Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lions, Tigers, and Pirates

A recent TED Talk caught my attention today. In it Rick Falkvinge, an unlikely politician and founder of a modern political movement in Europe, talks about falling into politics and changing the world. The party is based on the principles of civil liberties and Internet freedoms; in the last six years it has become a major party for people under 30, and today--represented in 56 countries--it is called the fastest growing movement in Europe. The name of this movement: "The Pirate Party" (or "Piratpartiet," in Swedish.)

Falkvinge describes the party as a protest movement that has solidified into an ideology. The essence of that ideology? Freedom of Speech and Openness = "Leave the Net Alone." Based on a firm stance of anti-censorship, anti-wiretapping, anti-online tracking, and pro-anonymity, the Party argues that just because technology and methods of communication have changed over that last decades, doesn't mean our rights to privacy should be rewritten (or revoked). I thought one of the most interesting sentiments he expressed in his talk is that "entrepreneurs do not get to dismantle civil liberties even if, and perhaps especially if, they don't get to make money otherwise," as he argued against anti-file sharing and distribution legislation. In one of my classes today, we talked a little bit about the role of librarians enforcing copyright law within the library and the ethical conflict one faces when patron freedoms and access rights run counter to the librarian's perspective of their legal responsibilities. I think ethics are kind of fascinating, something that affects us every day, but that we rarely stop and think about.

While unquestionably a visionary and quite brilliant, Falkvinge also seems more than a little eccentric. In his talk he vacillates between seeming almost uncertain about his presence on stage and confidently declaring that this is his "chance to change the world for the better." He paces (a lot) and quotes Futurama ("When push comes to shove, you gotta do what you love--even when it's not a good idea.")

But I think the best quote of the presentation is one of his own: "Whether you believe that you can or cannot change the world… you're probably right."

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