Julia Reda: Hello every­body. It’s a great plea­sure for me to be here. I’m Julia Reda and I’m one of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives, one of the elect­ed mem­bers, of the European Parliament, which is the leg­isla­tive body of the European Union. And when we’ve been hear­ing some of the areas where defi­ance is hap­pen­ing, prob­a­bly not every­body is think­ing of pol­i­tics as the first area. It’s rather that most of the defi­ance is kind of hap­pen­ing in oppo­si­tion to pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ments. And so I’m real­ly glad that I still get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak here. And the rea­son for that is prob­a­bly that I rep­re­sent the Pirate Party. And that name alone prob­a­bly tells you a lit­tle bit about our rela­tion­ship to polit­i­cal author­i­ty.

The Pirate Party indeed did orig­i­nate out of a move­ment that was break­ing laws quite open­ly. It’s com­ing from a tra­di­tion that start­ed more or less into the ear­ly 21st cen­tu­ry. It’s quite a young move­ment, maybe ten years old. And it start­ed out break­ing copy­right laws, chal­leng­ing how estab­lished laws were work­ing in the Internet or how they were not work­ing. And maybe it wasn’t that polit­i­cal at the begin­ning, but was devel­op­ing in this direc­tion when the pirates start­ed oppos­ing some of the mea­sures that were put in place to counter, or that were jus­ti­fied by fight­ing against copy­right infringe­ment but were quite often threat­en­ing fun­da­men­tal rights, espe­cial­ly on the Internet. And then kind of real­ly found its way all the way to the estab­lish­ment, includ­ing the European Parliament.

So, the sto­ry starts more or less around the time when Napster was a big thing. Some of you maybe remem­ber this. In the ear­ly 21st cen­tu­ry, the Internet had sud­den­ly become this thing that was acces­si­ble to large parts of the pop­u­la­tion. And it sud­den­ly made it pos­si­ble to copy infor­ma­tion, cul­tur­al infor­ma­tion as well, at prac­ti­cal­ly zero mar­gin­al cost, with­out the need to have some kind of invest­ment in dis­tri­b­u­tion and in media such as CDs to dis­trib­ute them on.

And the music indus­try in the begin­ning was very reluc­tant to real­ly look at this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty, as a way of basi­cal­ly sell­ing music at a cheap­er over­head. Instead, they were quite skep­ti­cal of this new World and weren’t real­ly doing much with it. And this lack of inno­va­tion in this area was picked up by teenagers espe­cial­ly, who were using ille­gal ways to dis­trib­ute cul­ture and espe­cial­ly music online. And we’re chal­leng­ing the exist­ing laws and norms around copy­right. And some of you may have been among these teenagers. Others may think, Well I don’t real­ly have a lot of sym­pa­thy for that,” or maybe think­ing back at your own behav­ior, That wasn’t real­ly polit­i­cal. I just want­ed to lis­ten to music.”

And that is fair enough. I think that may be true for a lot of peo­ple. But at the same time I think in order to under­stand why the Pirate Party came about as a polit­i­cal par­ty, you have to look at the way that these file sharers—often minors—were being addressed by the polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment and by the cul­tur­al lob­by­ists in par­tic­u­lar. And what kinds of mea­sures were being lob­bied for by the cul­tur­al indus­tries, espe­cial­ly the sur­veil­lance of people’s online behav­ior, which we’ve only learned prob­a­bly years lat­er was going to become a much broad­er prob­lem for a fun­da­men­tal rights. And even things like three strikes laws like an entire fam­i­ly could lose their Internet con­nec­tion if some ille­gal down­loads had tak­en place over that con­nec­tion.

And I want to illus­trate this by show­ing you a short clip from a com­mer­cial that was being shown in Germany both in cin­e­mas and also on DVDs by the film indus­try. So this was a cam­paign that was aimed at pay­ing cus­tomers, peo­ple who were actu­al­ly pay­ing to go to the movies. And I think it is illus­trat­ing the tone of the debate that was going on. And I apol­o­gize, it’s in German. [Plays excerpt of the fol­low­ing video from ~0:190:35]

