Rick Falkvinge, founder and chairman of controversial Swedish political organization the Pirate Party, has been confirmed as the opening keynote speaker for this year's In the City (ITC) conference and festival.
Held in Manchester, Oct. 18 to 20, the annual music event will be Falkvinge's first public appearance in the U.K. He is expected to cover issues including civil liberties, the information society, copyright reform and the growing global pirate movement in his keynote address.
The appearance is likely to court controversy, as the party proclaims that its existence is to "reform laws regarding copyright and patents" and "legalize non-commercial file-sharing and reduce the excessive length of copyright protection, while ensuring that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders."
The Pirate Party is now the third largest party in the Sweden in terms of membership and recently won a seat in the European parliament. Its success has spurred the creation of similar parties throughout Europe and the world.
"We are aware that inviting Rick Falkvinge to give the opening address at this year's In the City will be a somewhat controversial choice for many in the music industry," said ITC co-founder Yvette Livesey in a statement. "The Pirate Party takes a strong line on many of the key issues affecting our industry and we are sure that, in the spirit of debate and discussion that In The City has always advocated and encouraged, it will give us all food for thought."
Previously announced speakers include Anthony Volodkin, founder of MP3 and music blog aggregator Hypemachine; Simon Raymonde, founder of U.K. independent label Bella Union in conversation with Pat Nevin, former soccer star and now writer/broadcaster; and Gered Mankowitz, music photographer (Billboard.biz, July 22).
ITC was founded in 1992 by Livesey and the late Anthony Wilson, of Factory Records, and has grown to be the U.K.'s premier music business conference and festival. Organizers now claim the event attracts over 100,000 to the city each year.