This week brought sad news for the Pirateverse: BPI got its way by intimidation and force yet again. After vicious personal threats of bankruptcy against individual members of Pirate Party UK, the party’s Pirate Bay proxy has gone dark.
It’s a bad day for creators and fans alike.
But setbacks like these are not defeats. Rather, they are steps forward in turning the tide of culture and creation against their domineering monopolies.
Every personal threat, every letter of extortion, every lawsuit, every dancing baby taken off YouTube, every Winnie the Pooh laptop confiscated, every step too far proves the lengths that entertainment monopolies will go to in order to keep our channels of communication under their control. Not to make light of PPUK’s stress and harship in this difficult decision, but what greater justification could the free culture movement have asked for? As industry bodies reveal just how much control they can force over legitimate political discourse, it becomes clearer – to artists, fans, and the voting citizenry – that they will always take that one step past too far. They will always push further and further and further down the path to prevent competition, communication, and independence for their artists.
We’ve catered to these monopolies for so long because they have (or so we assume) “good intentions.” But good intentions didn’t stop with copyright extensions, surveillance and police powers, and extrajudicial force. And it’s a joke to think good intentions will stop at shutting down one channels of communication. Who will they come for next?
Yes, it’s a sad day for artists in the UK.
But even this – even this – is a step forward. As our channels between artists and fans are choked, more and more of us will be affected. And as more and more of us experience censorship, more and more of us will be compelled to speak up.
Like many, my first reaction was anger, not at BPI, but at the Pirate Party: How could they back down? But the Pirate Party does what the Pirate Bay – and TUEBL and Megaupload and any other defiant troves of culture – cannot: they give voice to us inside the very walls of government. To be threatened and intimidated for this is appalling, and yet this is the hostile tank the Pirates wade into every day. And still, they persist. Sitting at home, typing behind my screen, I am not the one being threatened with bankruptcy. My family, my home, my work are safe. I can’t judge those who can’t say the same. But I can damn well be impressed that they stand up and keep banging on the walls of the legislature, pestering the status quo, and giving us voice even when their own are silenced.
The UK Pirates have yielded to threats so that they can remain standing, so that they can fight this war in the way that the rest of us can’t. While PPUK is offering to give back money donated during the campaign to keep the proxy, I sincerely hope that anyone who cared enough to support the cause will continue to support the anti-censorship fight. And if financial support is beyond your means, talk, tweet, like, share. Let the world know that censorship is not OK. This war is not over. Our support is needed now more than ever.