Friday, November 30, 2007

Pirate Party USA Constitution


of the

Pirate Party

of the

United States of America


We are the Pirate Party in the United States. We are the people. We are originators. We are innovators. We are consumers. Best of all, we are voters.

We have been labeled pirates because our opposition claims that anyone who uses anything created by another person, without payment to that person or their designated representatives, is in violation of copyright, and therefore
, according to their ridiculous standard, we are pirates because we speak and use language which was not created by us. We refute their principles of operation as having no basis in logic or reason, excepting to secure their finances at the expense of the guaranteed popular rights. Such principles erode any attempts at creating a positively-oriented culture in which the free flow of ideas can be expressed and expanded upon. Because we disagree with these principles on their face, and because we consider the reasoning behind them flawed, we can thus be considered nothing other than pirates.

We are pirates because we act in a way that effectively counters the assumed right of security in exchange for the guaranteed rights of our civil populace. We are pirates because we care about the values of freedom and innovation, which must be protected for posterity. We are pirates because we dare to claim that the interests of innovation are not well served by the current model of commercial enterprise. We accept their label as a badge of honor, and in defense of freedoms everywhere.

We are pirates, and this is our political party. We are champions of liberty: here we assemble under one banner, to defend our civil liberties which are gravely threatened. Our banner is black, but our aims are red, white, and blue. We are considered illegitimate thieves by those who openly take that which is not rightfully theirs. Action is necessary, and we are prepared to now act. A more perfect time to act will not pass again.

We hereby establish the Pirate Party of the United States of America for these and other high aims.

Title 1: General Principles & Resolve

Article 1: Democratic Supremacy

We believe in the principles of democracy: we uphold the right to democratic processes at all levels. We reject the notion that people are incapable of governing themselves; if this was true, democracy would not be possible. Democracy shall prevail for so long as the minds of people remain free. It is therefore the duty of government to ensure democratic ideals.

We shall operate in all ways and in all activities with democratic principles in mind.

We are resolved to utilize a veto consensus method in all administrative dealings, as well as with all issues brought to the membership to resolve, within reason and practicality.

Article 2: Innovation, Progress and Freedom

We support the right to innovate, as protected by the United States Constitution in the First Amendment. We respect and support the Constitutionally enumerated demand for Congress to "promote the progress of science and useful arts" in Article I Section 8 Clause 8. We also hold that our Founding Fathers knew how to best motivate people, and we work toward maintaining this standard once we achieve it again. We shall forge new ideas for new kinds of business. Government has a responsibility to foster both competition and open markets while protecting individual rights, but not as less important than those of any monopolistic organizations.

We are resolved to do all within our power to preserve the right of innovation, promote progress, and thereby ensure freedom to our population.

Article 3: Governmental Transparency and Privacy

We respect individual privacy at the same time demanding all matters of state be open to the people. A government which treats its people like criminals will breed criminals; a government which promotes respect of individuals will breed respect. People will do what is expected, provided you understand what expectations have been set. Thus, government must trust the governed if it is to succeed in the new society.

All people deserve the right to privacy in their personal affairs. All people deserve dignity.
We are guaranteed to be free from interference in our personal effects, papers, and private lives by the Fourth Amendment to our nation's Constitution. That Fourth Amendment does not specify that such protection is limited only to government. We therefore uphold that privacy in one's communication, one's home, and one's private life where there should be an expectation of privacy is inalienable. We decry any attempts to monitor communications by announcing that privacy is suspended, because an expectation of privacy must be preserved in all communications for democracy to exist. It is thus counter to our nation's Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to permit warrant-less wiretapping, since the implied right to security does not exceed the expressed right to be private from governmental interference.

All people deserve to be well-informed and involved within their respective governments. The ideal of democracy must be upheld by the people if it is to survive; and this cannot happen if the government is closed to the public or interferes with the private lives of its citizens. Such interference can also be achieved by failure to safeguard the right to privacy. Privacy is necessary to our society's smooth function. Transparency is the only means by which government can ensure the popular support and involvement in governmental processes. And in the emergent global society, this involvement is critical to the maintenance of our own sovereignty and the timely action of our government.

We are resolved to promote transparent operation within government wherever possible, and to demand privacy for individual citizens in all things.
We further resolve to fight warrant-less wiretapping on the grounds that such is indeed Unconstitutional and directly counter to the aims of our Founding Fathers.

Article 4: Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks

Copyright law has enjoyed the concept of Fair Use for decades. We uphold fair use as a defense for civil litigation against copyright infringement, as we believe that the large corporations, though operating legally, violate the spirit of the law when they sue unwitting individuals who simply want to enjoy media in the privacy of their own homes. Invasion of privacy demands a response. Even if a government is not the one responsible, it's still wrong. We view the practice of violating citizens' privacy as exploitative, even if it is to protect copyright.

Fair use is not infringing use. We will continue to promote legal fair use in all ways possible, including public education, and we seek to expand fair use, instead of limiting it as the current tendency appears to be. Copyrights are good. Using them to exploit people is not
acceptable. We will fight every battle it takes to prevent the exploitation of our nation's citizens.

We support artist rights: artist should be not only correctly attributed, but also compensated. Artists are not compensated for their contractually-forced compliance to large company interests once they sell their copyrights, and we believe that the attribution (and resulting royalties) should go more to the artists than to those who are producing things that the population is no longer interested in.
In addition, Copyright is being subverted to erode civil liberties, and as such we find an obligation to eradicate the portions that permit such erosions.

Patents, which are commonly abused and used to prevent progress and innovation, should be far more limited than they are now. Much of the value of patents come from there public disclosure of information enabling others to reproduce the invention. We believe that if no patents existed, it would be to the detriment of progress and innovation; however, we also do not recognize an unchallengeable claim that a patent should be retained if no progress is made in its development.

Trademarks are commonly abused. A trademark should not also have a copyright. In addition, a trademark's use should be allowable in satire, parody, and humor; for so long as no association to the trademark holder is implied, and correct attribution is given, there should be no issue with its use, even by competitors. A trademark should be used for branding, and for identification of a company. While these uses should be protected, they are not; and other uses are protected which should not be.

We resolve to reform laws to promote innovation, progress, and thereby ensure freedom. It is only a productive society which can ensure its freedom.

Article 5: Due Process, Self-Incrimination, and Freedom of Association

Due Process of Law is required in a free and democratic society and guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. For this reason, we resolve to uphold due process of law, even when contrary to our own stated interests. This does not imply that we agree with all laws, but the process of law must be upheld throughout until either we are victorious or no further changes are possible.

Our country's Constitutional Fifth Amendment gives freedom from self-incrimination. While the interests of justice and freedom require truth, no individual should ever be compelled to testify against themselves, nor by failing to testify against themselves implied to have admitted guilt by omission. We are against the practice of compelling people to incriminate themselves, and we view it as an abuse of the system. Many times, what someone is hiding is not their own guilt, but rather their associations to others. Such associations, where productive, should never imply complicity or agreement to an individual's motives.

We also have the freedom to associate and gather for any reason we feel is appropriate, as long as we're not advocating or engaging in violence
, as guaranteed by the First Amendment. We believe in democratic processes, and gathering to show support for or opposing any policy is an informal request for a redress of grievances. These are protected rights and were made so by the Founding Fathers of our nation.

Our freedom of association is important and fundamental; and thus, by remaining silent, we should not feel compelled to either commit perjury or incriminate ourselves. If we are penalized for remaining silent, such penalties should not imply that we have admitted guilt.
Implication of guilt being different from an assurance of guilt, such evidence should never be submitted to any court where it shows that a person was compelled to admit guilt when it was not indeed admitted.

We resolve to advocate due process of law; to discover, ensure, and remove all end-runs around true justice; and to uphold that a person's association with a group does not imply inclusion in, acceptance of, or support for their ideals and goals.

