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Liberty vs Temperance - Rematch · Monday April 20, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

According to the BBC a court in Sweden has jailed four men behind The Pirate Bay (TPB), the world’s most high-profile file-sharing website, in a landmark case.

It’s amusing to note that the BBC shows no bias whatsoever in the inferences it would like readers to draw from the fact that “The Pirate Bay’s first server is now a museum exhibit in Stockholm”. Implicitly, The Pirate Bay has ended and has already been consigned to the history books.

However, let’s just have another look at the BBC’s more serious claim that this is a ‘landmark case’.

I wonder if this case has any precedents?

In other words, given that what we fail to learn from history is that we are doomed to repeat it, let’s see if there’s anything in our history that can inform us as to our future.

I’ve got an idea. What would such a case look like if the news story was remixed to make it appear as if it related to issues that would have been familiar around 80 years ago?

A court in New York has jailed four men behind The Bootlegger Bay (TBB), the nations’s most high-profile speakeasy promotions agency, in a landmark case.

Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde were found guilty of breaking sumptuary law (per the 18th amendment) and were sentenced to a year in jail.

They were also ordered to pay $4,500 in fines.

Temperance Societies welcomed the verdict but the men are to appeal and Sunde said they would refuse to pay the fine.

Speaking to The New York Times, the chairman of coalition body the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) Wayne Wheeler said the verdict sent out a clear message.

“These guys weren’t making a principled stand, they were out to line their own pockets. There was nothing meritorious about their behaviour, it was reprehensible.”

“The Bootlegger Bay did immense harm and the fine doesn’t even get close to due penitence, but we never claimed it did.”

“There has been a perception that imbibing alcohol is OK and that the temperance movement should just have to accept it. This verdict will change that,” he said.

The four men denied the charges throughout the trial, saying that because they did not actually manufacture or distribute any intoxicating liquour, they were not doing anything wrong.

Speaking on WRUC, the assistant judge explained how the court reached its findings.

“The court first tried whether there was any question of consumption of alcohol by persons upon the premises and that has been proved, that the offence was committed.”

“The court then moved on to look at those who acted as a team to operate the Bootlegger Bay speakeasy promotions agency, and the court found that they knew that intoxicating beverage would be distributed but continued to operate the service,” he said.

William H. Stayton, leader of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment – which is trying to reform laws around alcohol and drinking premises – told the NYT that the verdict was “a gross injustice”.

“This wasn’t a criminal trial, it was a political trial. It is just gross beyond description that you can jail four people for directing thirsty citizens to the places they want to go.”

“There is a lot of anger in New York City right now. Drinking is an institution here and while I can’t encourage people to break the Volstead Act, I’m not following it and I don’t agree with it.”

“Today’s events make the consumption of alcoholic beverages a hot political issue and we’re going to take this to Congress.”

Here’s the history we’re doomed to repeat:

In 1921, 95,933 illicit distilleries, stills, still works and fermentors were seized. in 1925, the total jumped to 172,537 and up to 282,122 in 1930. In connection with these seizures, 34,175 persons were arrested in 1921; by 1925, the number had risen to 62,747 and to a high in 1928 of 75,307 (Internal Revenue, Service, 1921, 1966, 1970: 95, 6, 73). Concurrently, convictions for liquor offenses in federal courts rose from 35,000 in 1923 to 61,383 in 1932.

The law could not quell the continuing demand for alcoholic products. Thus, where legal enterprises could no longer supply the demand, an illicit traffic developed, from the point of manufacture to consumption. The institution of the speakeasy replaced the institution of the saloon. Estimates of the number of speakeasies throughout the United States ranged from 200,000 to 500,000 (Lee, 1963: 68).

Here’s the outcome, and our future:

It is difficult to assess the relative numbers of the wet and dry partisans during the last few years of national prohibition. In terms of strength, however, the wets surely had the edge which less than two decades before had belonged to the drys. The new wet strength showed up at the National Convention of the Democratic party held in Chicago in 1932, where Mayor Cermak of that city filled the galleries with his supporters. And, though Franklin D. Roosevelt had wooed the dry vote for some time, he now came forward on a platform which favored the outright repeal of the 18th Amendment. Accepting his nomination, he stated:

I congratulate this convention for having had the courage, fearlessly to write into its declaration of principles what an overwhelming majority here assembled really thinks about the 18th Amendment. This convention wants repeal. Your candidate wants repeal. And I am confident that the United States of America wants repeal (Dobyns, 1940: 160).

