Vinay Gupta is a researcher and engineer specialising in infrastructure failure, crisis management and resilient systems, whilst being a public thinker on a wide variety of topics. In this manifesto from 2009, Gupta outlines a general platform for the Pirate movement that goes beyond the usual questions of copyright and patents. He also does well to theoretically differentiate the movement from libertarianism.
“1> Our goal is freedom, particularly creative and expressive freedom, for all.
2> We are not aligned with traditional left/right politics, and are substantially not a form of Libertarian because of our emphasis on the social construction of property.
3> All rights arise from within individuals. The machinery which implements or denies rights is socially constructed in some cases.
4> The right to property arises from within individuals, but the machinery which creates property is a social construction. Throughout time new forms of property have been developed, starting with nomads settling on land and continuing through shares in limited liability corporations, copyright and patents. Not one of these forms of property was an inherent right before the form of property was created: rather they are socially constructed expressions of a fundamental right to property, in the same way that a newspaper is a socially constructed expression of the right to free speech.
5> We do not know the perfect forms of property, if such things even exist. There are substantial reasons to believe that good property laws vary depending on culture and technology, among many other factors.
6> The Libertarian ethos of self-ownership as the foundation for all property rights does not adequately address the role of the State in creating many of the forms of property in society. Although anarchocapitalism attempts to address the role of the State in creating property there is a substantial lack of clear consensus of the role of “might makes right” in the implementation of rights in an Stateless ancap society. These are examples of systems which are clearly reasoned from strongly stated axioms, but which demonstrate the potential for severe problems in practice. This is not our way because it is biased too much towards theory.
7> The Pirate ethos is not one of reasoning from fundamental axioms and damn the torpedos. Nor is it purely utilitarian, arguing for the greatest good for the greatest number. Rather, it is scientific, evolutionary, experiential and experimental. Pirate politics are learning politics. If we succeed in one nation in implementing radically sane laws around property, and the result is cultural disaster because the laws inhibit creativity rather than freeing it, we will change our minds. However, we will not abandon principles based on failed experiments, seeking always to find the correct social machinery to express our inherent individual rights.
8> In the long run, no form of property or rights is beyond our ambition. Copyright and patent are relatively young laws, in a state of flux because of new technology, and therefore are our first targets for radical sanity. However, it is not beyond imagination that Pirate policy may extend to all fundamental human rights and the environment given time. A learning approach to politics gives us time to work on what we are sure of now and develop a wider mandate in time.
9> Electoral politics is only one part of a broad-based effort to encourage dialogue and creative engagement at a cultural level, including discussing the role of law in freeing us from various forms of inconvenience, oppression and danger. Where individuals and society require no assistance from the State, no law should exist. A strong practice of individual and social self reliance can reduce the scope of State power.
10> The international export of European and American property rights norms does not constitute sustainable development, particularly in the areas of patenting lifeforms and denying access to life-saving drugs based on patents. International organizations like WIPO need coordinated international response to combat, not just from nation states, but also from individuals and society. They are our most dangerous foes and need to be engaged accordingly.
11> The privatization of knowledge by copyright and patent denies the fundamental openness of the human quest for understanding in general, and the scientific method in general. Knowledge is a fundamental commons, in the same general manner as air is, and while there may be temporary practical exceptions for social utility (like patent) the enclosure of knowledge as property is fundamentally in error. We must align with what is good for science, and for the open spread of knowledge. Education may be a natural area to make allies.
12> We are making policy for a future which likely includes technologies like gene therapies and elective genetic modifications, nanotechnology, self-replicating machines and artificial intelligence. Substantial progress in at least some of these fields, of a kind which creates a strong need for updating laws, is certain within a generation or less. Correct understanding of individual rights and the social mechanisms to implement them will require substantial technological competence and sophistication among policy makers. We can provide that understanding and competence.
13> The Green movement has failed to take effective action on the substantial issue of its day. We must learn from the failures of previous parties with a narrow focus particularly when it comes to linking effective action in our main area of interest to broader social agendas. Many are for copyright reform who are against, for example, drug reform. We must remain true to our goals above all subsidiary agendas.
14> We need to identify and respect historical figures and contemporary heros who support our cause. This is made more difficult by the role of the media, a copyright-centric enterprise, in shaping culture. Many who might support us privately, as they bittorrent their favorite British TV shows, would never personally admit that our positions make sense. I personally start the heroes list with Richard Stallman and Trent Reznor.”