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Against Monopoly

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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Sweden: free non-profit exchange of copyrighted material?

There have been several references in blogs to the current debate in Sweden over stricter enforcement of copyright vs. making not-for-profit file exchanges completely legal link here. Perhaps the most significant elements left out of these posts was the role of Pirate Bay, the BitTorrent site of some fame, and the creation in Sweden of a Pirate Party, addressing this issue. Thirteen Swedish MPs in the Moderate Party have now come out in support of free exchange. The issue started with a government study of stopping currently "illegal" exchanges, leading to a set of extreme measures like taking away internet access to anyone caught exchanging copyrighted material and spying on private internet traffic. These appear to have violated the Swedish sense of individual rights. The copyright owners are now under attack as self-interested big businesses, not as protecting the rights of artists and authors.

This story isn't over. We don't know how it will finally play out. Though the opposition to more restrictions and more stringent enforcement is strong, it doesn't mean that legalizing all free exchanges will happen. Rather, the present lax regime of not, for the most part, enforcing copyright may simply continue.

My most optimistic take is that free exchange will undermine restrictions on free exchange of copyrighted material around the world and force the recording and video business to find other business models. That will happen as long as Swedish sources of free downloads can be accessed, as currently with Pirate Bay. They do need better advertising in the rest of the world.

We should however, expect the RIAA, MPAA, and owners of copyrighted material to go to extremes to put pressure on their governments and through them, on the Swedish government. We all have an interest in seeing that they don't succeed.


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