Rickard Falkvinge, leader of Sweden’s Pirate Party, was threatened with being burnt at the stake this Sunday while attending a music industry conference:
Put the leader of Sweden’s Pirate Party in the same room as a bunch of music industry executives and you can expect fireworks. That’s exactly what happened as the music industry seminar In The City began in Manchester [on Sunday 18 October].
Opening this year’s event with a chance for a self-proclaimed pirate to discuss his manifesto was a controversial move. Rumour has it that one major label threatened to ban its staff from attending the debate.
The Pirate Party famously won a seat in the European Parliament earlier this year, but few know exactly what they stand for. In a speech grandly entitled ‘Shelters or Windmills’, leader Rick Falkvinge described his party as a “Civil liberties movement” aimed at protecting the privacy of citizens both online and offline.
Most controversially, [Falkvinge argued that] copyright on any song, film or any other creative work should be just five years. That would mean artists would only be able to earn a living from their music for five years before the song became public property.
It’s this final point that caused a stir. Until then the on-stage panel and assembled music industry had listened politely. Most had actually agreed with much of what The Pirate Party was proposing, but only five years to make money from music? It was too much for Dave Smith, manager of artists including Mr Scruff, who angrily declared “If this was the middle ages I’d burn you at the stake”.
On this point I agree with Smith — 5 years probably is too short. If the Pirate Party gained power, then legalising non-commercial copying would give us most of what we want. The length of copyright is a secondary issue: sure, the present term of life plus seventy years is way to long — there are 100,000 books from the 19th century still in copyright, the majority or which are orphaned works. But I’d be happy with reducing this to a term of 20 or 40 years.