But Do Their Eyes Glow?: The Children of the Lessig God and the Viking Pirate Kings

Ah, the Kingdom of Sweden. I have always heard how wonderful it is to spend the summer in Sweden, but apparently things have changed. It is now the “fantastically cool freculture country of Sweden” according to Professor Lessig, with what the professor describes as the “very interesting” “Piracy Party”. And of course, the Pirate Party people returned the favor by posting one of Professor Lessig’s diatribes on the creative community on the Pirate Party’s Pirate Bay Bit Torrent site (available at this link, you’ll find it to the right of the handy “meet girls from your area” advertising bar and below the “attract women by smell” banner ad. Yes, that’s really what it said. Who knew?).

Since Professor Lessig is a fan, it should come as no surprise that the Professor’s benefactors at Wired Magazine are, too. With its usual fawning over anyone who hurts the creative community (see “Shawn Hogan, Hero“), Wired are doe-eyed over the Swedish Pirate Party in their latest amoral puff piece on Rickard Falkvinge, the leader of the Pirate Party which–of course–has no connection to the Pirate Bay. None. Nada. Zilch. Immaculate conception. Note: Not only does the Pirate Party have nothing to do with the Pirate Bay, it is also not to be confused with the Pirate Party sponsored by Professor Lessig’s Free Culture group that mocks the creative community and provides a convivial atmosphere where the elites meet amid stolen goods at Ivy League colleges.

The Children of the Lessig God

The latest bump on the road provided courtesy of Professor Lessig’s entourage is a group of thirtysomething Swedes who share the Professor’s lust for negative attention. Wired provides this slice of life:

“Falkvinge is interrupted by a passing teenager. She’s a young punk, with green dreads and a jacket covered in an indistinguishable combination of angry quips and band names — in short, exactly the type who once would have spent her disposable income on music.”

Note that last bully sneer from Wired. Charming, eh? Once would have…except for…what? The Pirate Party? The Pirate Bay? No wait–there’s no conneciton between the two.

The pirate press continues: “She takes out a piece of notebook paper and asks Falkvinge for an autograph.”

That little tableau says it all, it really tells the entire story of Professor Lessig and his followers. Steal from rock stars and you will become one. And Wired–like all star driven mainstream media–always needs conflict, always needs a star, preferably a geek to make into a star.

In the infamous error-ridden passage from Free Culture in which Professor Lessig laughably tries to pass off The Simpsons as an “orphan work”, we get a snapshot of what motivates the Lessig mind:

“Jon Else is a filmmaker….He is also a teacher, and as a teacher myself, I envy the loyalty and admiration that his students feel for him. (I met, by accident, two of his students at a dinner party. He was their god.)”

Sorry, professor, a little too much information. (A “god”? A “god”? Feeling just a tad inadequate are we?) Parents of students at the Stanford madrasah, take note. But I digress.

It does appear that the Children of the Lessig God have gotten some political traction in Sweden. This is curious given Sweden’s pro-labor political parties and strong trade unions but the blatently anti-labor direction of the Pirate Party (given their problems with artists–oh, sorry, note to self–no connection to the Pirate Bay). However, this strange congruence should actually come as no surprise if you understand the political philosophy underpinning Creative Commons, Free Culture and their supergroup, Friends of the Commons.

When a Lessig-ist refers to “commons” what they are describing is property that the Friends of the Commons believes belongs to all the people. For purposes of the creative community, that means copyrights that fall (or are pushed) into the public domain. Friends of the Commons also has ties to the environmental movement, but it is environmentalism with a decidedly anti-private property bent.

It should not be surprising, then, that the Children of the Lessig God should arise in countries with large numbers of supporters of the Green Party, which is arguably far more radical outside the United States than Americans are used to seeing at home. Sweden’s Green Party has 17 seats in the Swedish unicameral Parliament. (Note that other Lessig political successes have occurred in Brazil and France, countries with parliamentary socialist or Green parties.)

According to Chris Anderson’s Wired Magazine, Falkvinge says “[The Pirate Party] have a lot in common with the environmental movement. Where environmentalists see destruction of natural resources, the pirates see culture at risk. (We) saw a lot of hidden costs to society in the way companies maximize their copyright.”

Ah, I see. When you spot hidden costs to society in business structures, stealing the goods makes it efficient. Wow. That’s heavy, dude. Genius.

“Given their public bravado, The Pirate Bay’s proprietors may be incapable of bending to even the sternest pressure from copyright holders.

Peter describes the last few days as exhausting, but expresses confidence that The Pirate Bay will outlast efforts to shut it down. Eventually, he’d even like to bring it back home to Sweden. ‘We have people willing to help out with the work, so it’s no problem if they start chasing us around. The internet is bigger than the MPAA.'”

Do you really feel that lucky? Although I suppose you would find a home in Absurdistan quite comfortable. Not quite as incredibly cool as the freculture country of Sweden, but homey.

This is the essential arrogance of not only the Pirate Party, but the Lessig movement as a whole. They take advantage of the freedoms of society–speech, assembly, privacy–to work against other foundations of society–private property. Sounds like another certain person who is no friend to New York and Washington.

And if that is not true, if I have unfairly characterized Professor Lessig as a supporter of thievery of the most common sort, then let him come forward and publicly condemn stealing of intellectual property, prove me wrong and I will happily apologize. I have never once heard or read, or heard of, him doing anything even close.

