Josef Ohlsson Collentine: Pirates Mean Progress [Pirate Visions]

Josef Ohlsson Collentine: Pirates Mean Progress [Pirate Visions]

Josef Ohlsson Collentine is a dual citizen (American/Swede), the organizational leader of Pirate Times and board member of the swedish Pirate Party. He is restless in working for the pirate movement and from a global perspective he describes his broad vision and goals for the pirate movement.

These articles are part of the weekly series ‘Pirate Visions’ from different prominent international pirates. We asked them to write as individuals and not in their official capacities in their party or organisation. We hope you would like to join us in discussing the future direction for pirates internationally by commenting on this article, sharing it and reflecting upon what the author is saying.


What is wrong with “traditional politics”?

The Pirate Party was founded in Sweden in 2006, emerging as a reaction to traditional politics. There was something essential missing from the political landscape. There was a lack of vision in the future and a slow adaptation to the information age. Old politics and institutions seem to have been surprised by the emergence of the Internet and new possibilities. Instead of adapting and evolving most chose to defend values of the past and defend their own interests.

The cartel party theory states that “parties are becoming detached from their roots in society and are moving towards being part of the State apparatus”. In order to emphasize elite selectional practices the political parties have abandoned several of the deliberative and participatory functions. The party whip is used to keep people in line, focusing on applying election-winning techniques rather than what is good for society. This might be enough for “another four years in parliament” but is causing severe political apathy and an increasing youth absenteeism.

The shift away from innocent-until-proven-guilty

One of the most significant changes that caused the Pirate Movement to ignite was the shift in values around trust. Technology brings a lot of possibilities but rather than adapt, there was a move to conserve values of the past. Maintaining old structures was considered more important than disrupting the markets to create something better.

Today our society is implementing more control to assert the guiltiness of people. Instead of waiting for crimes to take place they take a pro-active stance with larger sweeps and a presumption of guilt (Data Retention laws, the spying revelations made by Snowden, more CCTV cameras etc.)

the day sweden stopped trusting their citizens

Left picture shows Sweden before the data retention directive where citizens are considered innocent until something makes them into suspects. The right shows how citizens are always considered suspects and kept under surveillance. There are no innocents, only suspects and people guilty.

If the Internet is seen as something that needs carrots and whips, in order to make people more productive, one needs to have more surveillance and control. This control over production restricts new creations to what is “approved by the managers”. The opposite world view would be seeing people and Internet as essentially good. This theory would put trust in a free internet, believing people can be productive and create on their own. Internet people share some common beliefs:

  • Non-commercial (to a certain extent)
  • Free knowledge
  • Belief in humanity
  • Collaborative economy

Copyright has changed and is now restricting creativity

In 1710 the first copyright law was enacted in Britain. The law was created mainly to curb the monopolistic tendencies emerging and to encourage learning (every copy licensed had to be added to the King’s library as well as Oxfords and Cambridge libraries). The copyright was valid for 14years and renewable once. Since then copyright has been increasingly extended.

The thought behind copyright, as I see it, is that it is a one-way monologue where the viewers are meant to only “receive” the work and can’t channel the work into something new. This restricts the flow of communication and creation that would otherwise occur. I believe copyright was a good system but that it is outdated today and should be changed or removed.

The need for copyright changed when information could be digitalized, the cost of making a copy suddenly decreased to almost zero (both in time and material cost) and re-productions could be shared and used by many at once. The way that the society worked had also changed from the traditional broadcasting of media to be more interactive where “passive viewers” became participants and creators. Letting information flow freely would benefit these creators and more creative work would emerge, both from derivative works and own creations. creators, conversationalists, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives

Pirates are essential for progress and innovation

The larger a firm/idea gets the larger the bureaucracy becomes and this means that the organizational learning most of the times gets very limited in its possibilities. The more control a firm has over the supply to a certain market the harder they will sue, lobby and use dirty tricks to keep other from “disrupting” them. With only a few players in the market the power shifts away from the consumers and towards the suppliers.

Big firms/concepts are therefore often satisfied with results instead of aiming to constantly improve upon their services. Innovation shakes the profitability of the market for established players, sometimes to the better but most of the times it only shrinks their own position. The public needs pirates to enhance the market.

Here “pirates” are defined as someone disrupting the current market/concepts. Pirates have attacked and improved many markets in the past: Refrigerators, LP-players, FM-band, mp3 players, netflix etc. This time the pirate movement is attacking established politics to inject some needed changes.

Pirates want change

– Culture is something to be shared and should be accessible. Internet should enable all to have a “library” at easy reach.
– Communication should not involve self-censoring. We need to be able to speak our mind and deliberate to find solutions.
– Knowledge is a way of learning. Restricting knowledge is only a way of controlling people and ideas.
– Visions are needed to evolve. Dreaming should not be limited to election terms.
– Sharing is essential for humanity and should be free.
– Caring for each other, avoiding to become a pachydermocracy.
– Human rights are obvious and need to be respected.
– Transparency is more important the more power one has. Individuals need privacy.
– We believe in the good of humanity.

This is in no way an exhaustive list for what Pirates want. Most of all we want change. Once we achieve change we want to see if we can improve on what we managed to change.

Challenges for the pirate movement

Having the Internet is not only positive. An increased decentralization also means that people choose like-minded interests to follow. We need to reach outside our “bubble” to make real change. There is also a risk of falling to “clicktivism” instead of real actions and change.

We’re not the first ones to attempt to change the political landscape. Neither are we the only ones working towards finding change in different areas. The pirate movement needs to start engaging more with other NGO’s with similar interests. e.g. PMO’s, librarians, MOOC’s, hackerspaces etc.

The movement is becoming more established and with that comes a risk to fall into old political footsteps. Too much bureaucracy and power struggle is enough to rip apart anything that was good from the start. PPI is suffering badly from this where a majority of discussions is about who is right, rather than working together to build a stronger movement. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong as long as the base isn’t stable. Political structures and change is something that needs to be built with patience and a vision for the future.

Living as we teach

The most important aspect for the future of the pirate movement is that we start acting on our own suggestions. If we believe there is need for more open source we ought to start replacing our own software where possible. If we truly believe that sharing culture is something that improves humanity we ought to start sharing more culture. If we believe in the right to private communication then we need to start encrypting our mail. If we believe that copyright is a broken system then we need to apply another license to our work.

Do what you can do within the system that we are living in today. Balance the change whilst considering accessibility and functionality with the old system. Then work towards changing those things we can’t do yet.

Dare to dream about your own pirate visions. Then start acting upon them to make your own ideas into reality. Most things are more accessible than you believe.