Article 6: Minorities, Prejudice, & Foreign Sovereignty

Minorities are not recognized. We are all human. Prejudice simply makes no sense, where matters of predetermination are concerned. We recognize that there are differences in skin color, bone structure, belief, thought, attitude, and values. These differences are desirable and important to a free society. Therefore, such differences should be embraced rather than used as a means of separation or limitation. We have no room for prejudgment.

As such, the only limitations for any office within our party is the ability to do the job, and to be
either a voting citizen of our nation, or to be of legal resident-alien status and to be working on attaining citizenship status.

We also recognize that those who hail from foreign nations deserve the benefit of education
regarding our system of government and how it works, as well as addressing any perceived shortcomings therein. However, if they do not want such education, we should not force their acceptance of it. Even if a government requests assistance, it should be the voice of the people which is heard, rather than the voice of the governing body. This is the upholding of democratic principle and operation by consensus.

Foreign nations likewise should not be forced to enforce our laws; nor should we theirs. All foreign nations deserve to conduct their own internal affairs as sovereign. While we can criticize and admonish, democratic principles demand that we allow other governments to operate in the manner they see fit, even if we do not agree with their methods, ideology, or definitions. They have the right to kill and enslave their citizens; they do not have the right to do the same to ours. Likewise, we should not force democratic ideals upon them.
We should uphold the right of sovereignty even in our own lands. The principles of democracy should convey to the people the necessity of action, and leave the choice of action to the people.

guarantee of foreign sovereignty does not imply that we should support tyrants. Our nation cannot and should not support or continue to permit tyranny in any form. When a nation that we trade with kills or enslaves its citizens, our nation has a right to speak against such things. We also have a right to cease trade. We must be willing to accept the risks associated with maintaining high ideals and yet not forcing those ideals on others. Even with the cessation of trade, however, we must support democratic processes and continue to encourage democratic ideals, even while we cease trade with those who would enslave or oppress their populations. We must be willing to inconvenience ourselves to uphold our principles, or they are not principles at all, and merely words which convey a nice idea.

We must also maintain our own sovereignty. Foreign nations have no right to impede or intrude upon our sovereign status; likewise, we have no rights where foreign nations are concerned. To try to control foreign countries is to invite the ire of others. Our nation does not need or deserve the ire of others. We should therefore support sovereignty of all countries while encouraging democratic ideals, without direct interference in the operation of sovereign nations or their systems of government. If our system is superior, people will naturally see that it is so and adopt it; if otherwise, a better system will surely come into place.

We resolve to help our country understand that foreign powers should remain sovereign in all things, even where we disagree. Exceptions to this include the necessity of violent resolution, should our nation be attacked, for so long as just action can be maintained.

Article 7: File Sharing, Distribution, Consumer Rights, and Originator Rights

There is no crime in sharing files, nor should there be. The crime comes when those who created the content of these files are unpaid. We do not aim to legitimize theft; we aim to help create a business model that incorporates free distribution.

Those who share music should pay the artists directly. No middle-man is necessary, as no fee is needed for distribution. We therefore do not recognize the legitimacy of groups like the RIAA, IFPI, and similar organizations whose purpose, in their current incarnation, is to protect corporate interests above those of the artists and the consumers.
We reject all claims made of benefit to the artist and the upholding of artists' rights until such time that either their practices significantly alter to permit such benefit, or such benefit becomes plain for all to see. So long as industry organizations of any kind continue to exploit either consumers or the originators of the products such organizations (or their members) produce, our purpose in the defense of democratic principles is compounded.

Those who share movies should pay the producer(s) of the film, not the distributors. Again, distribution should be free.
There is already sufficient capital exchange that occurs in the production and theater showing of any film; there is no need to burden consumers by requiring their further purchase of media where no purchase should be needed.

Those who share software should pay only if that software is useful to them, and then only what that software is worth to them. Programmers should be the ones paid; not distribution companies who are no longer necessary. Specifically, game designers should have the same status as rock stars in our society, because what they do excites us just as much.
Large distribution companies should not be necessary in a system built around our modern infrastructure, particularly when such infrastructure virtually eliminates the need for physical media. The challenge, then, becomes one of convincing users that a particular game is worth paying for. Profits increase and price decreases at the same time. It benefits the programmers when a game is sold; but if people are unwilling to buy, then the game's value to the population decreases. Simple economics are no longer possible when a company seeks to hide its resources behind one distributor.

Market-savvy consumers are no longer loyal to branding, but to the originating studios--and thence, to the programming team itself. If a team is unsuccessful at amalgamation but they produce a perfect product, then amalgamation is not necessary. Likewise, if consumers are best served by the presence of a given form of entertainment and can obtain it for free, they should obtain it for free and only pay what they believe it is worth. The enjoyment of gaming is found in the challenge to win, not in the winning itself. Excluding people on the basis of ability to pay means excluding potential talent.

We intend to work toward the establishment and maintenance of a profitable business model
in all aspects of distributed-media industry, a model which does not exploit artists or require the originators of works to sign away their rights to their innovative works. We want to help a flailing industry to realize the errors of its ways in a new and market-savvy society, because the old ways no longer work. We reject the idea that in order to profit, one must exploit others or force them to our will.

We do not accept that there is anything inherently wrong with file sharing. It is our wish to create a climate in which the free exchange of cultural ideals can occur. We do not accept that entertainment should be our top priority in life
, nor do we agree that any one person, group, or industry (short of humanity itself) can own the rights to any culture, nor to the product thereof.

We have a business model to base things from. It's a matter of risking the loss of control that those of industrial thinking believe is necessary to profit. Many companies have proved that it's completely unnecessary to continue the old methods of market domination. The best company in the world is the one which is best able to adapt to the changing needs of society; not one which seeks to override these needs with an outdated business model.

We must find a means to work within the system, but so must those who oppose us. The stakes are high, and one entire industry's existence hangs in the balance. It is time they listened instead of making demands.

We resolve to educate the public about lawful uses of file-sharing, its beneficial purposes, and why it should become legal to share all manner of files.

Article 8: Unpopular Beliefs, Free Speech, and Network Neutrality

For millennia, unpopular beliefs were held to be criminal. The adherents of many ideas now widely accepted were persecuted for hundreds of years before finally finding acceptance. Endless persecutions still exist for new ideas. We are willing to allow unpopular beliefs because it is only when unpopular beliefs are permitted that we are also permitted to hold our own unpopular beliefs.

We uphold the right to be unpopular. Where there is a difference of opinion, people should be at least willing to listen. The less people are willing to listen to things they personally find distasteful, the less those who express such things will be able to learn.

Likewise, we are against others determining our desires and shaping our apparent will against our wishes. Free speech demands that computer networks likewise remain open and free from the interference of others. The right of the people to be free from governmental infringement upon our communications is guaranteed in our nation's First Amendment to the Constitution. However, commercial interference must also be protected against. While we are not opposed to the use of self-regulating "smart" networks, we are opposed to the use of such for the purposes of profitability, and we are likewise opposed with regard to human-managed networking apparatus because of the high potential for abuse. Self-regulating networks are neutral, as the rules regarding their operation are unchanged. We therefore support network neutrality, rather than any kind of "equal" network. A neutral network is required for democracy to prevail.

We resolve to uphold the right of free speech, because even if we disagree with the message, the right to speak and be heard should be upheld in all cases. This includes the right to express unpopular beliefs in a rational manner, as well as the right to be free from interference with our expression by the unscrupulous.

Article 9: Acting Within the Law & Civil Liberties

We do not promote, advocate, support, or engage in illegal activities. Where there is a disparity between individual action and the law, the law wins. However, if the law is incorrect, based on incorrect or invalid principles, or created because of political pressures rather than because it's right, we hold that these laws should be changed. Changing a law does not require civil disobedience.

We uphold the civil liberties of all peoples. Freedom to innovate is at all levels the right of the people. It benefits government when the people innovate, because governmental interests in the promotion of progress and the upholding of popular rights is based in the ability to express new ideas.

