September 7, 2014 – 5:18 am

We’ve been manufacturing without a license in our homes for 30 years now. It’s about to go physical. Maybe that will wake legislators up to the bigger picture. If not, we’re in for something much worse. By Rick Falkvinge.

We’ve been manufacturing our own copies of knowledge and culture without a license for quite some time now, a practice known first as mixtaping and then as file-sharing.

Home mass manufacturing of copies of culture and knowledge started some time in the 1980s with the Cassette Tape, the first widely available self-contained unit capable of recording music. It made the entire copyright industry go up in arms and demand “compensation” for activities that were not covered by their manufacturing monopoly, which is why we now pay protection money to the copyright industry in many countries for everything from cellphones to games consoles.

The same industry demanded harsh penalties - criminal penalties - for those who manufactured copies at home without a license rather than buying the expensive premade copies. Over the next three decades, such criminal penalties gradually crept into law, mostly because no politician thinks the issue is important enough to defy anybody on.

A couple of key patent monopolies on 3D printing are expiring as we speak, making next-generation 3D printing much, much higher quality. 3D printers such as this one are now appearing on Kickstarter, “printers” (more like fabs) that use laser sintering and similar technologies instead of layered melt deposit.

People are about to be sued out of their homes for making their own slippers instead of buying a pair.

We’re now somewhere in the 1980s-equivalent of the next generation of copyright monopoly wars, which is about to spread to physical objects. The copyright industry is bad - downright atrociously cynically evil, sometimes - but nobody in the legislature gives them much thought. Wait until this conflict spreads outside the copyright industry, spreads to pretty much every manufacturing industry.

People are about to be sued out of their homes for making their own slippers instead of buying a pair.

If you think that sounds preposterous, that’s exactly what has been going on in the copyright monopoly wars so far, with people manufacturing their own copies of culture and knowledge instead of buying ready-made copies. There’s no legal difference to manufacturing a pair of slippers without having a license for it.

To be fair, a pair of slippers may be covered by more monopolies than just the copyright monopoly (the drawing) - it may be covered by a utility patent monopoly, a design patent monopoly, possibly a geographic indication if it’s some weird type of slipper, and many more arcane and archaic types of monopolies. Of course, people in general can’t tell the difference between a “utility patent”, a “design patent”, a “copyright duplication right”, a “copyright broadcast right”, a “related right”, and so on. To most people, it’s all just “the copyright monopoly” in broad strokes.

Therefore, it’s irrelevant to most people whether the person who gets sued out of their home for fabbing their own slippers from a drawing they found is technically found guilty of infringing the copyright monopoly (maybe) or a design patent (possibly). To 95 per cent or more, it’s just “more copyright monopoly bullshit”. And you know what? Maybe that’s good.

The next generation of wars over knowledge, culture, drawings, information, and data is just around the corner, and it’s going to get much uglier with more stakes involved on all sides. We have gotten people elected to parliaments (and stayed there) on the conflict just as it stands now. As this divide deepens, and nothing suggests it won’t, then people will start to pay more attention.

And maybe, just maybe, that will be the beginning of the end of these immoral and deeply unjust monopolies known as copyrights and patents.

Note: Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at focuses on information policy. The above article was posted at TorrentFreak.


  2. In 1969, a great new rock song called “Whole Lotta Love” came out, a cultural production by a group of cultural practitioners trading under the name of Led Zeppelin. Everyone agrees this is a great song. In fact, it was a pre-existing great song called “You Need Love” by Willie Dixon, very creatively re-arranged by Zeppelin. There is no way in hell Zeppelin weren’t aware of what they were doing. Many years later, Dixon sued them for copyright infringement and won. I was glad to see that, because as much as I love Zeppelin, there’s no denying that they had a habit of taking musical ideas and not giving credit where due. Another example is “Dazed And Confused,” which is a direct lift from “I’m Confused” by Jake Holmes. Just to be clear, I think Zeppelin did wonderful treatments of all the songs I’m referring to, but it’s really kind of dishonorable to see them raking in millions while the original composers of these songs can’t even pay their rent. Anyone who’s been in the music business will tell you it’s full of rip-offs, particularly rip-offs by record companies. I’m not saying we should prevent artists from re-interpreting other art, just that we should come up with something that’s fair to a source very obviously being “borrowed from”.

    By Copyright Brothers on Sep 9, 2014

  3. Stealing is stealing. If you download a song for free, it’s stealing. If you copy a pair of designer shoes, that’s stealing. Thank goodness for copyright laws.

    I don’t understand this “controversy” about copyright laws. Maybe you don’t have a creative bone in your body. For those of us who do, we want to get paid.

    By BZ on Sep 11, 2014

  4. I think you’ll find The Small Faces were the first to do the “Zep arr” of You Need Love, even the breakdown at the end….I dunno if they gave Dixon credit or not…zep just “borrowed” the SF version….”unless I am very much mistaken…” and it happens….

    By rick harper on Sep 12, 2014

  5. The whole premise of the lawsuits against people who download for “free” (internet subscription notwithstanding) is because the copyright owners claim they suffer losses.
    This is a skewed claim as nobody can prove those losses. You don’t have the money to buy their stuff, so you download. Labels and studios seem to think that, if those people would be unable to download a miracle would occur and money would as if by magic appear on their accounts.
    Someone should finally show the legal system the mafia practices record labels have been forcing down artists and consumers’ throats to get rich.
    And didn’t they make their fortunes by releasing music, starting almost 100 years ago, in a time when copyright laws didn’t exist and they filled their bank accounts to the brim. Then, to protect “their” music, they invented the copyright system…
    Me, I’m willing to pay for the music I buy, as long as I’m sure the money goes to the artist and not to some cigar-munching honcho who sucks his artists dry til the bone…

    By JimmyJump on Sep 13, 2014

  6. I own a copy of everything Led Zeppelin have released, bought with my hard earned cash, if I then choose to download a audience recording of a concert from 1968 or 1969 how is this possibly stealing ?
    If at a later date, the band decide to release soundboards of other concerts, I will no doubt buy them but until then, why should they object to fans wanting to own concerts that may never ever see the light of day, they suffer no financial loss, the music is shared freely by fans, I can’t imagine that any of the surviving members of the band are strapped for cash. The last re re re release of Led Zep 1 retails for over £30 at my local store (guess who bought it) and contains the original lp and a bootleg concert from 1969.
    It does seem greedy of the band to have released it in this way and at that price, but I guess the business called ’show’ is about making money, money, money.

    By GMAL on Sep 18, 2014

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