While dry leaders looked on with disgust, Roosevelt was elected president and Congress turned a somersault. The repeal amendment was introduced February 14, 1933, by Sen. Blaine of Wisconsin and approved two days later by the Senate 63 to 23. The House followed four days later, voting 289 to 121 to send the amendment on to the States (Lee, 1963: 231).

And the allegorical analogue of The Pirate Party? The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA):

The job of total repeal was accomplished with the help of the determined AAPA during the succeeding year. Their lawyers assisted the states in preparing bills for conventions and release of various forms of political propaganda, thereby enacting a serious satire on the 1919 campaign launched by the Anti-Saloon League. Notwithstanding their high and enduring constitutional principles, on December 31, 1933, with repeal a reality, the AAPA ceased to exist and sent its files to the Library of Congress. “Having attained its objective . . . the Association resisted the temptation to linger on as a ‘sentinel of American liberty’ ‘’, the New York Times observed in the organization’s obituary (Dobyns, 1940: 132).

A ‘sentinel of American liberty’ eh? Would you find such an organisation in the US today? The land of the free?

The Free Software Foundation is close, but it doesn’t campaign for the abolition of copyright (yet).

At least we can take heart that abolition is not far away, that day when the people’s natural right to cultural liberty has been restored, to freely share and build upon published works.

The question is, at what moment in the American Prohibition Era did the allegorical Bootlegger Bay case occur? I suspect it would have occurred around 1925 when by that time in New York City alone there were anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 speakeasy clubs. Given repeal occurred 8 years later, that puts the date for the abolition of copyright somewhere around 2017.

Not long now…

Crosbie Fitch said 5346 days ago :

Also see 21st Century Prohibition for another observation of similarities between copyright and the prohibition era by Jeffrey A. Tucker.

Rob Myers said 5346 days ago :

I’m off to make some bathtub culture…

Steve R. said 5345 days ago :

The New York Times today has an editorial “Unreasonable Search”. The Times writes concerning the pending US Supreme Court case, “On Tuesday, the court hears arguments in a suit brought on behalf of a 13-year-old girl who was strip-searched based on a fellow student’s false report that she had possessed ibuprofen pain-relief pills.” From the perspective of the “liberal” news media such as the New York Times there is moral outrage when someone, is denied due process. Yet when it comes to the unreasonable search of a data stream based on the simple presumption that there may be an illegal activity, the Times is all for it. Total hypocrisy.

harleyrider1978 said 5345 days ago :

Look at todays tobacco prohibition as the smoke easy becomes the speak easy of yesteryear…….All based upon the lie that second hand smoke harms people……..heres OSAS on shs/ets

[Text redacted] by all means comment, but please link to rather than paste large texts from elsewhere, especially if only tangentially related - Crosbie Fitch

A Pirate's Code - 21st Century Edition · Monday April 27, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

A moral code for those engaged in the PIRACY of intellectual works, in accord with the philosophy of natural rights as expounded by such 18th century luminaries as Thomas Paine (Father of the American Revolution):

  1. Spread mankind’s good works of art and knowledge to the four corners of the world.
  2. Create and publish your own work, enjoy and share each other’s, use it, build upon it, thrive and prosper.
  3. Pay others to do good work as you would be paid to do yours.
  4. Restore everyone’s liberty – accept no surrender, deny privilege.
  5. Guard our apprehension of the truth against those who would impair it.
  6. Respect each other’s privacy – abet no burglary, remedy theft.
  7. Protect life, for all, as equals.

Toward the understanding of this modern pirate code

The seven exhortations of this pirate’s code ascend in precedence.

For example, if burglary is necessary to save life, it deserves warrant, but if considered only to ascertain the truth of a wagered outcome, one may do nought but persuade its possessor to divulge.

Most relevant to this code and the moment of our times is the cultural repression and persecution of the people. This arises from the venal surrender of the people’s liberty through its derogation by 18th century privileges of monopoly such as copyright and patent. The exploitation of these anachronistic privileges by merchants so favoured by the state, especially publishing and industrial corporations, now have them enforcing and prosecuting them against the public to preclude even individual acts of cultural expression competing with them in their mass production of copies and devices.

Monopolies are and have always been a mistake (see Boldrin & Levine). They favour one merchant at the expense of the many1 (mercantile privilege at the expense of individual liberty), and so are diametrically in opposition to a fair and free market – a market in which people are free to exchange their labour and property without unnatural constraint.