We reject the notion that civil liberties must be sacrificed in order to maintain order or to serve justice.

We resolve to further civil liberties in our own country through education and public service.

Article 10: Voting, Voting Rights, and Taxation

All citizens are entitled to participate in their government. We will promote the right to vote for all citizens, regardless of legal status. Our Declaration of Independence explains that taxation without representation under the law was abhorrent to our founding fathers. We hold this to be a timeless truth, and so if any portion should be disallowed voting rights, the same should be entitled to be free from taxation.

This includes unpopular segments of society, such as criminals, as well as more popular segments, and members of our elected government.

Our candidates are free to support or oppose the Electoral College system, as this system has not been shown to either uphold or denigrate democratic principles, the values of a free society, or anything that opposes these. However, we do recognize that this system is in need of reform. In a well-regulated democratic society with open communications, representative voting is not really necessary, as our infrastructure is capable of clearly indicating the will of the people.

Gerrymandering circumvents the reason for having free and open elections in a democracy. Though gerrymandering is common practice in our country, we are opposed to it, and would seek to establish a nonpartisan committee to review and establish boundaries for each Congressional district based on both predetermined and more current fair criteria, where voting is concerned. We would also seek to establish new criteria by Constitutional Amendment, if necessary to secure a nonpartisan method of dividing Congressional districts. If such is not necessary, we would see no need to continue working toward it.

We resolve to uphold the right of truly universal suffrage among our citizens. What the population demands, it should receive, even if against the wishes of a governing body. As such, we also resolve to ensure democratic processes at all levels of our operation.

Article 11: Freedom, Societal Advancement, and Being a Pirate

A free society recognizes that freedom comes at a price. This price is responsibility to the government. Government and the governed should be an equal, symbiotic, and interdependent relationship, whereby the government provides what the people demand, and the people provide the needs of government in return. Where one has more control over the other, there can be no stability or balance in the long term.

We understand that society is advancing into a new era of thought, and this era is marked by extended opportunities and competitive generosity. Beginning with several thousand consumers, it has become several hundred companies, and this movement is growing not only in scope, but also in magnitude.

We recognize that in order for society to advance, there must be an appreciation of values. The advent of the internet in the average person's life universally causes social change, and this is a global change that cannot be legislated against. We support this transition into a new society, with new values and new ideas. Our aim is to promote this change, and to assist those who have difficulty with it.

We also see that others label us pirates because we disagree with them (regardless of whether or not we actually engage in piracy, we are so labeled because of our opposition to their ideals). We are told that any time one uses something that doesn't belong to them, that one is engaging in infringement, and therefore piracy. Because we all use language (which doesn't belong to us), we are infringing on those who created it. Because we don't pay a royalty, we are all Pirates.

We resolve to continue using the name "Pirate" for our political party, in the name of freedom and social progress.

Title 2: Structure

Article 1: Separation of Powers

All powers within the Pirate Party of the United States shall be separated into seven sections, comprising a National Administration of the Pirate Party:

  1. Administrative;

  2. Operations;

  3. Legal;

  4. Promotional;

  5. Records -keeping;

  6. Financial; and

  7. Service.

These powers being necessary for the timely operation of the Pirate Party, each shall have one officer for each of these powers, whose principal responsibility shall be the smooth operation of the Pirate Party, and who shall have secondary duties commensurate to the power which that person shall represent while in the capacity of office.

The Administrative Officer, who may also be called the Administrator, shall oversee all matters involving the internal administration of the Pirate Party, and shall act as both chairman of the National Administration of the Pirate Party, and as spokesperson for the Pirate Party of the United States in general (though this may be delegated to a specific spokesman as provided for within this document). The Administrator shall also oversee all elections within the Pirate Party of the United States, and shall ensure that democratic processes are upheld. The Administrative Officer shall also coordinate, if not directly oversee, communications with the Pirate Party International, and the various other Pirate Party groups throughout the world. The Administrator is also the directing officer for all operations within the Pirate Party. The Administrator also shall also be the coordinating officer for the various state administrators for the Service Bureau, and shall have the power to approve the state parties individually as they qualify for state-level party status.

The Operations Officer, who may also be called the Assistant Administrator, shall oversee all matters involving the internal and external operations of the Pirate Party, and shall also conduct all business as necessary in the absence or incapacity of the Administrator, and as the Administrator shall direct. The Operations Officer shall also have the duty to undertake the duties of those offices which shall be vacant, as they shall be from time to time, and to assist in the smooth transition of office from one administration to the next. The Operations Officer shall also act in the capacity of Liaison to the Federal Government, for any officials, officers, agents, employees, or affiliates within the United States Government who may need direct contact with the party. The Operations Officer may also have direct oversight into the public affairs of the Administrator, and shall report such to the other officers if a need to report such is perceived.

The Legal Officer, who may also be called the Administrative Lawyer or Legal Advisor, shall oversee all matters involving law, including (but not limited to) the proposed and actual legislation of Congress, litigation in cases that are of interest to the Pirate Party--particularly in cases where consumer rights are in play--or which are of national interest, and approval of all activities undertaken by the party in which there is a question of legal standing or legality in action. The Legal Officer shall also be responsible for the recording of all policies within the Pirate Party, and shall forward all records to the Record-keeping Officer. The Legal Officer shall also act as legal counsel to the Pirate Party of the United States, for such time as there is a need for legal counsel. The Legal Officer may ask for fees above any normal pay for activities in the capacity of legal defense, prosecution, petitioning, or other direct activity within the justice system on behalf of the Pirate Party of the United States, is such activity is required by the needs of the other officers.

The Promotional Officer, who may also be called the Marketing Administrator or Publicity Advisor, shall oversee all matters involving the promotion of the Pirate Party of the United States, including (but not limited to) the issuance of press releases in the name of the Administrator (with approval thereof), all signage and promotional materials, and the authorization of the use of copyrighted materials. The Promotional Officer shall also act in the capacity of improving the image of the Pirate Party, and shall advise the other officers of the Pirate Party in methods to improve the Pirate Party's image with regard to the public. The Promotional Officer shall also oversee all official web sites, and shall maintain an adequate knowledge or staff to administer these, and to ensure their compliance.

The Records -keeping Officer, who may also be called the Recorder or Records Administrator, shall oversee all matters involving the official records of the Pirate Party of the United States, including (but not limited to) the maintenance of both paper and electronic archives. The Recorder shall also be responsible for the recording of meeting minutes and publication thereof.

The Financial Officer, who may also be called the Administrative Accountant or Accounting Administrator, shall oversee all financial transactions and bookkeeping functions within the Pirate Party, including having direct oversight with regard to all party, campaign, and other finances. The Financial Officer shall also be responsible for all budgeting and financial planning aspects of the Pirate Party's finances. All records shall be transferred in duplicate to the Record-keeping Officer.

The State Advisory Board shall be comprised of all of the Administrators (and acting, interim, temporary, and provisional administrative officers) of the state party. Officers shall in all ways be charged with the protection of the sovereignty of the individual state parties, while at the same time upholding the goals and principles that espouse democracy within our nation. The State Advisory Board shall also collectively be charged with maintaining backup archives of national-level records for the Record-Keeping Officer, who may request from time to time an inventory of the records on hand in each state office. The State Advisory Board shall also hold the power of veto over the Administrator's activities, if unanimous in their objection to such activities. Each state administrator shall thus be considered a national-level officer with all of the benefits and privileges that such office shall confer. State administrators shall be immune to national votes of no-confidence if there is a provision in their state bylaws or constitution that should allow such a vote to be held and stand within the individual state.

All officers shall be required to present a unified front to outside influences. In such cases, when a decision is made that may affect the good standing of the entire party, or if such decision should be adverse to the membership of the party, or to the established aims and goals of the party, or not consistent within the law, or by any other estimation of the one faced with such decision, the same should defer to the entire body of officers for decisions to be made, unless by failure to make such decision on the spur of the moment shall result in even greater harm to the party, its officers, or its members. Officers who make such decisions will need to notify the other officers in the most expedient manner possible. Failure to adhere to this policy may result in censure and ban from office, as well as summary removal upon discovery of such decision.