https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​j​d​d​c​3​S​7​O​y30

What you can see here is that not only was the film indus­try basi­cal­ly per­pet­u­at­ing rape cul­ture, the mes­sage of this clip is that if you start file shar­ing you will go to prison. And in prison you may very well be raped. And this rape is part of your pun­ish­ment. The slo­gan of this cam­paign is harsh but fair.” So the stat­ed goal of this cam­paign was to equate copy­right infringement—to take it out of the area of kind of minor infrac­tions such as get­ting a park­ing tick­et, and to equate it with vio­lent crime. And the the word that is used raubkopier­ah” is basi­cal­ly the German ver­sion of pirate.” It has slight­ly dif­fer­ent con­no­ta­tions because raubkopier­ah lit­er­al­ly means not only are you a crim­i­nal who is steal­ing from some­body else, you are using vio­lence to do so. So it was a very harsh attack on file shar­ers and it was used to jus­ti­fy some egre­gious sur­veil­lance mea­sures that were put in place and that peo­ple start­ed get­ting upset about.

And per­haps not very sur­pris­ing­ly, some peo­ple start­ed appro­pri­at­ing this term pirate” that was used to describe them. And the music and film indus­tries prob­a­bly didn’t think about this very deeply, that actu­al­ly if you use the label pirate to describe some­body, that pirates are actu­al­ly con­sid­ered quite cool by a lot of peo­ple. They even lat­er did Pirates of the Caribbean and stuff like that.

So the best exam­ple prob­a­bly of this appro­pri­a­tion of the term pirate by the pirates them­selves is The Pirate Bay, that even used this icon­ic ship as their logo. And The Pirate Bay start­ed out in Sweden, and it’s a file shar­ing site that is still around today The peo­ple who found­ed it had quite a lot of con­nec­tions to the aca­d­e­m­ic scenes and the arts scenes in Sweden. And even though it was real­ly vil­i­fied by the music indus­try, I think it’s impor­tant to know also that a lot of small­er, inde­pen­dent bands were actu­al­ly using The Pirate Bay active­ly to get the word out.

But it was clear­ly a kind of direct action, where peo­ple were doing some­thing that was ille­gal in order to spread infor­ma­tion and cul­ture in a new way. And the Pirate Party some­what split off from this treat­ment. It also was found­ed in Sweden, kind of com­ing out of more less the same cul­tur­al back­ground. But they were say­ing actu­al­ly it’s not about break­ing the laws that exist today but rather try­ing to go into the insti­tu­tions and change the copy­right law into a form that actu­al­ly works with the Internet instead of against it.

And the Pirate Party that was found­ed in 2006 in Sweden actu­al­ly start­ed gain­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty quite quick­ly. It was because peo­ple start­ed real­iz­ing that the appeal of the pirates was going beyond just rebelling against the pow­ers that be, but actu­al­ly peo­ple were see­ing that for the first time there was a par­ty that was tak­ing the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion seri­ous­ly as a polit­i­cal issue, that were look­ing at the Internet not pri­mar­i­ly as a threat but as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for empow­er­ing more peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in democ­ra­cy. And who were also real­iz­ing that this promise of par­tic­i­pa­tion would not just come about nat­u­ral­ly through tech­no­log­i­cal progress but would be some­thing that you actu­al­ly have to fight for in order to make sure that the Internet and tech­nol­o­gy does not just get turned into a tool for the pow­er­ful, for sur­veil­lance, and for com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

So the Pirate Party sup­port­ers pret­ty quick­ly were made up out of civ­il lib­er­ties advo­cates, out of peo­ple who were inter­est­ed direct democ­ra­cy and using the Internet as a tool for get­ting more peo­ple active in pol­i­tics. And also a lot of aca­d­e­mics, librar­i­ans, peo­ple who were com­ing into con­flict with copy­right law in their dai­ly lives basi­cal­ly through no fault of their own.

And myself at this time in 2009, when the Swedish Pirate Party had its first elec­toral success—they were actu­al­ly elect­ed into the European Parliament in 2009—I was still a mem­ber of a very bor­ing, old, estab­lished par­ty. I was a mem­ber of the German Social Democrats, which is basi­cal­ly the equiv­a­lent of the Democratic Party in the US. It’s around for 150 years. And I left the Social Democratic Party when the lead­er­ship of the par­ty decid­ed to back a gov­ern­ment bill that would intro­duce secret gov­ern­ments black­lists of web sites that would be fil­tered. And there was quite a lot of oppo­si­tion with­in the par­ty from younger mem­bers say­ing that this is a ter­ri­ble idea. And they were basi­cal­ly not lis­tened to and left the par­ty in great num­bers. And quite a lot of them then end­ed up join­ing the Pirate Party, which was fight­ing against this law.