Everyone A Pirate King, Yet No One Wears A Crown

For further justification in condemning Sweden as a bad trading partner of at least the United States and the European Union, the Pirate Party has endorsed what Wired described as “a low-cost, encrypted anonymizing service offered by a Swedish communications company called Relakks. For 5 euros a month, a portion of which goes to the party, anyone can share files or communicate from a Relakks IP address in Sweden, potentially complicating efforts to track downloaders.” But there is no connection between the Pirate Bay and the Pirate Party. Ah yes, the great Kingfish himself would be proud.

By the way: You will find “anonymizing” in your Wired Magazine/Chris Anderson lexicon right next to “law-hardening” (another word coined by the Lessig press). In this context is the intentional act of covering Internet traces to make it difficult for law enforcement to track criminal acts. This once was known as driving the getaway car. “Anonymizing” is what Lessig defends as “privacy” concerns, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation defends as “privacy advocates”. Spare me the moral indignation, please. I suppose Al Capone had a privacy interest in his tax returns, too.

I think it goes without saying that this ISP is clearly inducing piracy and is seeking to drive legitimate online services out of Sweden, not to mention offline services. And if the Pirate Party manages to get itself elected to the Swedish Parliament, don’t think it stops there. That’s just the beginning. Note that there is already a “Pirate Party US”, and if you doubt that there is a Lessig connection, read the first 100 words of the manifesto on their home page and you will see a regurgitation of the Lessig anti-copyright (and specifically anti-Disney) rhetoric that would make a godlike professor proud (or a wanna-be godlike professor I guess).

Wired reporter Quinn Norton apparently was acquainted with the founders of the Pirate Bureau (that I think is more aptly translated as the Ministry of Piracy,) whom Norton identified as one Rasmus Fleischer and one Marcus Kaarto, founders of what Wired describes (without justification) as “an ad hoc pro-piracy think tank.” Isn’t that special? Another sneer from the pro-pirate press. And Al Capone was just a businessman.

According to Wired, Mr. Kaarto describes the Ministry of Piracy as being “‘like a gas,’ Kaarto says, laughing. ‘You can’t get a hold on us.'” It may be true that the Ministry of Piracy have mastered the art of deception and don’t plan on doing much traveling, but where have we heard that sentiment before?

Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart.
Away to the cheating world go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do;
But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King.

From The Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert & Sullivan

The funny thing about political parties is that you generally know what they’re up to, and they are accountable. Pirate Bay or the Ministry of Piracy may be a gas, but the Pirate Party is not. Fasten your seat belts, boys, it’s going to be a bumpy flight. Be sure to fly your freak flag high. See you at NATO. No law-hardening allowed.

Copyright 2006 Christian L. Castle. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “But Do Their Eyes Glow?: The Children of the Lessig God and the Viking Pirate Kings

  1. hmmm…This is basically a long rant, which just shows that you really do hate the Pirate Party, and are totally blind to the wrongs perpetuated by the advocates of alternative ‘Intellectual Property’ Regimes.First, a substantial part of the commons movement depends on enforcable ‘IP’ laws.In particular, the GPL, the most widely used license, could not work without copyright. Now, just because someone decides the work they do should be released under the GPL, what problem do you have with that? I presume none, since most of your rant is devoted to tallking about content, or music that you feel is being ‘stolen.’ Secondly, those who favor strong ‘IP’ regimes have committed many wrong actions, for example:-Threatened Prosecution of Ed Felten for presenting his research- Prosecution of Dmitry Skylarov, for reverse engineering a software protocol- Passage of the DMCA, which has infringed on my First Amendment Rights- Indiscriminate PRosecution of those engaged in file sharing, including the creation of a legal framework which has largely removed the assumption of guilty, and thorough use of blanket subpoenas, has basically rescinded that little pesky issue of due process and unreasonable search and seizure of private informationSo, if the music industry had taken care to prosecute those whom it feels violate its property rights in accordance with the Constitution, I would perhaps have pit on them as the sales of CD’s continue to plummet. Now, because of their actions, I regard it as my moral duty to not buy any CD’s, so as to cut of the money supply to the corporations who have engaged in deeply unethic tactics. The music industry has hastened its own demise.


  2. The logical fallacies in this post are so deep that I wish I had time to really spell them out, but here’s a few thoughts.1. GPL: You’re right, I don’t have a problem with the GPL because people who use the GPL do so voluntarily. Voluntarily. The Pirate Party is not about voluntary action, it’s about stealing things, hence “Pirate”. Your point is…what, exactly?2. The overwhelming majority of artists have never sued anyone about anything and really just want to have a peaceful life where their rights are respected. When the Pirate Party lionizes theft of copyright, it is these people who are hurt. And it has little to do with record company boogiemen, as most artists are not signed to record companies.3. Lots of things “infringe” on your and my “first amendment rights” and as John Stuart Mill once said, your freedom of expresion stops at the end of my nose. 4. Lots of file sharers are finding lawyers who now want to litigate the RIAA lawsuits. There is no “indiscriminate prosecution”, although some get drawn into lawsuits incorrectly due to a lack of cooperation from ISPs or just the sheer volume of cases–because millions of people are stealing. If mistakes are made, mistakes are made. The courts have remedies for people who are sued improperly, so I’m not too worried about that.5. If you don’t like the fact that your side always seems to lose these cases, that’s a reason to complain about the law, not the prosecution of the law. And I don’t see a lot of people stepping forward to say that the Congress needs to protect their right to steal…because they don’t have such a right, never will have such a right, and they know it is wrong.


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