Officers are permitted to hold more than one office, if duly elected into both offices. Officers also holding provisional state administrative titles shall not be considered in violation of this standard.

Article 2: Nomination, Election and Appointment

All nominations shall be accomplished by either announcing candidacy for a position, or by having someone else announce the candidate's nomination for the position. The nominee may withdraw the nomination at any time before the actual vote. Nominations shall be announced a minimum term of 7 days before a vote should be held. Nominations may be held open for up to 30 days. All nominations must be announced in a public area, such as the wiki, forums, or chat channels, where members are likely to be able to see them. There is no requirement for members to see them: if nominees are unwilling to get people to vote for them, that's not an issue the party needs to address.

All officers shall be elected by veto consensus vote. This means that members shall be nominated by any member the electoral body of the Pirate Party for a specific position. If there shall be no dissenting voice, the nomination shall stand, and no seconding nomination shall be needed. An agreement among the peers involved in the election process shall suffice unless there be contention about who is the best candidate, at which time a vote may be called by the Administrative Officer (or Acting Administrative Officer). The vote shall be open and tallies shall be counted according to the method of voting, as appropriate to the occasion.

All votes shall be done by use of an anonymous voting mechanism, which shall be accomplished using any means at the disposal of the Administrative Officer, or by any appointed. If no anonymous mechanism exists, the closest approximation may be used if agreed to by a majority of those voting.

Officers have the right, responsibility, and duty to appoint agents and assistants as the need demands. Officers do not have a requirement to compensate these appointees, as all positions within the party are voluntary. Volunteers may be paid if funds permit, and as necessary to ensure their retention within the party, if their position should be considered vital to the Pirate Party's operation. Officers may select or change the titles of those under them as necessary or as beneficial to the position.

All officers are subject to votes of confidence or no confidence, should they act in the party's interests without the consent of the membership at large. Those officers who have thrice committed acts, or failed to act in a capacity, which inspires a vote of no confidence, the same should be dismissed from office. Such officers shall be replaced at the same meeting which their third vote of no confidence has been obtained.

Article 3: Meetings, Quorum, Participation, and Adjournment

All meetings shall be announced no less than seventy-two (72) hours in advance, and no more than ninety (90) days in advance. It is preferred that seven (7) days' notice be given. Officers and members who are unable to attend shall be required to give notice within twenty-four (24) hours before the meeting. Any meeting with less than seven (7) days of advance notice shall be considered an emergency meeting.

Quorum for official meetings shall require no fewer than two (2) officers and two (2) non-officers be present at all meetings in order to satisfy the requirement of quorum. If no officers shall be present, the meeting shall not begin. An exception to this rule may be declared by consensus agreement of those present if there be no officers.

The National Administration of Pirates shall announce and hold one (1) regular meeting each calendar year on the Fourteenth of July, which shall be the National Convention of the Pirate Party. At such meeting, the following orders of operation shall take precedence over all other pressing matters:
  1. This Constitution of the Pirate Party of the United States of America shall be reviewed in its entirety, and amendments proposed if any portion thereof shall be considered a non-issue.
  2. The members of the National Administration of Pirates shall review all activities during the preceding year, and shall issue a report therefor.
  3. The members of the Pirate Party shall, as a body, elect to uphold or remove any amendment proposed, excluding temporary emergency measures, which shall end upon that day unless consensus among the attendees shall indicate popular favor.
The Pirate Party shall then attend to other orders of operation on the agenda before them.

The National Administration of Pirates may also convene during, and for up to 24 hours after, each election. This meeting is closed to the public, and is for watching and analyzing the election dynamics unfold. However, state and national delegates may enter and leave at will, and may convey information at will to the public. No planning of any kind may occur during this convention.

All members of the Pirate Party are welcome to participate at all times during any meeting. However, members may be ejected from the meeting for continuous, irrelevant, disruptive and counterproductive behavior. Members are entitled to at least two warnings. Members of the press should identify themselves as such, or risk permanent removal of all members of their news agency at the option of the Administrator. All other members of the public are welcome to attend official meetings without limitation, though only members may vote on any given topic.

Time-sensitive matters may be voted upon my the membership at large after the fact; such matters shall be votes of confidence or no confidence in the person or persons who have undertaken such activities.

All meetings must be recorded. It is the duty of the Records Administrator to provide for such recording, and for the publicity required in accordance with the law and de facto standard.

All meetings may be fully adjourned at any time, provided no existing matters need to be addressed. If new matters need to be addressed, such matters may be deferred to the following meeting. Temporary intermissions may be granted for reasons of sanity, health, and comfort during extended meetings.

Article 4: Compensation

All compensation is commensurate with the necessity of retention. Therefore, officers shall be paid an equal share of the funds budgeted for their payments. Officer pay may not exceed 10% of the total budget. Administrative costs may not exceed 15% total, including pay of all officers. Budgeting is the duty of the Financial Officer.

However, if there be no monies raised, then no pay should be allotted.
The Legal Officer may request pay for legal services as outlined, whether monies have been raised or not.

Article 5: Limitations of Power

Officers may not knowingly engage in any action, activity, movement, or act that violates the law of the land, while in that land, wherever it may be, in accordance with the law.

Officers may not knowingly support any group or individual in committing any illegal act, in accordance with the law.

Officers may not act in any capacity on behalf of the Pirate Party, save that which is specified within this document.

Officers must act in a manner that is honorable, truthful, just, and forthright. Officers may take oaths of secrecy and keep them, provided that such oaths do not seek to circumvent public interests.

Officers must ensure that a democratic process is retained at all levels
of operation within the party, and encourage democratic process in all levels of government.

Officers may not substitute personal prejudices for public interest.

Officers who demonstrate an inability to operate within these limitations may be removed from office with cause.

Article 6: Prohibited Powers of State Parties

Individual state Pirate Party organizations may not contravene decisions made by the Pirate Party of the United States, except where such decisions are clearly contrary to state laws.

State-level Pirate Party organizations may not speak for the Pirate Party of the United States, except where specifically permitted or authorized.

Article 7: Vacancies & Removal From Office

Vacancies will occur from time to time, as officials within the Pirate Party find that they are unable to devote time to their office, or by reason of removal from office, death, or another incapacity. In such cases, a replacement officer may be elected at the following regular meeting of the National Administration of the Pirate Party by those in attendance.

The duties of vacant offices shall be apportioned to the other officers within the Pirate Party of the United States, until such time as a new officer shall be elected.

Officers who die while in office shall be considered removed. Officers may individually resign their commission, and when such resignation becomes effective, they shall be considered removed from office. Officers who are removed from office for any other reason must be voted out of office. Officers who are voted out of office may be voted out at any meeting, emergency or otherwise, where a quorum exists. Officers who are removed from office may not nominate or appoint a replacement. All officers must be elected by the body of membership.

If all positions are vacated, the electoral body of the Pirate Party of the United States may hold an emergency meeting to elect new officers.

Title 3: Activities

Article 1: Formation of Political Action Committees

All political action committees ("PACs", or singular: "PAC") that seek to use the name of, or create benefit to, the Pirate Party, must be authorized by the National Administration of the Pirate Party. All PACs must specify their reasons for operation, and the necessity of use for the Pirate Party name must be authorized in advance. Additionally, the Pirate Party must act in accordance with the law regarding oversight and reporting of the PACs. Each PAC is also responsible for its own operation.

To become an officially recognized PAC, the group must, as a unit:

  • Write and submit a statement of organization, including a declaration of intent, a mission statement and a listing or account of intended goals.

  • Include methods of fundraising, operational guidelines, and record keeping.

  • Justify their purpose by illustrating the need to the officers.

  • Complete and submit paperwork as required to government bodies.