I start­ed becom­ing quite active in the Pirate Party over the next years, and most­ly I was orga­niz­ing protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA. This is an inter­na­tion­al treaty—or was going to be an inter­na­tion­al treaty—that was going to be nego­ti­at­ed between the EU, the United States, and quite a num­ber of oth­er coun­tries, and that would have dras­ti­cal­ly increased the pow­ers of bor­der agen­cies and oth­er law enforce­ment to crack down on copy­right infringe­ment and oth­er IP infringe­ment.

And at this time in 2012, there were oth­er peo­ple in the United States such as Aaron Swartz who were orga­niz­ing protests against SOPA and PIPA, which were nation­al laws that going to do some­thing quite sim­i­lar. And these suc­cess­ful protests in the US, they kind of spilled over into the EU, and all of a sud­den there were tens of thou­sands of peo­ple on the streets, most­ly young peo­ple.

And the Pirate Party, being in the European Parliament with just two mem­bers had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to basi­cal­ly explain to their col­leagues what the hell was going. Why were there all of a sud­den these protests on this com­plete­ly arcane top­ic that they hadn’t real­ly thought about. And in the end the European Parliament actu­al­ly end­ed up reject­ing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and it was the first time, or one of the first times, that the European Parliament was using its new­ly gained pow­er to actu­al­ly reject a trade agree­ment. And even to this day some of the EU politi­cians and bureau­crats in Brussels are point­ing at ACTA as an exam­ple of what hap­pens if politi­cians are ignor­ing what the peo­ple think.

So, I was quite inspired by what hap­pened with ACTA because on the one hand I could see that our actions of orga­niz­ing protests were actu­al­ly hav­ing an effect. And that just hav­ing a very small num­ber of peo­ple in the European Parliament could actu­al­ly bring about change. That this was the place where dig­i­tal pol­i­cy was being made in Europe. And so I was inspired to run for the European Parliament in 2014. And well, as you know today I actu­al­ly man­aged to get myself elect­ed. And this was actu­al­ly not as dif­fi­cult as one might think, because well, we have a very neat thing. The elec­toral sys­tem for the European elec­tions is pro­por­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion. It’s a sys­tem where the num­ber of votes you get is pro­por­tion­al to the num­ber of seats you get. And that’s a very intri­cate sys­tem that has a num­ber of very inter­est­ing fea­tures. For exam­ple, the par­ty that gets the most votes actu­al­ly wins—you should try that some­time. It also means that about 1% of the vot­ers in Germany can send one mem­ber to the European Parliament. And that’s how I got elect­ed.

And being the only pirate in the European Parliament from 2014 on, it was quite clear that I would focus my activ­i­ties on the reform of copy­right. And in order to under­stand just how bro­ken the European copy­right sys­tem is, even in com­par­i­son to the US, I want you to have a look at this dia­gram. It’s just a very short cutout of a larg­er poster that shows all the ques­tions you have to answer in order to find out whether a par­tic­u­lar work of art is in copy­right or out of copy­right in the EU.

Each one of these lit­tle deci­sion trees rep­re­sents one coun­try, and there are twenty-eight of them in the European Union. And I think it illus­trates that there is no such thing as a European copy­right law. This is an area that is still gov­erned by nation­al law to the largest extent, and all the EU has done so far is to intro­duce some min­i­mum stan­dards for the pro­tec­tion of right­sh­old­ers. But there are no min­i­mum stan­dards for the pro­tec­tion of the pub­lic inter­est.

On the con­trary, the US put in place some rules on what mem­ber states are not allowed to pro­tect [in] the pub­lic inter­est. So for exam­ple, a mem­ber state of the EU would not be allowed to put in place some­thing like Fair Use. And I think the Fair Use sys­tem in the US is very inter­est­ing because it is actu­al­ly built on norms that already exist in soci­ety and that peo­ple under­stand kind of intu­itive­ly.

