[â€¦]If you wanna share something – share it. If you wanna use something – use it. Try to do so ethically in the sense of donÂ´ t take things without attribution.[â€¦] Pay no attention to these people when it comes to being creative. Go ahead and do the stuff that Larry showed in the beginning of his talks and do lot of it. And every time they put a lock on – break it. And every time they pass a new law – break that.[â€¦]
John Perry Barlow on civil disobedience in a digital world
Interview with John Perry Barlow on the 23rd Chaos Communication Congress (23C3) Berlin, 29.12.2006
Interviewer: Markus Beckedahl
Camera: Mario Behling
Transcript: Stefan T. Saffert
John Perry Barlow:
When I examine my life today and think about the useful things Iâ€™ve done with it so far, Iâ€™d have to say very high on that list is making a convert out of Larry Lessig. Because when I first ran across him, he was of a very different set of viewpoints on this than he is now. And heâ€™s always gonna be, I think by temperament and nature, heâ€™s always gonna be much more pessimistic than I am. Iâ€™m an almost pathological optimist. So, you know, weâ€™ll always have that division and one thing about optimism is that it believes that people are inherently good and, you know, if freedom is allowed to prosper then good will will arise from below. Pessimism always believes that people are inherently rotten and must be controlled from above. Thatâ€™s kind of the difference but, I mean, I think itâ€™s been a really good symbiosis and as I said when I started to discuss this with him, I think that our disagreements have been fruitful. I mean the dynamic between his point of view and mine on these matters has been useful to a lot of other people as well.
So letâ€™s come to your view of the debate. The dialogue before was a lecture by Larry Lessig and while heâ€™s a very pessimistic person who thinks we have 20 years no chance to change law and maybe technology, you have another view. What is your view?
John Perry Barlow:
My view is if we just keep pressing the system where it breaks, eventually the system is so broken and so obviously broken that thereâ€™s no choice but for people to start evolving another economic model. And thatâ€™s actually whatâ€™s already happening. Rather rapidly. I mean, it was interesting after that conference where I was talking to these, you know, usual suspects. It was suddenly for the first time friendly as [???], you know, where previously Iâ€™ve been the devil and now theyâ€™ve been regarding me as, you know, maybe somebody that could show them the way out of the darkness, which I thought was a significant shift. So I think that we need to continue. I think heâ€™s being a little over-reactive when he says, you know, â€œacts of terrorismâ€. I just think we need to continue breaking their system. You know, what happens is exactly what happened not half a mile from here eventually. You know, it breaks and it breaks and it breaks and then one day the whole damn thing goes down. And when copyright in the virtual world – and Iâ€™m not against copyright in the physical world, Iâ€™m not against copyright as it pertains the actual copies of things, you know, books and CDs and things of that nature – but when itâ€™s become obvious that itâ€™s just simply not going to work in cyberspace, I
think youâ€™ll see it collapse. It will be as sudden and surprising as the thing that took this wall down over here. You know, I was in
Germany in the summer of â€˜89 as I expect you were, too. And nobody to my recollection thought there was the chance that that wall was gonna be down in 20 years, right? And, you know, everybody was just completely, you know, disconsolate about the irretrievable state of things. Right at the moment when, you know, we were sort of dropping the last crystal in the super-saturated solution that would cause things to go â€œBoomâ€ and do a state-change and thatâ€™s what I think is gonna happen and I think itâ€™ll happen a lot quicker than 20 years. I think itâ€™ll happen sometime in the next five if not less.
What can the people do to crash the system?
John Perry Barlow:
Go on and doâ€¦ you know, if you wanna share something – share it. If you wanna use something – use it. Try to do so ethically in the sense that, you know, donâ€™t take things without attribution, attribute. Make sure that the people who did create actually have the opportunity to get some enhanced reputation and thereby, you know, greater economic return. But, you know, pay no attention to these people when it comes to being creative. Go ahead and do the stuff that Larry showed in the beginning of his talk and do lots of it. And every time they put a lock on – break it. And every time they pass a new law – break that. You know. Sooner or later theyâ€™re dealing with such a massive level of civil disobedience that they have to address it. And thatâ€™s where weâ€™re headed in a, I think, a hell of a hurry. I mean, you go to California and you drive down the 280, which is sort of the main artery of Silicon Valley and connects to San Francisco, and all those cars are going 85 mph where the speed limit is 65. But itâ€™s a good road and there are good cars generally and theyâ€™re good drivers and thereâ€™s not a damn thing anybody can do about it. What are they gonna do? Arrest the entire highway? No. So the cops are right there cruising along with you at 85 mph. And thatâ€™s still against the law but nevertheless people have [asserted/???] the freedom to drive as fast as they think which is reliably safe under those circumstances. And we have to do the same thing.
OK, thank you very much.