  • Pay all fees and dues for the formation of the PAC, as well as individual members who must register as lobbyists or for other reasons.

  • File an initial report with the Federal Election Commission (or another body, as appropriate).

PACs must also meet with the approval of the members at one meeting of the National Administration of the Pirate Party.

No monetary contribution to the party is required by the party nor any part of the membership.
However, should there be any who which to contribute, the same shall be permitted.

Article 2: Formation of State Parties

Each state and territory under the jurisdiction of the United States may form a political party. They may adopt whatever name as appropriate within their state or territory. State Parties must submit the following:

  • A constitution for the state party, which includes the name, structure, operational guidelines, and a mission statement.

  • A copy of the statutes for the state in which they are attempting to start the Pirate Party as a state-level party.

  • The names of the temporary state-level officers, in compliance with the state laws.

  • The names of the members of the state-level PAC to handle the finances of the state party (if required by state rules or standards).

  • A copy of an empty petition in electronic format (PDF is preferred, though any agreed-upon format may be used).

All items must be reviewed and approved by the National Administration of the Pirate Party. If no decision has been reached within 30 days, the state party shall have permission to proceed.

All approved state parties shall receive:

  • Official access to the voter tracking system used by the national party, though restricted to their own state systems.

  • Official access to materials for promotional and fundraising use.

  • Official access to Pirate Party collaboration tools.

  • An invitation to the Pirate Party Administration Mailing List (which is for administrative use only).

  • A package of media relations tools, as available.

  • A press release announcing the collection of signatures, when ready.

  • The full support of the Pirate Party of the United States.

State Pirate Parties shall not receive the foregoing without first obtaining approval by the National Administration of the Pirate Party.

Article 3: Oversight by the Pirate Party

All PACs may be overseen by the Pirate Party once authorized. However, PACs are autonomous bodies and thus are not subject to the regular review of the National Administration of the Pirate Party. It is in the best interests of all involved to maintain such autonomy. All PACs shall maintain non-commercial and independent interests in support of the principles of democracy and freedom.

Article 4: Symbols, Slogan, and Our Mascot

We may reserve the right to add meaningful symbols as needed for promotion. Our official symbol may change by changing the description in this paragraph, though change of the basic symbol should be rare enough to warrant a two-thirds majority voting requirement for any change to occur.

Our official symbol is a blue flag on a blue pole in the shape of the letter "P" surrounded by a red circle on a white field. The center of the flag bears a single star. We hold the current Flag of the United States of America to be the physical representation of our party's interests in the absence of our official symbol.

Our current official slogan is "No Safe Harbor for the Enemies of Liberty" and may be amended or changed as needed for promotional purposes.

Our mascot is the parrot, which may be stylized as needed for the purposes of marketing. The parrot should be red, white, and blue accordingly.
State parties may adopt our national symbols and slogans, both official and unofficial, as the need arises, but also may adopt their own materials as they see fit.

Article 5: Donations

The Pirate Party of the United States may collect contributions, donations, and other monies without limitation, excepting as provided by law or statute for political parties. Spending of such monies in accordance with the law is in all ways permitted. The Pirate Party of the United States may contribute to campaign finances with a fund-matching system, provided that such matching is done after the primary elections for any office. If there should be no primary elections for an office, fund-matching may be acceptable.

Article 6: Standards of Practice in Accounting

All funding shall be maintained with regard to records, reporting, and dispersement in accordance with law or statute. All accounting practices shall maintain, as a minimum standard, the standards of practice equivalent to those found in the private sector. The Pirate Party may utilize any methodologies within the bounds of law, statute, and standards of practice herein outlined.

The Pirate Party of the United States may own, operate, and specify the uses, within the bounds of applicable law, of any number of accounts at financial institutions. Such accounts must be reconciled at least monthly, and more often is more desirable.

Article 7: Discrepancies

All discrepancies in accounting or party activity with regard to our stated aims shall be considered a gross infraction of the bylaws, and a reprimand may include termination of office for those found to have willfully engaged in such infracting behaviors. Those who report such discrepancies may be recorded, but the privacy of the individual must be maintained throughout the internal investigation. Those who have been found to have unintentionally caused such discrepancies shall receive a reprimand which may not include termination of office.

If such discrepancies violate the laws or rules of conduct within the United States, the jurisdiction of law enforcement shall reign supreme with full cooperation from all officers.

Title 4: Debts

The Pirate Party of the United States will not have debts. Any debts incurred shall be the responsibility of PACs to deal with, including debts incurred by litigation.

The Pirate Party may determine that any debt is invalid by declaration. However, it may not refuse to pay such debts without due process of law, or without an agreement to transfer such debt to the appropriate authority.

Debts which may not be transferred and which are declared valid under the law shall have top priority for fund allocations, in equal share if there is more than one debt.

Title 5: Oaths

Oaths may be sworn by any member for any reason, within or without the Pirate Party of the United States of America. Such oaths are treated as verbal contractual obligations and shall be upheld within the party as contractually binding. Oaths may not bind an individual against any civil rights. Oaths must be witnessed by at least two people, in addition to the oath-taker, and the person or people to whom the oath is given. Oaths may be recorded by the Records Officer if such oaths potentially impact the operation of the party.

Title 6: Amendments

Amendments to this Constitution shall be heard by the National Administration of the Pirate Party using a participatory consensus system. Amendments must be announced and held for study for at least two meetings, prior to being adopted. Amendments may not be given for temporary issues; instead, temporary emergency orders may be given, which may not exceed 6 months without a consensus vote. Temporary emergency orders

Amendments to this Constitution must be unanimously upheld by all members voting in a popular vote. Those who abstain should not be counted as opposing or supporting. Those who oppose may have opportunity to address specific concerns. These concerns must be either upheld and incorporated, or logical reason given for refusal to uphold. A recall vote may be held only four times before an amendment must be resubmitted.

Any vote which exceeds 95% shall
be considered passed by consensus, and may be considered unanimous if all objections have been addressed already, if the dissenting votes are dissenting because of continued objection to an item which has already been addressed to its exhaustion, rather than simple opposition to the entire amendment.

Those who abstain may outnumber voters. This is expected and acceptable for a consensus system.

Title 7: Ratification

This document may be ratified by the signatures of two acting members of the National Administration of the Pirate Party, whether duly elected or not, as well as by no fewer than four others who shall swear to uphold its principles for so long as they shall claim membership. It shall then hold the power of validity within the Pirate Party's operation, and shall be a final document.

No portion of this document, should it be held invalid by law or popular dissent, shall hold to invalidate any other. No right retained or supported shall be construed to deny any other, nor shall it construe any disparagement of the law, nor support for any disparagement or inadherence therein.


We, the below signed, acting as officers, do hereby ratify and swear, with our digital signatures, that this Constitution is a worthy and worthwhile document, and that we do uphold it as it has been executed. By our signatures, we swear that to our best knowledge and belief, the Constitution has been appropriately ratified by the signification of votes by members, potential members, and interested individuals.
Hash: SHA1

I hereby sign and affirm via digital signature that I support the
constitution of the Pirate Party of the United States as was presented
in the meeting of November 14 2007

Andrew Norton
Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)
Comment: Using GnuPG with Mozilla -


Hash: SHA1

I hereby sign and affirm via digital signature that I support the
constitution of the Pirate Party of the United States as was presented
in the meeting of November 14, 2007.

Ray Jenson

Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: Using GnuPG with Mozilla -


The document is hereby ratified 30 November 2007 and is valid perpetually hereafter for all functions of the Pirate Party of the United States of America.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Anti-Democracy in Utah

I'm fairly sure the ACLU doesn't get involved if there isn't a compelling reason to get involved. I'm also fairly sure that the county clerk of Weber County, Utah, is trying hard to prevent a scandal. Unfortunately, the actions of a few people have created the scandal, and so their lack of cooperation creates an even bigger one.