So for exam­ple there’s this norm that you shouldn’t use a work in a way that dimin­ish­es its val­ue in the eyes of the author. So for exam­ple if you’re mak­ing a TV com­mer­cial for a car or what­ev­er and you want to use a piece of polit­i­cal art, you should very well ask the author before you do that and you should prob­a­bly pay them for it as well. But if you are cre­at­ing some art­work of your own and you’re doing this not for com­mer­cial pur­pos­es but more for your own amuse­ment or edu­ca­tion, and you’re using all kinds of lit­tle pieces of dif­fer­ent people’s art and cre­at­ing some­thing new out of it, you’re prob­a­bly going to be fine with­out ask­ing for per­mis­sion. And I think that’s a very emi­nent­ly sen­si­ble approach to copy­right.

In the EU this is not pos­si­ble. Instead the mem­ber states have to pick and choose from a closed list of very narrowly-defined copy­right excep­tions for pur­pos­es such as quo­ta­tion or par­o­dy, and these excep­tions are dif­fer­ent­ly defined in the dif­fer­ent mem­ber states. So that means even if you fol­low the copy­right law if your own coun­try to the T, the moment you put some­thing online, you can still get sued by some­body who has seen this art­work from dif­fer­ent European coun­try, because of course on the Internet you don’t have these nation­al bor­ders. So this is why I was work­ing on copy­right from the very start.

And I have three main goals in this copy­right reform that I’m still work­ing on to this day. And the first one is to legal­ize the kind of every­day cul­ture that the Internet has facil­i­tat­ed, such as remix, mashups, lip dubs, all this kind of stuff that is gen­er­al­ly already legal in the United States under Fair Use.

Secondly, I want to increase access to knowl­edge and infor­ma­tion by mak­ing sure that our pub­lic insti­tu­tions such as libraries, archives, muse­ums, and uni­ver­si­ties actu­al­ly have a copy­right sys­tem that allows them to do their job, which is not the case today.

And final­ly, I think that the copy­right law needs to be reg­u­lat­ed at the appro­pri­ate lev­el. So in that European case it doesn’t make sense to have these twenty-eight dif­fer­ent laws for some­thing that so fun­da­men­tal­ly affects the inci­dent.

So there I was, one out of 751 mem­bers of the European Parliament. So it was quite obvi­ous that even though I had all these goals about copy­right reform, sim­ply vot­ing for them would not real­ly change very much. And I also real­ized that while the term pirate” was very use­ful to the out­side to get atten­tion, prob­a­bly it would cre­ate some, well…misconceptions or prej­u­dice from oth­er mem­bers that I would have to over­come.

So I tried to think about what I could do to make sure that I wouldn’t be seen as too rad­i­cal. And so I decid­ed so to buy a suit. Very impor­tant life change for me. And I also joined one of the broad­er polit­i­cal groups in the European Parliament, the Greens/EFA group. And I came up with a strat­e­gy of how I could act with­in the European Parliament to actu­al­ly have an impact.

And I’ve most­ly done this in two dif­fer­ent ways, two dif­fer­ent strate­gies. On the one hand, I take the role of the pol­i­cy wonk. One of the great advan­tages of com­ing from such an issue-specific par­ty as the Pirate Party is that I am allowed to devote more or less my entire time to work­ing on copy­right reform and none of my vot­ers are going to get upset if I do that and don’t com­ment on Brexit or Trump. Although, I do.

But this basi­cal­ly meant that I could become the most knowl­edge­able and the most vocal, out­spo­ken mem­ber on copy­right issues. And even my great­est ene­mies in this debate would have to some­how engage with me and would have to admit that I knew what I was talk­ing about.

To the out­side world, I was tak­ing quite a dif­fer­ent role. I was act­ing less like a pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tive and more like a cam­paign­er. So almost like a jour­nal­ist, I was telling the pub­lic what was hap­pen­ing on copy­right reform. Because it’s such a spe­cial­ized top­ic and the EU law­mak­ing process does not get that much media atten­tion that peo­ple wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly even know what was being dis­cussed. So my goal and my job to a large extent is to trans­late what is hap­pen­ing in the European Parliament into a lan­guage that reg­u­lar peo­ple can under­stand.

And I think beyond just this out­side com­mu­ni­ca­tion, one real­ly impor­tant advan­tage of being on the inside of such an insti­tu­tion is not the one vote out of 750 that you get, but rather the seat at the table. So in the case of the European Parliament, the way that the leg­isla­tive process works is you get the pro­pos­al for a new bill and then each of the eight polit­i­cal groups in the European Parliament appoints one nego­tia­tor on behalf of their group. And these nego­tia­tors try to form a com­pro­mise, ide­al­ly, or if they can’t reach a con­sen­sus they will go for the broad­est major­i­ty pos­si­ble. So being one of those eight peo­ple actu­al­ly gives you quite an out­sized influ­ence over what is going on. And so I made sure that for my polit­i­cal group I would be the nego­tia­tor on all things copy­right.

