has until recently been active as professor
of philosophy at the University of Texas.

In today's issue of Expressen, explains why he think that copyright must be
left behind and declares that he is voting for the Pirate Party in the
ongoing European elections. Naturally, that's making the Swedish
blogosphere/twittrosphere/op-ed-sphere quite excited at the moment.

As the text could probably be of interest for a few people also outside of
Sweden, I made a very fast translation (apologies for the translation
wrongs). I could add that I do not personally share every detail in Lars
Gustafsson?s analysis. Especially, the dichotomy between ?material? and
?immaterial? is clearly problematic, and there are also good reasons to
questios the status of Benjamin's concept of "reproducibility". However,
Lars Gustafsson ? like Walter Benjamin ? is powerfully formulating the
ongoing conflicts in materialist terms and putting them in a relevant
historical perspective. As an intervention in the Swedish debate, which of
course is not only about party politics but also about the judicial process
against The Pirate Bay, it makes stuff quite interesting

= = =

LARS GUSTAFSSON: "WHY MY VOTE GOES TO THE PIRATE PARTY"

    According to an ancient source, the Emperor of Persia gave orders that
the waves of the sea must be punished by beating, as the storm hindered him
from transporting his troups by ship.
    That was quite stupid of him. Today, would he maybe have tried with
Stockholm district court? Or a consultative conversation with the judge?
    It is odd, how strongly the situation spring 2009 ? on the area of civil
rights ? reminds about the struggles over freedom of press in France, during
the decades preceding the French revolution.
    A new world of ideas is emerging and would not have been able to, were
it not for an accelerating technology.
    Raids against secret printing houses, confiscated pamphlets and ? even
more ? confiscated printing equipment. Orders of arrest and adventurous
nightly transports between Prussian enclave Neuch?tel ? where not only large
parts of the Encyclopedia was produced, but also lots of daring pornography,
between the atheist pamphlets ? and Paris.
    Between the 1730?s and 1780?s, the number of state censors in France was
doubled by four. The raids against illegal printing houses was rising at
about the same pace. In retrospect, we know it did not help. Rather, the
increase of censorship and printing house raids had a stimulating effect on
the new ideas and made them spread even faster.

    Now the conflict rage over the net?s continued existence as a forum of
ideas and as an institution of civil rights, protected from
privacy-threatening interventions and against powerful private interests.
    That a mad French-German proposal just fell in the European parliament
does certainly not mean that the freeedom of the net and the privacy is now
safeguarded.
    Hur real are then these threats? Let us think about the Dal?lven river
in spring flood times. A really critical year, the water may trespass 100
meters, maybe 200 meters, into house lots and meadows. Does it help to call
the Ludvika police?

    So for ? this is shown by most historical experience ? legislation has
never been able to stop technological development.
    Walter Benjamin wrote an influential essay, whose title usually is
translated as ?The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction?, where
he draws a series of interesting conclusions about what the radical changes
that must follow on his time?s relatively modest degree of reproducibility.
The digital revolution has brought about a reproducibility which Walter
Benjamin could hardly ever have dreamt about. One could talk about maximal
reproducibility. Google is about to build a library that, if is is allowed
to grow, will make most material libraries obsolete or at least outmoded.
    Cinema and paper newspapers are since long drawn into this new
immateriality. Films, novels, magazines let themselves be reproduced.
Further on; also three-dimensional objects, like products of programmable
lathes let themselves be reproduced. Wirelessy and rapidly.
    This immaterialisation naturally threatens the material copyright. And
then were are not only talking about run-of-the-mill writers like Mr. Jan
Guillou, whose social problems of acquiring new country estates I am
honestly ignoring.

    Material copyright has much more serious aspects: What has the large
pharmaceutical firms patents on aids medicin meant for the third world? Or
what about Monsanto?s claim of holding rights on crops and pigs?
    Every society must make its balance between differing interests and
every hypocritic attempt to ignore that is nonsense. A functioning military
defence is more important than ice hockey rinks and bicycle lanes. Probably
the net implies a threat against the copyright of the material. And so what?

    Intellectual and personal integrity for the citizens, briefly speaking
an internet that has not been transformed into a government channel by
lobby-marinated courts and EU politicians in leashes, is arguably more
important than the needs of a primarily industrial scene of literarature and
music, which is rapidly crumbling away already within the lifetime of the
authors. The need of being read, of influenceing, to formulate one?s times,
may but does not need to get in conflict with the wish to sell many copies.
When the both needs are getting in conflict, the industrial interest must be
put aside and the great intellectual sphere of the arts must be defended
against threats.

    The essential interest of artists and authors, given that they are
intellectually and morally serious in hat they are doing, must certainly be
to get read, to let their voice become heard in their generation. How that
goal is attained, that is, how to reach the readers, is in this perspective
of secondary importance.

    The growing defence of the internet?s expanded freedom of speech, of the
immaterial civil rights, that we are now witnessing in country after
country, is the start of an ? just as the last time in the early 18th
century ? liberalism that is carried by technology and therefore
emancipated.

    Therefore, my vote goes to the Pirate Party.

= = = EOF = = =


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