You see, Mayor Matthew Godfrey won the election this past election (November 2007) and there are a number of people really angry about it. The vote was close, showing just a 49-vote difference. But there were also a number of provisional votes that were discounted (516 of them, to be precise), and there were 1,735 provisional votes that weren't completely counted that day.

Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal. The problem this time is that one of Mayor Godfrey's supporters was the one doing it. And it threw the vote, because several of the people whose information was challenged or who were otherwise ineligible to vote were vocal supporters of Godfrey's opponent, Susan van Hooser. Though she was mud-slinging with the best of them (or, at least, her supporters were), Godfrey took a significant portion of the votes, claiming to have reduced the crime rates.

Well, he did lower the crime rates on paper, but he did so by ultimately penalizing people who call the police for assistance. Property owners whose tenants call the police more regularly pay an annual tax that is 10 times that of normal. Additionally, those who rent to tenants who are known to have broken the law in the past (they use the word "recently" in the law, but in practice it's "ever" because of no definition about what "recent" really means).

I'm also not a Godfrey supporter because of the fact that he is on record as being against the practice of democracy. When asked why he didn't put a controversial idea to a popular vote, he responded with: "We [the city of Ogden, Utah] don't have that form of government.: I make a decision, and that's what we go with."

Godfrey did a great job with rejuvenating the downtown area. He tore out a dead-end half street and a few acres of public parks to install an amphitheater (which his name is all over, in spite of the fact that the actual plan for it had been in the works for almost a year before he ever entered office). He added the intermodal center (which he paid for with city funds for the benefit of public transportation), so for that I gotta give him credit. He changed a failing mall into a thriving shopping area.

But he's done little for the actual economy of the area. He hasn't brought in new jobs. He hasn't expanded the viability of the city (mostly, he's put out fires to prevent the city's viability from further deteriorating, with a result that's negative if you account for inflation and compare it to the national growth rate). He's made the city less of a desirable investment for legitimate property investors, while increasing the opportunities for those who are less legitimate. He's ultimately been bad for the city, and yet he spins it just enough to come out smelling like a proverbial rose.

Like both Kerry and Bush in 2004, Godfrey appears willing to lie, cheat, and steal his way into office. There was a time when that worked. It's not acceptable. It strikes at the very heart of democracy. It prevents the democratic process from serving the public (as it was intended to do). It causes changes that are detrimental to the process.

With all of this, I think I'd almost rather have a convicted child molester in the office of Mayor than Matthew R. Godfrey. There are actually a few reasons for this. The child molesters have to prove something. They're used to being under public scrutiny because of their Federal requirement of being on the sex offender list. They tend to be very honest, and if everyone knows their history then it's not a difficult matter to keep the mayor away from the kids (a mayor who breaks the law while in office risks losing that office, so he can't go to public parks, schools, etc.). But most of all, a convicted child molester is a known quantity. You know that you can't trust him, and so everyone double-checks the office. It establishes the need for checks and balances. It promotes the democratic process and gets people involved. And though I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable casting a vote for someone like that, if it happened then I would probably be forced by principle to support it.

Controversy is something that people try to avoid. However, controversy has its place, and shaming people into doing the right thing is exactly what the City of Ogden needs. We need to ensure that Godfrey has a watchful eye on him every step of the way. And most of all, we need to ensure that he understands that democracy is guaranteed in this country.

I just hope we don't have to go through another fiasco with rigged voting. If donations are any indicator, the democrats have a clear lead in the upcoming elections. The era of Bush politics is coming to a close (I hope and pray that this is more or less permanently during my lifetime).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Democracy, Dissent, and Free Speech

Enter our contest!

I've been in court this week on a matter involving my son, so until that's done, the posts here are likely to be sporadic. Apologies to those who have elected to read.

Speaking with a dissenting voice is a sure sign that democracy is alive. Let's face it: nobody likes to be told they're doing a poor job, but there isn't a better test of democracy than the public expression of discontentment. Shame is a powerful motivator to create positive change, particularly where that shame is considered by the public at large.

Shame in my own life has been a powerful motivator for change, particularly where I've been concerned about the opinions of those around me. I've done some things I'm definitely not proud of, but with my set of experiences, the end result has been positive. The problem is that there needs to be accountability for wrongdoing, and in corporate America, there is little accountability because of the power of money to bring lobbies to bear on Congress, limiting their effectiveness by creating the impression of a large amount of support or opposition. However, the issue is that lobbies often misrepresent the issues at hand, because the lobbyists only know what they are told, and often they are not told a complete set of facts.

Two items of shame that I to point out include the secrecy with which our country's current administration operates, excluding people from the operation of government because (as some insiders have stated openly) they have "operations that wouldn't stand up to sunlight". This untenable practice cannot be tolerated in a democracy.

The other item of shame is the blind adherence of the top political contender for being our next president, Barack Obama, to the draconian system of copyright that pervades our country and which threatens to undermine not only the democratic processes that make us great, but also our economy. This system of copyright is not democratic, and expanding on it is absolutely counter to the Constitutional mandate of protecting the creative works and processes that make our nation great.

And where Obama is concerned, this is about the only spot I really disagree with at a basic level. I can understand his pro-consumer stance, but I also believe that his entire campaign is undermined by his stance of expanding on copyright.

Most Americans who care don't want copyright expanded. In fact, what we need is a complete reform of the current laws in order to return us to the traditional value of artist protection. You see, the large studios don't want artists to be protected; they want their own rights as producers to trump the rights of artists, who often are not even allowed to perform their own works because of transfer agreements, which the studios essentially force out of these artists in order to ensure that they have their bottom lines maintained.

Another point to consider: the WGA strike that continues. Writers are essential to the business of entertainment. Writers feel they should be taking a larger share. And studio execs continue to take the lion's share of the proceeds. Not the artists. Not the writers who create the works. It's their creativity that makes Hollywood. Actors, in spite of their vitality, can be trained and acting talent can be taught. Writing talent requires a "feel" for the written word. This fact alone means that most writers could be actors, if they merely looked nicer. But writers are concentrating on what they write, often sacrificing their own sanity in certain moments and under certain conditions in order to really get into the minds of the characters for which they write. Hollywood, and especially the MPAA, promotes their own well-being, and doesn't support the art.

The entire idea that the MPAA, RIAA, and their ilk is doing anything that protects artists' rights is against the idea of common sense, simply because those industries at the base of their practice are exploitative. They not only exploit artists, but also consumers.

I am not in favor of doing away with copyright; that would not only be unconstitutional, it would be disastrous. What we need is to rebalance the idea of copyright with the idea that creative derivatives are not infringement. I'm not talking about the idea of "piracy" where there is a huge gap between those who want to expand and those who want to abolish. There must be a balance to the approach; a necessary retention of some parts of copyright, while eliminating others. We need a "common sense" approach to copyright, where consumers are not the enemy of copyright holders and artists are permitted access to their own works.

It is unreasonable to believe that by eliminating the access to one copyrighted work, artists are somehow motivated to produce another. Creativity doesn't work like that. Creativity is not motivated. Creativity is inspired. Creativity is an innate response to emotional stimuli. Creativity is not an emotional response to logical pressures. Creativity resides in the right, creative side to the brain. It is not rational. It doesn't operate by a strict set of rules. But on the flip side of things, neither is creativity entirely unpredictable. Only greatness in creativity is unpredictable. Creative genius does not know borders of culture, society, gender, sexuality, political status, income level, or religion. It is a part of the human soul.

But for creative genius to exist, creativity itself must not be stifled. In this sense, democracy is the ultimate crucible in which creativity can be produced. This fact of history is due in large part to the freedoms of speech and expression that we enjoy in this country, and the current regime of copyright holders want to exercise control over the very thing that proves that we are democratic and free. This is not an acceptable state of affairs.

I would invite Obama to send me his research which supports the idea that copyright should be expanded upon. I will submit only two papers, neither of which was produced here in the United States, but instead in England, where the copyright regime's controls are all but absolute at this point, and which essentially do nothing but create a rift between consumer and industry to the point that the industry itself is starting to be bypassed completely.