And all of this prob­a­bly doesn’t sound all that rebel­lious at all. It’s pret­ty stan­dard pol­i­cy­mak­ing, I sup­pose. And it’s true that I don’t end up break­ing the law very much in my job any­more. Instead there are a lot of unwrit­ten rules in pol­i­tics that I come into con­flict with. And on the con­trary, when it comes to writ­ten rules what I found is that there are actu­al­ly very pow­er­ful actors and very pow­er­ful insti­tu­tions that break the law all the time.

The coun­cil, for exam­ple, which is the sec­ond leg­isla­tive cham­ber of the EU that is made up of nation­al gov­ern­ments, they are super intrans­par­ent. There aren’t trans­paren­cy laws, but for exam­ple they just com­plete­ly ignore the free­dom of infor­ma­tion laws that cov­er them and just pre­tend like don’t they apply to them. And well, I guess that’s because it’s nev­er called dis­obe­di­ence if it’s the pow­er­ful doing it. And the role that I take as a kind of oppo­si­tion with­in this sys­tem is much more hold­ing this entire sys­tem and the more pow­er­ful play­ers with­in it account­able. I do this on the one hand not by step­ping out­side of the laws but by using the laws in a cre­ative way. So espe­cial­ly things like free­dom of infor­ma­tion can get extreme­ly annoy­ing to peo­ple. And what I also do is to try to bring atten­tion and make it pub­lic if rules are actu­al­ly being bro­ken by the pow­er­ful. And in this way, I believe that hold­ing the pow­er­ful account­able with­in such an insti­tu­tion can actu­al­ly be an act of defi­ance in and of itself.

I want to give you a few exam­ples of what kinds of con­ven­tions or unwrit­ten rules I might have bro­ken or changed. The European Commission is the exec­u­tive body of the EU, and it’s made up of com­mis­sion­ers. And these com­mis­sion­ers actu­al­ly hold a lot of polit­i­cal pow­er. They draft the laws for the EU. However, they are pret­ty much unknown to the European pub­lic, and that’s quite a remark­able. They are elect­ed by the European Parliament but gen­er­al­ly they don’t real­ly con­tribute to being known to the out­side world. Like they don’t real­ly cam­paign for their elec­tion, they show up to a hear­ing in a European Parliament com­mit­tee and that’s more or less all that hap­pens before their elec­tion.

So I man­aged to con­vince one of the com­mis­sion­ers not just to answer ques­tions from the European Parliament but also to answer ques­tions from the pub­lic before his elec­tion was com­ing up. And you prob­a­bly still don’t know who Andrus Ansip is, but at least we’re work­ing on chang­ing that.

Another thing, an area where there actu­al­ly are very clear rules, is that in the European Parliament when we are vot­ing on leg­is­la­tion, all the amend­ments to this leg­is­la­tion that we vote on are pub­lic. And that’s a very sen­si­ble rule. But there is an excep­tion to this rule, which is that the dif­fer­ent nego­tia­tors can come up with com­pro­mis­es at the last minute that will be vot­ed instead of those amend­ments. And that in and of itself is not real­ly a prob­lem; it’s quite it’s sen­si­ble.

But the prob­lem is that there is no process in place to actu­al­ly make those com­pro­mise amend­ments pub­lic. So that means the MEPs maybe send these these texts that are actu­al­ly going to be the new laws to their favorite lob­by­ists. But to a large extent the pub­lic does not actu­al­ly know what we vote on until the vote’s already over. So I start­ed pub­lish­ing some of those com­pro­mise amend­ments on copy­right law, and I found that some of my col­leagues were very upset about this and called it leak­ing,” which I some kind of fun­ny because it’s basi­cal­ly the leg­isla­tive text that we were about to vote on the next day.

I also start­ed pub­lish­ing my lob­by meet­ings. I had a tool built that auto­mates this process and just puts all lob­by meet­ings into a pub­lic cal­en­dar. And this tool was actu­al­ly— Well, some of my col­leagues start­ed using it, oth­ers are mak­ing fun of it. But the lob­by­ists them­selves, they don’t always like it very much and say they have data pro­tec­tion con­cerns about it. But they all look at it to see who else is lob­by­ing.

