The politics of pirates
7 March 2012
On Tuesday, BT and Talk Talk lost an appeal over measures to tackle copyright infringement online. The measures dictate that ISPs must send warning letters to alleged copyright infringers and potentially cut off the Internet connections persistent offenders.
Loz Kaye, the leader of the UK Pirate Party, was quick to dismiss the measures, arguing that they are outdated and will do little to fight copyright infringement:
"This decision brings the draconian Digital Economy Act another step closer. The coalition government must be clear now once and for all on whether it supports this anti-internet piece of legislation. No-one has proved that the Act will help the creative industries financially - that is just lobbyists' spin."
But who are the Pirate Party? And is there any merit to their cause?
Initially founded in Sweden in 2006, the first Pirate Party was setup by founders of The Pirate Bay (Wiki), a file-sharing website at the centre of a number of copyright infringement lawsuits. The party's core aim was to reform what it felt to be excessively conservative and archaic copyright and patent legislation.
As well its aim of reforming copyright / patent law, the party's focus on the individual's right to privacy and government transparency, along with an existing and large international online audience, triggered a global movement. Pirate Parties International lists 40 countries across the world in which they now have a presence.
There's no doubt that this represents remarkable growth, surely driven in part by its image and its ties to the Pirate Bay. But one has to think that the future growth of the party - and for that matter its potential for being taken seriously - could be hampered by its connections to a website notorious for illegal file-sharing and whose very moniker tilts at a disregard for intellectual property.
Indeed, the UK Pirate Party, setup in 2009, goes to pains to make clear that it supports, "a fair and balanced copyright law," and that, "counterfeiting and profiting directly from other people's work without paying them," should remain illegal. The party argues that it simply wants a copyright law suitable for the 21st century:
"We want to legalise 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. We want a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die."
It's certainly a reasonable cause, but the party recognises that it stands little chance of gaining seats in the UK. It does, however, argue that it can put pressure on government and political parties to further its causes. Either way, the Pirate Party have a fine line to tread between its edgy, disruptive image and serious politics.