These two studies show their methodology, explain their reasoning completely, and leave very little to the imagination. They don't contain the leaps in logic that are required for reading the studies sponsored by the MPAA and RIAA. They really do not require the enormous profits they claim, nor is online piracy really the bugbear that these organizations claim. It's really not killing the industry. What's killing the industry is the insistence that consumers are the main enemy and must be controlled at all costs. I reject the notion on grounds of logic and reason.

We need someone like Obama, who is the most decent candidate we have right now, with regard to the front-running candidates, to really take a close look at copyright and how it really affects us, and to do the common-sense thing, since that's one of his primary position-toppers (the other candidates lack any semblance of common sense). And even though I like Obama, I'm not really ready to vote for him yet, simply because of the copyright issue and its importance to the smooth functioning of our democracy. Not to mention, I'm not a democrat.

I just hope Senator Obama can appreciate that. Because if he wants me to not write in a vote for "abstain" again this year, I'm going to have to hear him publicly say that the current system needs reform, and that he supports such reforms in order to prevent a complete meltdown of the entertainment industry and to sap the strength of the extremist views which are unnecessarily promoted and escalated by the often vindictive method which we now employ. I would support him entirely, had he not opted for openly stating that he wanted to strengthen our copyright overseas, and to increase the WTO. This is against my principles, and so I am hoping I won't have another write-in vote this year.

My biggest problem right now with the whole "intellectual property" debate is that it very much erodes the rights of creative individuals while preserving the rights of large companies. Individual rights of one should never outweigh another. Both rights must be upheld.

And so the right to dissent must also be upheld. The strength of a democracy is in the fact that we are not all one voice, nor one vision, but we all have the same goal: the well-being of our society. When we are fighting to preserve such a high aim, we must always listen to even the dissenting voices of the minority, because there is no idea that can be called worthless, excepting that is calls for violent action where violence is unnecessary. Dissent is not dissidence. Dissent is disagreeing with a policy or one idea. Dissidence is calling for the entire dismantling of an existing structure. Abolition of copyright is dissidence, in my opinion. But dismantling copyright can still occur by the rabid enforcement of such by the powers that be. Such rabid enforcement spawns the opposing extreme, and it's patently a mistake to promote it. It does not preserve the right of artists and inventors to profit from their works if the population at large doesn't support it.

Dissent is inherently linked to free speech, and as a foundation to democracy, it must be upheld to be inalienable. So when we criticize the government's operations, we're not doing anything against the government. Instead we are exercising the right which our Founding Fathers believed was God-Given: the right to freely express belief. If our beliefs are controlled, then what we have is not a democracy at all. Democracy means that the entire population rules. Democracy means that the government invests its power into the population. But those in power hate that idea. They don't like the idea that the public knows what's best for it. They don't enjoy the concept that popular control is asserted by the population itself. It's not a particularly comfortable idea to those who stand to benefit from positions of power.

But in the end, the power of democracy asserts itself in ways that can only be called beneficial to the long-term. Democracy requires a certain amount of honor be invested back to the people, who tend to be dishonorable and selfish in emulation of what they see at the head of our country. If we want a responsible people, then our leaders must also accept responsibility unshirkingly for errors in judgment. Such errors are magnified by public office, and so when the people in office don't know what their own principles are, these errors will proliferate.

And often, what's right is not what's popular. But in general, the population does know. We have the ability to offer instantaneous feedback for all options which are on the table, and yet we consistently remove this ability by failing to demand it. We don't dissent enough, because we fear rocking the boat and being viewed as unbalanced even as we call for a balance. Dissent is hard, but the preservation of the right to dissent is so utterly important to democracy that I can't imagine what our country would be like without it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

You Could Answer for Lawerence Lessig

Okay, I'm holding a contest of sorts: you, the reader, can answer questions for Lawrence Lessig, renowned copyright law expert and advocate for the continued creativity of people in spite of the severity of the copyright system.

Founder and chief advocate of the Creative Commons Public License, Professor Lessig has given numerous talks about the subject of copyright and why a private solution (such as the Creative Commons license) is necessary in today's harsh copyright climate. Though he doesn't advocate stealing of other peoples' works, he is nonetheless a strong advocate for the return of fair use and public domain works. The more I learn about the man, the more impressed I am that he's the one who has the answers.

The problem is, a man in his position is incredibly busy. I've managed to get a few words out of him here and there, but email is positively horrible when everyone wants to speak to you. He implied an agreement with me (one which I came up with), where I would get other people to answer the questions. These questions would then go through a filtering process and then the good Professor Lessig could then sign off on the answers that are closest to his position on each question. It's a creative solution to the problem of time.

The theory behind it is that if other people speak for Professor Lessig, then he can not only save time by merely having to read (I can't speak for Lessig, but my own typing speed is less than a quarter of my reading speed), and then indicate which ones are the most correct answers to the question.

The top winner of the contest will receive... a tee shirt. Completely free of charge. I'll even pay shipping. How's that for a prize? The tee shirt will say something like: "I answered Lawrence Lessig's questions and all I got was creative freedom... and this tee shirt.") And be aware that this prize comes out of my own pocket: Professor Lessig has nothing to do with this blog or its operations (other than continuing to inspire me to write, which he does without his consent).

The questions I'd like answered are below:

1) With copyright laws being enforced and changed to such a draconic level, is there any hope that they might be changed, or is the copyright system doomed to failure by abandon?

2) What differentiates fair use from infringing use under the law? Is there an actual determining factor, rather than simply the wording of the law itself?

3) It was implied at the TED speech that public domain no longer exists. What happened to public domain?

4) If the case is extremism on both sides, then what can determine prevalence? From a logical standpoint (as well as an historical one), if both extremes are wrong, then compromise is likely not going to be possible so long as the extremist voices continue. So how do we get the two sides of the equation talking to one another, if one side (or both) is offering its own olive branch?

5) This was after looking up your (CC) license, and because I'm interested in using the CC-GPL for a software package I'm working on. In the Creative Commons license, the site claims that there are no compatible licenses. However, I notice that the GPL is listed with what amounts to a Creative Commons rider. If this isn't compatibility, then by what standard is compatibility measured?

6) Using the perspective of history, we can see an equivalent to the "arms race" of the Cold War era brewing. From this same perspective, what was the most likely catalyst for change to lessen the escalation of arms?

6a) Could the same logic be applied to catalyzing a "leveling out" of the extremism in the copyright war?

Deadline: December 31, 2007 at 12 noon GMT. If you're a minute late, you won't get a prize, even if you nail the whole thing.

Entry: Drop a comment below. Each comment should answer as many of the questions as possible, and I do have moderation turned on to eliminate spam, but not stupidity. I am a firm believer in the right to speak, so even if you tell me "Your blog sux0rz, d00d!" it'll be published without changing a word.

Limitations: There is a limit of one answer per question. However, if you answer the same question multiple times, the last answer is the only on which will count.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines: Yes, I intentionally left the ladies out. But that doesn't mean that I'm limiting the field only to men. Please be aware that any comments seen to be sexist, racist, or otherwise offensive could be removed. And because I'm not really looking for them, these comments might slip past my amazing anti-spam technique. Speech which is offensive for a purpose related to explaining one of the questions might be okay, since I also believe in the right to offend (though I don't typically go out of my way to do so). But please limit your usage of the N-- word, the F-- word, and the rest of those to emotional outbursts and appeals to emotion.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Sense of Community

I finally just got sick to death of Windows. It's not that I don't think the world uses it, and it's certainly not that I don't like the bloated eye-candy interface. But it's slow, unstable as a bipolar high school cheerleader on crack, and the only programs that work really well are the ones made by Microsoft.

