Sweden’s Pirate Party, which hoists a stylized version of the mast a pirate ship as its logo, surprised many by winning at least one, and possibly as many as two seats in the parliament of the European Union. The party, which came in third among Swedish parties, captured a stunning 12% of Swedish male voters, but only 4% of female voters. The Pirate Party was founded in Sweden as an advocacy group for what might loosely be called internet freedom, or the rights of consumers to freely engage in file-sharing. The party grew slowly until the Pirate Bay trial in April of this year, after which membership quadrupled, although there is evidence that it may be now leveling off.
What are the Pirate Party’s political goals? According to its “Declaration of Principles”, the Pirate Party wants nothing less than a sweeping rollback of the intellectual property rights currently held by the copyright and patent holders. Here are the major elements of the Party platform:
• Curtail state and private powers to conduct surveillance on citizens:
According to the Declaration, “[e]ach citizen must be guaranteed the right to anonymity . . . and the right of the individual to control use of his or her personal data must be strengthened.” Consistent with this principle, the Party opposes “special legislation for terror-related crimes”, because these “nullify due process, and risk being used as a repressive tool against immigrants and dissidents.”
The Party also wants a “general communications secrets act.” According to the Declaration: “Just as it is prohibited to read someone else’s mail, it shall be forbidden to read or access e-mail, SMS or other forms of messages, regardless of the underlying technology or who the operator may be. . . . Employers shall only be allowed to access an employee’s messages if this is absolutely necessary to secure the[ir] technological functionality or in direct connection with the employee’s work-related duties. The government shall only be allowed access in the case of a firm suspicion of a crime being committed by said citizen . . .”
• Reduce copyright protections
Citing the vast storehouses of orphaned copyrighted material held by media companies, the Declaration urges changes in laws to make such material available to the general public. However, the changes it proposes go far beyond what would be necessary to achieve this goal and would create laws that encourage consumer copying and use of “protected” materials.