The misguided apologists for such monopolies claim them to be socially beneficial in encouraging the creation and distribution of art and knowledge (to promote the progress of science and useful arts). So, at least the aspirations are agreed. However, the key difference in principle is whether the people’s liberty should be sacrificed to this end (despite scant evidence it provides the means). The modern pirate agrees that his liberty should not be so sacrificed, that his natural right to liberty is inalienable. It can neither be surrendered by himself as citizen, nor his government he empowers to protect it. There is no contract, nor law that can take it away, and nothing so offensive as the allegation that the people voluntarily and democratically surrendered their liberty in a social contract.

Cultural and technological liberty is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. It is preceded by 19th and 20th century natural rights issues of equality (racial, religious and sexual discrimination), life (genocide, execution, torture) and liberty (slavery, segregation, temperance). Today, in our age of information technology and instantaneous diffusion, individuals are struggling for the liberty to share and build upon our cultural and technological heritage. The public as pirate is struggling against the anachronistic monopolies of copyright and patent, against the yoke of corporations who have amassed these privileges into effective subjugation of the people.

We must therefore restore law to respect and protect the individual’s natural rights. This was the mission and intention of Thomas Paine and other founding fathers of the United States, and directed the writing of the US constitution.

Not being natural rights, and so neither recognised nor sanctioned by the constitution, both copyright and patent should be abolished, to be replaced by law that properly secures authors’ and inventors’ exclusive right to their writings and discoveries. The government should be strictly limited in this and should not use it as an excuse to assume unconstitutional power to grant transferable monopolies such that these may benefit the corporations that covet them (and the legislators who enjoy the latter’s lobbying). Other nations/jurisdictions should also confine their legislation to the protection of natural rights rather than the granting of monopolies.

It should also be noted that the loss of monopoly, whether through being rendered ineffective by piracy or legislation, does not warrant compensation, so there is no justification for any levy or tax to that end, nor even as a separate means of bypassing the marketplace for the government to procure art and knowledge on the people’s behalf. A free market, as should have existed for the last three centuries, is sufficient and proper.

1. Spread mankind’s good works of art and knowledge to the four corners of the world

Our mission as an emancipated collective is to promote the progress of science and useful arts by shedding light on the world around us, and ourselves as human beings.

2. Create and publish your own work, enjoy and share each other’s, use it, build upon it, thrive and prosper

Our individual mission as free men is to contribute our own light, to recast the light of others, and thus to be free to stand upon the shoulders of others who have contributed theirs before us, so that we may cast a brighter light further into the shadows.

3. Pay others to do good work as you would be paid to do yours

There is no taint or stigma in commerce, in exchanging our goods or labour, nor in accepting reward for our art, nor in rewarding others. Indeed, to thrive and prosper through our creative talents is an achievement to be proud of, and just as we should have the liberty to exchange our labour, to seek reward for our creativity and insight, so we should respect that liberty and aspiration in others. Cultural liberty is not about creating a non-commercial ghetto, but about being emancipated to share and build upon all human culture, whether for love or money. It is time to end the so called ‘permission culture’.

So make no mistake concerning commerce, there’s nothing inherently wrong in being a merchant. The wrong is in privileging merchants with our liberty, for then pejoratives of pirates and piracy are the inevitable result as those named as such assert their natural liberty. As Richard Stallman puts it: “Free as in free speech, not as in free beer”.

4. Restore everyone’s liberty – accept no surrender, deny privilege

We are impelled to work toward abolishing the unethical privileges of copyright and patent. In the interim we neutralise the privileges we have through copyleft licenses, or otherwise relinquish them. This is not a mercenary pursuit of cheap promotion, but a philanthropic manumission of our fellows. Similarly, we do not accept even the voluntary surrender of others’ liberty as a reward for the publication of our work. The monopolies of copyright and patent, being properly recognised as unnatural and unethical privileges, must be rejected as intolerable to the members of an egalitarian and emancipated civilisation.

5. Guard our apprehension of the truth against those who would impair it

The natural right to liberty is delimited by the natural right to truth. Cultural liberty does not encompass the freedom to present another’s work as one’s own, nor to modify another’s work and present it as theirs. Consequently, the author’s derivative right is to accuracy in attribution (whether explicit or implicit), not to attribution per se. Credit is a matter of respect, not an obligation to be jealously prosecuted.

6. Respect each other’s privacy – abet no burglary, remedy theft

Privacy is also under threat in this time, as its invasion by the state (and the corporations that lobby it) is considered necessary for the policing of citizens’ communications, to detect infringement of monopolies. Consequently bogeyman excuses are co-opted to obtain sanction for this unethical abrogation of a natural right even more fundamental than liberty.