Except for, that is. I downloaded the free office suite from OpenOffice's web site, and I began using it. Except for not importing Microsoft's latest file formats (which my $400 copy of Office 2003 didn't do, either), it seems to work great, and can both pull in from and save to a variety of file formats. And it saves to PDF files, too. All for free. And available for both Windows and Linux. After using OpenOffice for the better part of a year (with few exceptions), I have had zero problems with data loss due to the switchover (but, dear reader, please remember to make backups before you decide to do anything that changes the way your system works).

Over the past 5 years, I've either paid for or received as payment for some of my freelance work about $12,000 in software for my Windows machine. Occasionally, I've received a duplicate license for software I've already had, but I didn't count any of that. The $12,000 (give or take a couple hundred) in software was software I actively used. And I just replaced all but one program of that by switching to Ubuntu.

The word Ubuntu is a Zulu word for 'Community', though there are lots of other meanings. The word implies that if you see a need, you fill it if you can. Likewise, you should be able to expect assistance when you need it. Community is important, and as a traditional value of all cultures, the word Ubuntu (though it comes from only one culture in South Africa) is truly a universal concept, and one that isn't difficult to grasp.

However, I began a little seriously worried because there are a lot of programs out there which are named in a similar utopian style, and they routinely fall short because not enough people actually want to make it work. However, Ubuntu has started and maintained a community which is friendly to beginners, and which offers that which is needed, if you merely look for it.

Community is the foundation to democracy. When everyone is working toward a goal, whether it's as broad as democracy or as versatile as an operating system, the only solution to any of this is to work toward the same goal. Being one community is called solidarity and this is one of the things that Ubuntu is about (both the concept and the operating system).

Accessibility is a big issue when making the switch to a GNU/Linux system such as Ubuntu. And without this accessibility, there wouldn't be an operating system I could use. But one thing that Ubuntu is lacking in is price. My $12,000 of software on my $1,000 computer is now $0 in software on my $1,000 computer, and I have the same functionality with only 4 days of downtime (well, except for Skype, which doesn't have an AMD-64 version for my version of Ubuntu yet, so aside from my not being able to talk to a couple of my clients, everything else is working great).

Which brings me to another democratic concept: government transparency. Like the software industry, the government jealously hoards the things that make it work, shrouded in layers of unnecessary secrecy and inaccessibility. Don't forget that Bush was nearly assassinated on 9/11 by a group of foriegn nationals, so I can understand where he's coming from, though I disagree with how he's going about protecting himself. But I also disagree with the way that software companies tend to rabidly protect their intellectual property, as well. The way the laws work right now creates a draconic system that encourages animosity and which is counterproductive to the aims of creativity, invention, and progress. If software companies released the source code for versions of programs they were no longer supporting, it would allow everyone to benefit: users and producers both would benefit from the increase in security that the open source community undoubtedly would bring to the program.

But there are drawbacks to open source. I'm sure of it. Uhm.... Never mind, I'll have to get back to everyone on that. Let's talk about the drawbacks to closed source.

The main drawback is Microsoft. I'm not saying their products are bad, but the big problem is that they don't publish a lot of their internal standards, and the fact that they don't release source code on anything (and encourage others to resist the open source movement as well) is a sticking point because other programmers can't learn what they're doing wrong, nor can they help Microsoft understand where their own shortcomings are.

The Open Source folks are right about a lot of things, and community is one of them. Solidarity is another. But where they routinely fall short is in action. Their ability to act cohesively is impressive, but it takes a monumental undertaking to get them interested in anything long-term or far-reaching. Basically, the bulk of the work needs to be done first, and then other programmers will weigh in with their code and review. At least, that's the general practice behind projects that I've seen.

So then we get back to how this relates to democracy. Not all communities are democracies, but all democracies have, as their basis, communities. The differences that we all have add to the diversity that's the strength of democracy everywhere. Even those who dissent add value by giving a counterpoint to the consenus, which spurs thought and gives us all something to think about. Well, at least, when it's real dissent and not just naysaying for the purpose of being a dissenting voice. This is another point I've noticed in the Open Source collection of communities: dissent for the sake of dissent. Dissent has a purpose, and that purpose is to point out a weakness so that it can be addressed. Ultimately, dissent will either logically reduce an idea to allow everyone to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks, or it will simply dissemble an idea by tearing it down with emotional arguments that have no real bearing on whether or not it will work. Of course, there is a time for that, but usually only when there is something in the way of an ethical issue. Tearing an idea down simply to tear it down is itself unethical in a democracy.

And this is exactly the kind of thing that most of my Linux experiences have brought me: a bunch of teasing and ribbing and unhelpful suggestions by people too busy to really help. I will say that there were two exceptions: the BSD community (which was my introduction to open source and free software, but which didn't work out because I'm not a programmer and production schedules didn't allow me time to read enough to make it work), and the Fedora community (which simply seemed to ignore me altogether). I made it a point to test the waters before I made the switch, and the help that I received from the Ubuntu community's forums was not only top-notch, it was support from other users, both beginners and experts alike. And now I can keep to my production deadlines while at the same time reading minimally about how my system works. And I can play with it, break it, fix it, and modify it. It's not Windows, in that there isn't a lot of hand-holding built into the system, but with an entire community active, there's not a lot of reason for it to be built in.

I actually got told that building community was akin to inviting communism one time. However, in communism there isn't a guaranteed individual ownership of property (and I don't just mean land). There is no means for someone to exceed their beginning station in life. There's no progress. People are not free to be creative and express new and (sometimes) spectacular ideas. People can't progress unless they're guaranteed both an equal footing in life and the chance to earn more, with the guarantee of creative license. People should be free to make even bad choices, because in these bad choices is the opportunity to learn. In a communist society, fascism tends to reign supreme, not because only fascists are communists, but because the entire system of communism invites stagnation .

In a democracy, people must be guaranteed the right to be creative. They have to have the right to speak against the government. They need the tools to be able to resist the government's interference in their own lives, because that's the only way that a balance between liberalism and conservatism can be maintained. An extreme conservative is a fascist (that's actually the definition: fascism is an extreme version of conservatism); and an extreme liberal is a libertarian. I've heard people tell me there are no moderates, but I'm about as moderate as they get. I believe in personal freedom, but I also believe in government. I am an extreme moderate, and the term for that is egalitarian.

The vote that people get in a communist society (one which is ideally run) counts only for declaring that a person agrees or disagrees with society. It holds no real power because in a perfectly communist state, there is no individuality: everything belongs to the community, including the individual. In a democracy, on the other hand, the community comes together because it needs and wants community. And this is why I love Ubuntu: not many people are there who don't really want to be.

The result is an open, free, and democratically-run operating system which is responsive to end user needs because the end users are the ones in charge of its development.

If only the RIAA, ASCAP and MPAA (and those who are like them) could learn that the power of popular opinion is the way to profit. They now understand that they don't have the same power that the public has. They don't control popular opinion, and any idea that they did was an illusion. For a brief moment in history, we're going to have physical media. From here on, it's digital. The community itself has spoken in cases like Jammie Thomas, Tanya Andersen, Granny Crain, and the other victims of exploitation by the system. The MAFIAA organizations are not in public favor, and it seems that their entire existence has hinged on the control over media that they've never had until recently. And now that they've got it, they're failing even faster.

And, strangely enough, the RIAA claims there was an increase in revenues at a time when there was a corresponding increase in what they've decided to label as media piracy. The shortcoming in this case is that there is no real community built by the RIAA, ASCAP, MPAA, or any of the others. Sure, there's a consumer base to draw from, but that's not the same thing. Their general draconism and fascist ideals seem to fly in the very face of democracy. And consumers know and understand this, particularly the newest generation of consumers who start buying their own music as early as age 12. Most people I know who download music do so because they don't have money to buy, but as soon as they do get money, they generally go out and get the real thing, because ownership in the new culture is a status symbol, and is thought of in a much better light than mere possession. It's a pity the RIAA doesn't allow ownership.

Because ownership would build communities of artists, rather than driving them away.

Silly fascists. Music's for playing!