I am a Pirate. No worries, you don't have to hide your gold for me, as I am not the stealing type of Pirate.


That's right. Piracy is not theft. It's Piracy :-). While the common view of pirates is based mostly on movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, which I like a lot by the way, mine is a bit more complicated.

It may have started at a very young age when my favorite uncle Wim, a giant of a man unfortunately too sick to work most of his life introduced me to pirate radio. He used to tape everything he liked on cassette and distributed those tapes among a large number of family members and friends. While I didn't particularly enjoy his music genres, I was intrigued by the more or less illegalness of this 'business' and the way he took pride in being something like a pirate himself.

Then when I was about 12 years old, an older cousin showed me something that blew my mind:

ZX81 Home Computer

My first introduction to a computer. He showed me how you could write a few lines of BASIC code and then RUN it. I immediately saw an infinite amount of possible things you could do with such a device and I was hooked. Luckily, my birthday was close and I somehow managed to manipulate my parents into buying me an even bigger computer: the ZX Spectrum. Life couldn't be better.

The Spectrum had colors, 16 kilobytes of RAM memory and it could SAVE and LOAD programs to and from a standard audio cassette so I didn't have to input the entire program I was working on every time the computer was restarted. It was like a dream. I found out there were magazines and hobby clubs of home computer enthusiasts where people exchanged tips and programs. There was even a weekly radio show where they would broadcast programs you could tape to a cassette and then LOAD on the computer.

There were games too, really nice games, also on cassette. But quite expensive for me as a 13 year old. So instead of swapping them with friends like most of them did, I recalled my uncle Wim's double cassette deck that he used to copy his pirate radio tapes and I asked hem if I could try and use it for copying the games. Uncle Wim was enthusiastic, telling everyone that: "We now have two Pirates in the family". He was proud of me and I felt proud to be a Pirate.

I copied my games and gave them to others, asking them only if I could borrow their games' cassettes for a day or so to make another copy. I had a friend with much more business talent then me who wanted to make this into a large scale operation, going as far as advertising in local newspapers but that lasted only until his mother got an unfriendly phone call from the BSA. Apparently, even back then there were copyright laws.

My friend, disillusioned, lost most of his interest in computers. I on the other hand started reading up on copyright and authorship laws and I found fair use clauses in these laws provided me with the right to do most of what I wanted to do; it wasn't my objective to get rich by commercializing pirated software. I also found that these laws were not just about software, but about music, books, films, newspapers and many more things and those laws were very much biased in favor of the big (media) companies.

Not long after, I discovered the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation

GNU is Not Unix

Now this whole Copyleft thing felt absolutely warm and cozy to me. This was the way software distribution should work. I became an open source evangelist. Still am.

But unfortunately, not every software maker understands this and many companies continue to ship (in my view) broken software with all sorts of limiting licenses. If I were ever to buy software, I want to be able to tinker with it when it doesn't do precisely what I want, in other words: I want the Source! Imagine buying a house or a car and not being able to fix stuff yourself, always having to call the company that built it.

And what goes for software licenses applies equally to all kinds of other terrains, including but not limited to patents (!!) on medication, genes, business practices, mathematical formula, programming API's and many many more. Authorship rights 70 to 100 years after the original author dies? WTF?

It should come as no surprise that I was more than a little bit interested when I read about these people:

Swedish Pirates

My kind of people with the same interests and goals. And soon Pirate Parties started popping up in lots of other countries too. I've been a member of the Dutch "Piratenpartij" since 2011/12 and I even met my present wife there :-D :-D.

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