An individual’s private domain is thus out of bounds to those who would restore and assert their cultural liberty. Invasion (burglary) and violation (theft) of an individual’s privacy remain as acts to be abhorred, whether their material or intellectual work is removed or communicated as a result (irrespective of authorship). However, we may of course invite others into our homes, and confide our secrets to them, even make them privy to our private works, but we can only rely upon their respect for us to constrain them to discretion. We cannot bind them to silence with the law, nor can they alienate themselves from their liberty. Thus they cannot surrender their freedom of speech in a non-disclosure agreement (though they may make silence a condition of continued employment or future reward).

An author’s and inventor’s exclusive right derives from the individual’s natural right to privacy.

7. Protect life, for all, as equals

All men are born free and equal, and have four key, natural and inalienable rights: foremost life, followed by privacy, truth, and liberty. It is to preserve these rights for all as equals that we collectively create, empower, and elect a government to protect them.

Thus we have a duty to protect the life of others, and that includes desisting from speech that incites violence, whether against individuals (Salman Rushdie) or classes (sex, race, religion), or endorses abuse (of suspects and other non-consenting adults, or those unable to give consent such as minors).

It should be recognised that corporations are neither human beings nor equivalent to individuals and consequently have no natural rights, though they may benefit from the collected rights of their constituency, e.g. effective privacy of collectively owned buildings.


1 “Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few.” James Madison in a letter of October 17, 1788

What is a Pirate? · Wednesday April 29, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch



  1. a. One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation.
    b. A ship used for this purpose.
  2. One who preys on others; a plunderer.
  3. One who makes use of or reproduces the work of another without authorization.
  4. One that operates an unlicensed, illegal television or radio station.
  5. (chiefly 21st century Internet) One who asserts and defends natural rights.
    A pirate asserts and defends the natural right to liberty typically through file-sharing (qv 3. unauthorised reproduction) contrary to publishing corporations’ amassed privilege of copyright.
    A pirate asserts and defends the natural right to privacy typically through technical measures and by campaigning against its invasion by state or corporations (whether to detect copyright infringement or to profile individuals to better target advertising to them).

Modern Usage

Over the last year Phorm has been the subject of a smear campaign orchestrated by a small but dedicated band of online “privacy pirates” who appear very determined to harm our company. (from StopPhoulPlay by Phorm, Inc.)

So, now you know what a latterday pirate is, and how Phorm has used the epithet privacy pirate consistent with its contemporary definition.

j dudley said 5334 days ago :

Isn’t this Orwellian NewSpeak? The classical definitions of a privacy pirate – taking what is not yours – would seem to apply to Phorm. Phorm have then redefined ‘privacy advocate’ as ‘privacy pirate’, creating a smear campaign against their critics – and then create nonce definitions to pretend that their critics are the pirates, and that their critics are running a smear campaign.

Your definition [5] confuses ‘natural rights’ (GNU) with piracy (The Pirates Bay). You do not have a ‘natural right’ to take what belongs to others, whether or not you wish you did. GNU is clear on that.

Crosbie Fitch said 5334 days ago :

> The classical
> definitions of a privacy pirate – taking what is not yours –
> would seem to apply to Phorm.

I don’t think there is a classical definition of a ‘privacy pirate’ (a neologism if ever I heard one). A pirate is generally one who interferes with merchants’ business (directly or indirectly). If Phorm is in the business of analysing individuals’ web browsing to better target advertising to them, then a privacy pirate would be someone who interferes with their access to this ‘private’ data.

> Your definition [5] confuses ‘natural rights’ (GNU) with
> piracy (The Pirates Bay).

Natural rights are natural rights. They are self-evident and aren’t defined by GNU or TPB.

> You do not have a ‘natural right’
> to take what belongs to others, whether or not you wish you
> did. GNU is clear on that.

The natural right is to privacy. Property derives from that. So the government is created to help protect your privacy against invasion or violation (theft).

So it seems that a pirate interferes with a merchant’s monopoly and with a merchant’s invasion of individuals’ privacy.

yungchin said 5290 days ago :

@j dudley: when you say “You do not have a ‘natural right’ to take what belongs to others”, you imply that copyright is a natural right.

Let’s check that: if you publish a poem on your website, and I copy it to mine, did I take what belongs to you? It’s still on your website. Rather, I violated your copyright – if there’s a law that defines that.

@Crosbie Fitch: I don’t understand how merchants in exercising their copyright invade our privacy? Could you put that in less formal terms?

Crosbie Fitch said 5290 days ago :

I don’t think I said that they invade our privacy through exercising their copyright. I suggested that ‘pirate’ was the label merchants applied to those that interfered with their commercial activities, e.g. by infringing their reproduction monopolies or thwarting their monitoring of individuals’ browsing of the Internet.