So, one time I was giv­en an award. This is kind of a weird award. So, the MEP Awards are spon­sored by dif­fer­ent lob­by groups to hon­or the achieve­ments of par­tic­u­lar MEPs. So for exam­ple you have like, I don’t know, the Brewers Association of Europe spon­sor­ing the health­care award. And I don’t know, the envi­ron­men­tal award is spon­sored by Plastics Europe, and the devel­op­ment pol­i­cy award is spon­sored by Fertilizers Europe, that sort of thing. And so I was giv­ing this award for dig­i­tal pol­i­cy and I used my speech to draw atten­tion to some of the lob­by­ing prac­tices that were going on:

https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​u​d​t​2​D​13​Y​VMA

One of per­haps the most impor­tant ways that I’ve bro­ken some con­ven­tions is the con­ven­tion that polit­i­cal deci­sions or divi­sions are among par­ty lines. And what I found is that copy­right pol­i­cy is not a par­ti­san issue at all. The con­flict lines, they go much more along age groups, along geog­ra­phy in cer­tain cas­es. But you can find the most pro­gres­sive and the most con­ser­v­a­tive posi­tions with­in the same par­ty.

So what I’ve done is to speak to a lot of indi­vid­ual mem­bers of par­lia­ment, some­times bypass­ing the offi­cial nego­tia­tor, some­times they were the offi­cial nego­tia­tors, and to build a broad alliance against a new pro­pos­al to extend extra copy­rights to very short parts of news­pa­per arti­cles. [Plays excerpt of the fol­low­ing video from 0:45 (1:31 total; cap­tioned)]

https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​T​K​f​4​M​k​p​93-c

So, it’s not clear yet if this ini­tia­tive is going to be suc­cess­ful. The com­mis­sion didn’t lis­ten to us, put for­ward a pro­pos­al to basi­cal­ly make it ille­gal to copy the head­line of a news­pa­per arti­cle with­out per­mis­sion from the pub­lish­er. And the European Parliament will vote on that in October, and we’re not sure yet how this is going to go. But orga­ni­za­tions such as Open Media in Canada, for exam­ple, are quite active in this cam­paign to save the link and to try to make sure that the dis­sem­i­na­tion of knowl­edge over the Internet such as by using hyper­links can con­tin­ue and is not encum­bered by copy­right.

I’ve done quite sim­i­lar cam­paigns around the issue of geoblock­ing, for exam­ple. So geoblock­ing is basi­cal­ly when you see the mes­sage This video is not avail­able in your coun­try.” It’s prob­a­bly not such a big prob­lem in the United States because it’s quite a large coun­try. But in the EU, you have all these tiny coun­tries next to each oth­er, often speak­ing the same lan­guage. And then you have a lot of con­tent that is real­ly blocked based on your IP address. And what I did was I tried to find some of the NGOs that rep­re­sent the groups that are most affect­ed by this but are not nec­es­sar­i­ly active in dig­i­tal pol­i­cy and get them togeth­er.

Does this stuff work in prac­tice? Well, not always. One of my biggest suc­cess­es where it did work was that I passed the most pro­gres­sive report on copy­right law by the European Parliament, that I draft­ed myself. And this report… Well, it ruf­fled quite a lot of feath­ers. So it inspired, for exam­ple, a French pub­lish­er to actu­al­ly print a book and give it away in book­stores for free, called Free is steal­ing” and say­ing that this report was about to bring about the end of copy­right. And of course not with­out mak­ing a lot of dis­parag­ing remarks about my age and my gen­der.

I man­aged to mobi­lize togeth­er with Wikimedia half a mil­lion peo­ple to save a quite obscure excep­tion to copy­right called Freedom of panora­ma” that allows you to take pic­tures of pub­lic places with­out hav­ing to first ask per­mis­sion from the archi­tect. And this inspired Wired to write this very nice head­line, but I hope you don’t blame me for all the self­ies because of this.

Another project that I start­ed is that the EU is now invest­ing mil­lions of euros in the secu­ri­ty of open source soft­ware. This is a pilot project that is financ­ing audits of soft­ware that is used with­in the insti­tu­tions, and if every­thing goes well this is going to become a per­ma­nent item in the bud­get of the EU.

