Swedish Pirate Party member and elected official: copyright law ‘out of tune’ with reality

Swedish Pirate Party member Christian Engström defied expectations and became a European Parliament member in 2009. If a recent editorial is any indication, the office has done little to sour the activist’s outlook on reforming copyright law.

Swedish Pirate Party member and elected official: copyright law 'out of tune' with reality

Writing at European news site NewEurope early this month, Engström boldly declared that “copyright law turns kids into criminals” and that any attempt to limit or prevent file-sharing is doomed to failure.

“Today’s copyright legislation is out balance, and out of tune with the times,” said Engström. “It has turned the entire young generation into criminals in the eyes of the law, in a futile attempt at stopping the technological development.”

The politician argued that file-sharing has actually grown despite “[anti-piracy] propaganda, fear tactics and ever harsher laws.” He may be on to something. In the time since Engström was elected, The Pirate Bay has confirmed that it caters to over 5 million members. File-sharing company BitTorrent said over 100 million people in over 200 countries use its software clients each month.

When it comes to the best way to foster technological growth while respective artists’ rights, Engström balanced pie-in-the-sky idealism with brutal pragmatism.

“It is impossible to enforce the ban against non-commercial file sharing without infringing fundamental rights. As long as there are ways for citizens to communicate in private, they will be used to share copyrighted materials,” he said. “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.”

The fight over culture and cashing in is one both content rights holders and file-sharing activists have fought for years. Comparing the Internet with the world’s first public libraries, Engström remarked that publishers were originally highly critical of the notion of lending books for free. When they realized the institutions wouldn’t kill the medium and could in fact aid writers, however, they changed their tune.

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

Many European voters seem to agree that copyright law needs reform. Last month the Pirate Party’s German branch scored a political upset, earning 15 seats in the Berlin Parliament following a 9 percent vote tally buoyed by young voters.

Engström remains hopeful that his group can affect change, urging unity among elected officials across party lines. “We invite all political groups to copy our ideas,” he said. “Sharing is caring.” (via Techdirt)