In the latter case, the individuals were under the impression that their web browsing was private to them, their ISP and the websites they visited. To many users, Phorm’s monitoring of the websites they visit is seen as an invasion of their privacy.

I didn’t actally say Phorm was invading anyone’s privacy, nor was I attempting to define this situation as a clear example of privacy invasion. It would have been though, if Phorm hadn’t voluntarily been made privy by the ISP, or the ISP had a privacy policy that promised no disclosure.

Compare with an example only involving individuals: the case of a couple who hire a courier to deliver receipted invitations to their wedding. If the courier provides a merchant with details of each recipient, then this would be seen by the couple as a dishonourable indiscretion on the part of the courier – it would not be a privacy invasion by the merchant. On the other hand, if the merchant had stolen a copy of the courier’s guestlist whilst they weren’t looking, then it would have been.

So you see, copyright doesn’t necessarily come into it. However, in addition to profiling for advertising, the protection of copyright is one of the other motives that might lead a merchant into taking the opportunity to monitor users’ Internet use, e.g. to collect evidence of infringement for future prosecution.

yungchin said 5288 days ago :

Ok, thanks, now I get it. So these are two different kinds of pirate in one definition – the copyright-violaters and the privacy-protectors.

To me it’s confusing to bundle the two different concepts into one definition. And I agree with the first comment here: it seems in your example the privacy-infringer is Phorm; so it is more intuitive to define them as the privacy-pirates.

Note that protecting your privacy is typically not illegal under current law, whereas breaking copyright is.

As for the “copyright-pirates”: given that old-school pirates do infringe on our natural rights, I think it’s perverse to call copyright-violators pirates.

Crosbie Fitch said 5288 days ago :

> Ok, thanks, now I get it. So these are two different
> kinds of pirate in one definition – the copyright-violaters
> and the privacy-protectors.

Yes, though I’d say liberty-protectors, rather than copyright infringers. :)

> To me it’s confusing to bundle the two different concepts
> into one definition.

I sympathise, but I am simply noting there is some coherence in both uses of the term ‘pirate’.

Those who assert their natural rights are pirates (in merchants’ eyes), whether to liberty or to privacy.

> And I agree with the first comment here:
> it seems in your example the privacy-infringer is Phorm; so
> it is more intuitive to define them as the privacy-pirates.

But, Phorm is the lawful merchant. The pirates are those who thwart their mercenary and unethical, albeit legal trade (trampling over the public’s natural rights to liberty and privacy).

> Note that protecting your privacy is typically not illegal
> under current law, whereas breaking copyright is.


> As for the “copyright-pirates”: given that old-school pirates
> do infringe on our natural rights, I think it’s perverse to
> call copyright-violators pirates.

Pirates may well have had psychopaths among their number throughout the long history of this term, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have always been more libertine than libertarian. And let’s not forget, ‘pirate’ is a label chosen largely by the monopolist. As with ‘queer’, libertarians might as well wear the label of ‘pirate’ with pride and demonstrate its sound ethical basis (see A Pirate’s Code – 21st Century Edition).

yungchin said 5288 days ago :

> I sympathise, but I am simply noting there is some
> coherence in both uses of the term ‘pirate’.
> Those who assert their natural rights are pirates (in
> merchants’ eyes), whether to liberty or to privacy.

To me that doesn’t make the definition less confusing :)
I’d say that the merchants are terribly confused in their
choice of the label “pirate”, and adopting their choices just
furthers the confusion.

> But, Phorm is the lawful merchant. The pirates are those who
> thwart their mercenary and unethical, albeit legal trade

I understand that this is so under the definition you propose,
but I was contesting the intuitiveness of that definition :)

> Pirates may well have had psychopaths among their number
> throughout the long history of this term, but that doesn’t
> necessarily mean they have always been more libertine than
> libertarian.

This implies we associate different connotations with the word
piracy… very difficult to find any agreement then :)

A Stevenson said 5176 days ago :

J Dudley: What is not scarce, what can be replicated infinately at no extra cost, nobody has the right to exclude others from. The creators have the right to be credited for their work… and that’s it.

Piracy and Copyright Tricentennial · Wednesday April 29, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

According to the OED one of the first uses of the term ‘pirate’ to describe unauthorised reproduction of a published work was penned by Daniel Defoe:

1703 D. Defoe True-born Englishman in True Collect. I. Expan. Pref. sig. B3v, Its being Printed again and again by Pyrates.

It’s almost as if by such selective quotation the OED prefers people to interpret Defoe’s sentiments as “Help! The bastards are pirating my poem! Call the navy!” But, then how could the OED possibly be biased in support of copyright and against piracy?