And final­ly, when the EU was dis­cussing the exten­sion of trade secrets pro­tec­tion, I was not able to stop this but I was able to help strength­en the pro­vi­sion that would pro­tect whistle­blow­ers when they dis­close trade secrets.

Why I’m work­ing on all these quite dif­fer­ent top­ics like copy­right reform, whistle­blow­er pro­tec­tion, free soft­ware… What they all have in com­mon is that they are about access to knowl­edge. And I think look­ing at the theme of this con­fer­ence, access to knowl­edge and the free­dom to speak out is real­ly essen­tial for defi­ance, and it’s very impor­tant for pol­i­tics as well. Because the most impor­tant thing that I have learned in the Parliament is that it’s not us politi­cians who actu­al­ly bring about change. We are always a bit behind the times. You can have the most rad­i­cal ideas as a politi­cian, but you’re not going to get them passed unless you con­vince a major­i­ty of your peers. And that’s only going to hap­pen if some­body has plant­ed the seed for a change in think­ing in the soci­ety.

And this is what defi­ant peo­ple actu­al­ly do. So you have peo­ple like Aaron Swartz or Alexandra Elbakyan who have been chal­leng­ing the aca­d­e­m­ic pub­lish­ing sys­tem that is actu­al­ly quite unfair to aca­d­e­mics them­selves, who are sup­posed to be the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of copy­right in this area. You have peo­ple like Chelsea Manning, who has dis­closed infor­ma­tion believ­ing that it was the right thing to do.

The guy in the mid­dle, Antoine Deltour, is the whistle­blow­er behind the LuxLeaks tax scan­dal in Europe. He exposed some infor­ma­tion about how com­pa­nies were pay­ing or not pay­ing tax­es. And after this dis­clo­sure the European Commission actu­al­ly recov­ered tens of mil­lions of euros from com­pa­nies such as Starbucks and Fiat, and declared their tax prac­tices ille­gal under EU law. And it passed a bunch of new trans­paren­cy laws and closed some tax loop­holes. But at the same time that didn’t stop the Luxembourgish courts to slap Mr. Deltour with a a sus­pend­ed prison sen­tence for dis­clos­ing trade secrets.

So this shows kind of the cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance that we have some­times with deal­ing with defi­ant peo­ple. We absolute­ly need them to bring about change, but we are still will­ing to sac­ri­fice them, and they are mak­ing great sac­ri­fices for bring­ing about this change.

This is also true for Edward Snowden, I believe. When we were dis­cussing a European data pro­tec­tion reg­u­la­tion, it looked for a long time that basi­cal­ly the com­pa­nies that want­ed to do every­thing with their data and the gov­ern­ments that want­ed to sur­vey us were going to win this fight. But when Edward Snowden made his rev­e­la­tions, the dis­course on pri­va­cy changed com­plete­ly in Europe and it was prob­a­bly the most impor­tant sin­gle thing that made us change direc­tion and we actu­al­ly end­ed up with quite a robust data pro­tec­tion law.

So, all these peo­ple I think are mak­ing great sac­ri­fices for ques­tion­ing the moral­i­ty of some of the exist­ing laws, and they are the seed that actu­al­ly makes it pos­si­ble for us to change the laws and to reflect on whether what we have is right. And I think that is nec­es­sary for any kind of soci­etal progress.

So as myself sit­ting in the European Parliament while hav­ing a seat at the table is great and of course I would be hap­py to have more pirates there. But what is actu­al­ly most impor­tant to be able to achieve any­thing is that there are peo­ple out there who are actu­al­ly will­ing to ques­tion the laws that we have today and some­times to break them. And we’re here to cel­e­brate exact­ly those peo­ple, those sto­ries. And I am extreme­ly hap­py and hon­ored to be able to be part of that. Thank you very much.

Farai Chideya: Thank you Julia. Now you can see why this move­ment of pirates is so pow­er­ful. And we’re going to move on to talk­ing about unlike­ly alliances in ques­tions of defi­ance and gov­er­nance. This is The Heat Enlisting the Street.” We’ve got Ed You, who’s a super­vi­so­ry spe­cial agent in the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction direc­torate in the Biological Countermeasures Unit, and he works close­ly with under­ground bio­hack­ers to expand the FBI’s out­reach and work togeth­er.

Further Reference

Defiance video archive

"2015: The End of Copyright; Taking for free is Stealing," in English or French


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