In 1701 Daniel Defoe published The True-Born Englishman, and then in 1703 in a later edition included an explanatory preface:

As to Answers, Banters, True-English Billinsgate, I expect them till no body will buy, and then the Shop will be shut. Had I wrote it for the Gain of the Press, I should have been concern’d at its being Printed again and again, by Pyrates, as they call them, and Paragraph-Men: But would they but do it Justice, and print it True, according to the Copy, they are welcome to sell it for a Penny, if they please.

So, rather than making a furious complaint, Defoe appears to be saying “If my motive in writing this was to sell it to a printer in exchange for their ‘protected’ royalty, I would have been upset at any unauthorised reproduction. Instead, people are welcome to sell it for a penny a copy1, as long as those copies are fair.”

It sounds like Defoe had a good grasp of a more principled approach to publication. Perhaps we might even deduce that Defoe was the first author to welcome pirates as good for publicity and promotion?

He goes on to recognise that commerce is the objective of pirates, and supposes that if no-one buys then no-one will write. But he then sardonically suggests that this would mean that none of his detractors would publish their response, given no money in it – insinuating his detractors put money before principle.

Defoe therefore effectively recognises that for some purposes some people will write irrespective of reward (and that for others they will not).

So, with the Statute of Anne in 1709, we have roughly three centuries of piracy and copyright behind us. Hopefully, that’s the way it will remain.


1 This seems serendipitously resonant with my pet project 1p2U (in development) to enable people to pay bloggers a penny for each article they publish (which can then be philanthropically pirated without shame or fear of prosecution).

David said 4350 days ago :

In other contexts Defoe was strongly opposed to literary piracy, and in fact he was one of the promoters behind the Statute of Anne. The True-Born Englishman was a piece of political propaganda, and for this purpose Defoe might well say, if only rhetorically, that he was primarily interested in getting his message to the widest possible audience.

Crosbie Fitch said 4350 days ago :

Yes David, Defoe (like many, many others) was also seduced by the power to prohibit unauthorised copies, even though in some cases, as in this one, he recognised the benefits of ‘piracy’ or the unrestrained proliferation of a free press (albeit fair and true).

Further reading: Commentary on: Defoe’s Essay on the Press, United Kingdom 1704

A Pirate Asserts and Defends Liberty · Wednesday April 29, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

As per the fifth definition of Pirate: A pirate asserts and defends the natural right to liberty, here is some prose in apparent agreement from one George William Curtis, 1824-1892

The end of all scholarly attainment is to live nobly. If a man read books merely to know books, he is a tree planted only to blossom. If he read books to apply their wisdom to life, then he is a tree planted to bear glorious fruit. He does not think for himself alone, nor hoard a thought as a miser a diamond. He spends for the world. Scholarship is not only the knowledge that makes books, but the wisdom which inspires that knowledge. The scholar is not necessarily a learned man, but he is a wise man.
If he be personally a recluse, his voice and influence are never secluded. If the man be a hermit, his mind is a citizen of the world.

If, then, such be the scholar and the scholar’s office, if he be truly the conscience of the State, the fundamental law of his life is liberty. At every cost, the true scholar asserts and defends liberty of thought and liberty of speech. Of what use to a man is a thought that will help the world, if he cannot tell it to the world?


Yes, We Are All Individuals! · Wednesday October 21, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

The worm is turning from a cultural sloth into a cultural insurrectionist. There is a rebellion afoot, where artists and their fans are now reasserting their natural rights and deciding to do business with each other directly. It is a movement to escape the shackles of the publishing corporations’ unethical privilege of copyright, to escape from the indentured penury of publishers’ deceptive contracts.

This is the end of copyright, and the disintermediation of those who would use it to extort and abuse the people.

This is the beginning of the digital renaissance, a new enlightenment that rediscovers the natural relationship that should exist between artists and those who appreciate them. One that existed until it was corrupted by the cultural constraint of copyright in the 18th century, and is now all but suffocated by the pervasive and insipid pulp produced by the multinational publishing cartels.

And to mark this beginning a new website has arisen, a2F2a.com, a site prompted by the historic rapprochement between Billy Bragg (FAC) and Jon Newton (P2PNet), to discuss, deliberate and document this more natural way in which artists can relate to their fans, and those fans can relate to their artists. A kind of relationship that is prosperous without being exploitative, and one that not only embraces the radically different economics of the digital age, but also necessarily restores the people’s cultural liberty.

However, just as people should no longer be dismissed as couch potato consumers to be fed the lowest common denominator, we must also recognise that we are all artists and all fans. We may well sometimes be fans of more artists than we have fans of our own, but fundamentally we are more than simply an either/or ‘artist or fan’, we are all individuals. The term ‘artist’ or ‘fan’ denotes a role or relationship, not a political status nor a social caste.

  • As creative individuals, we are all artists and many of us would welcome a financial incentive to produce our art.
  • As individuals appreciative of creativity, we are all fans and would be pleased to offer our favourite artists a financial incentive to produce their art.

We have to get back to such fundamentals before we can recognise that the traditional recording and publishing industry we see falling into decay and corruption before us had been built upon expedient foundations of 18th century permafrost – the treacherous foundations of unethical privileges that have now melted into a stagnant swamp that impedes all cultural progress.

The structures we build from this day forth to facilitate a more natural and ethically sound relationship must be built back on the same bedrock that mankind’s cultural heritage has been based on since the stone age and as relatively recently as the 14-16th century European renaissance.

We need to get back to an ethical incentive: money for art, liberty for people.

Ibutton77 said 5161 days ago :

Sounds nice. I cannot see anywhere their stance about copyright. Is copyright an issue this community holds a firm stance on, or a matter they discuss, or gloss over?

Crosbie Fitch said 5161 days ago :

As a2f2a.com has only just been launched I think all issues are currently ‘to be discussed’. After all, the ink on their mission statement still smudges.

However, given that this site is a meeting of those interested in exchanging art for money (artists, fans), and those interested in the restoration of their liberty to share and build upon published works (fans, artists), then a ‘stance about copyright’ is inescapable.

If you’re interested I’m sure they’d welcome your participation.

Scott Carpenter said 5160 days ago :

I like the welcome statements at a2f2a. The hostility they mention is always striking to me when I see it at techdirt and elsewhere. All the contempt and fear. (And I can understand the concern. Things are changing. People are afraid of what they imagine is being lost. And something is being lost, for some people…)

On another note — although related in that some of the hostility appears there — have you see this:


Good post and interesting to see how people react.

Crosbie Fitch said 5160 days ago :

I think one of the final hurdles people have to overcome in terms of grokking cultural liberty (that is a prominent issue in the article you link to as well as it will be on a2f2a), is the “Well, ok, you can make and share copies of my work, but only for free – if you start making any money I damn well want a cut!” mentality.

It is that mentality that not only causes paradigm shift pains to nouveau copylefters, but also lies at the root of movements to claim royalties on sale of second hand copies (droit de suite).

It surely can only be copyright indoctrination that persuades people that unlike material workers, intellectual workers deserve a share of any earnings the purchasers of their products obtain through their utilisation, adaptation, or value added resale.

Sell your work and move on. Let it go. You’ve made your money, let the purchaser make theirs.

Copyright is Theft - Infringement is Liberty · Saturday August 20, 2011 by Crosbie Fitch

The copyright supporter (individual or corporation) belligerently claims infringement is theft, a violation of a natural or legal entity’s ‘human right’ to prohibit others singing the songs, retelling the stories, or printing more copies of the photos to which they currently hold the copyright. One should bear in mind that copyright holders that sue infringers are predominantly immortal corporations, not the human authors of the ‘protected’ works.

Why is there this desperation to describe the infringement of copyright as ‘theft’, especially when nothing resembling theft actually occurs?

To really understand what’s going on you do have to drop down to the rights of the matter, and understand the difference between a (natural) right and a right annulled (privilege). Rights are imbued in human beings by nature and recognised by law. Privileges are granted by the state (Queen Anne, James Madison, etc.) and created by law that annuls the recognition of a right, e.g. people are no longer recognised to have a right to make copies of their possessions, of a certain type, for a certain period.

One either violates a right, or one infringes a privilege (disobeying the annulling of a right).

Theft is the violation of an individual’s right to privacy (their right to exclude others from the objects they possess/spaces they inhabit), by invading it & removing a possession. Moreover, invading someone’s privacy to make a copy of their diary and remove/communicate it without, is an equivalent violation.

So, a burglar copying an author’s private manuscript could indeed be said to be stealing the author’s intellectual property – an act of IP theft (a violation of the author’s exclusive right to their writings). However, this form of rights violation is categorically distinct from the act of making a copy of an eBook for a friend, or uploading an MP3 rip of a CD to a file-sharing site.

By nature, once an author, Shakespeare say, has sold or given you a manuscript or copy thereof, you are at liberty to do whatever you want with your own possession, e.g. destroy it, perform it, translate it, or make and sell as many further copies as you fancy (as you might copy a basket or vase). There is no rights violation in doing so.

In 1709 Queen Anne annulled this natural right of individuals to make & sell copies of their possessions (relating to literary/graphic/printed works). The privilege of ‘copyright’ was thus created (annulling the people’s right to copy, for some arbitrary period, e.g. 14 years from publication).

To disobey this privilege of copyright is an infringement. It violates no right of the individual. On the contrary, it is a liberty and right that the individual is born with, but prohibited by law.

So, applying ‘steal’ or ‘theft’ to copyright infringement is to attempt to elevate the assertion of a natural liberty contrary to privilege into a crime. Similarly, when people claim copyright is a right (as if a natural or human right, as opposed to a legislatively granted quasi-right) this is to pretend a right is being violated, rather than a privilege being infringed.

By derogating from a person’s liberty to utilise their own property in certain ways (in private or in public), it is actually copyright that constitutes theft, not its infringement.

This is why natural rights aren’t taught in school – they undermine the state’s interest in derogating from the people’s rights, and interest in preventing popular challenge to pretexts that privileges so created are in the people’s interest.

If everyone knew that copyright represented a loss of cultural liberty in the people, to provide a monopoly to enrich immortal publishing corporations (and control public communications in the state’s interest), then it is more likely that people would today be discussing copyright’s abolition and the restoration of our cultural liberty than what punishments would best deter infringers/thieves/pirates (see TechDirt).

TheMortician said 4469 days ago :

Wow. You might be one of the stupidest people I’ve ever seen. I won’t get into a flame war on why, but spouting a bunch of random facts and 3 dollar words doesn’t work for your already idiotic cause.

Crosbie Fitch said 4469 days ago :

It would help if you provided a little more substance to your comment such that it referred to the article in some way, as at the moment it’s difficult to discern whether it’s vacuous spam or an apposite opinion.

dev said 4448 days ago :

I completely follow and agree with everything you have written to a certain extent, but I must ask a question (large immortal corporations aside). If States did not grant such a privilege to copy, do you really think there would be a proliferation of “Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books” if I could turn around and profit from what you have just labored to write? The key here being profit.

Crosbie Fitch said 4447 days ago :


First imagine a world without copyright. Then please explain how you can profit from my labour in writing?

Even if you can’t explain how you can profit, but simply believe it’s self-evident, then on the same basis (whatever it is) I can profit as easily as you (if not more) from my own work. In which case you have just argued that copyright is not necessary for authors to profit from their work – since without it, one can easily profit.

Compare the world of free software. This is comprised of the writings of hard working software engineers, and all their published works are effectively free of copyright (its constraints), i.e. you have all the liberty restored to you that you would have in a world without copyright. If you think it is easy to profit from another’s work without copyright then you should be able to take any copy of any Linux distro and profit from it. I look forward to drinks on your yacht in a few months’ time. ;-)

dev said 4447 days ago :

Dear Crosbie,

In today’s society, it is more about what kind of profit you stand to lose than gain when you can copy instantly and without degradation. It also depends on the medium and form of your intellectual property. Say you write a novel that people actually want to read but you want to make some money from it. You put it up on your site for sale and it catches on. But wait there is no copyright in this world so as a savy businessman looking to make some money too, I put it on my site for sale at a cheaper price. I pay google to advertise your title but at rock bottom prices since I can afford to sell it for cheaper since I didn’t labor to make it. People come to my site to buy it instead. But that doesn’t last long either because who wants to pay for something when I can have it for free. So, everyone downloads a torrent and no one profits at all. You wasted a year working on a book that is now free. You are living in a dream land. Look up Titian request for privilege long before the Statute of Anne. In fact look at hundreds and hundreds of request for privilege in Venice because of the fact that someone else is always looking to profit from the hard work of others. If you are going to imagine magical lands, why don’t we just envision a world without money and scarcity while we are at it and no one will have to work and this whole argument will be unnecessary.

dev said 4447 days ago :

Oh and copyright is necessary not so much because it is a right for me to copy a work but the right to exclude others from copying the work. It’s a commerce trade law, it’s a monopoly for the person who labored to produce it or the person/company who forked over the money for the rights and then invested thousands to market it so it would be profitable.

Noyloj said 4323 days ago :

Yes, Dev is of course right whilst the capitalist system flourishes checks must be put in place to protect property. But actually he is also rigtht there is no need for scarcity and people shouldn’t ‘have to work’ longer and longer hours, and lets not forget that the reason these individuals were educated by our society is presumably so that they could be of benefit to it, and not just themselves or to certain controlling interests. I pay my Taxes for these people’s education, and build roads they can drive to work on, they benefit every day from my work and the work of millions like me.



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