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600 Days To Go Until European Elections In 2014: Why The Pirate MEPs Are Needed In Brussels

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Pirate Parties

Pirate Parties

As this article gets published, it is exactly 600 days until the European Elections open at 08:00 on June 8, 2014. What has the Pirate Party accomplished in Brussels so far in this term, and why is it necessary to keep them in Brussels? Let’s take a look.

In 2009, the Swedish Pirate Party got one person elected to the European Parliament, followed by a second person about half-term as the Lisbon Treaty took effect. I’d dare say that the impact of these people has been formidable so far, and would like to illustrate just how large an impact these people have had – and why it’s imperative to keep them there as a line of defense for the foreseeable future.

In short: Without them, there would now be a “three-strikes” scheme in Europe, and ACTA would most likely have been in global effect. Instead, the political support for copyright monopoly reform has grown by orders of magnitude, and finally, there are subtle but very important changes in the language used by Parliament.

Let’s take them in detail, one by one:

1. The Pirate MEPs were necessary to stop ACTA.

Without the Pirate MEPs, ACTA would be a global treaty today well on its way to coming into force, with all what that means.

Take careful note that I don’t say here that the Pirate MEPs were sufficient for victory on their own, which they certainly weren’t, but I am saying they were necessary for victory. Our first MEP, Christian Engström, had been relentlessly grinding the issue since 2009, when everybody else considered it a done deal. But through unwavering activist pressure from the outside, combined with MEPs on the inside who could explain in the legislative corridors what all the protests were about, the European Parliament turned and ACTA died globally.

Of course, you’ll hear many politicians taking credit for this victory, after having changed their minds following the large-scale street protests in 2012. But there is a very large political difference in having an opinion when asked, and actually spending your working day pushing an issue. To illustrate:

There is a difference between having an opinion on football, and actually playing football.

(Everybody who voted the right way should have proper credit, of course, but this particular article is about what use we’ve had for the Pirate MEPs in Brussels so far.)

It wasn’t just the soft issues and working on the inside, either: on some occassions, it came down to actual votes. Pirate MEP Andersdotter’s draft report on ACTA (“reject”) was carried in the Industry Committee as a whole. MEP Gallo’s draft report on ACTA (“accept”) was rejected in the Legal Affairs committee with the narrowest possible of margins – and Pirate MEP Engström was one of the ones voting against it.

2. A Pirate MEP made “three-strikes” schemes illegal.

The very first victory in Brussels was the so-called Telecoms Package, which had gone through a number of bureaucratic hoops on its way to becoming law. As Pirate MEP Engström took office, it was down to a roundtable negotiation between the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council – the last step if Europe’s institutions can’t agree on a new law. MEP Engström was one of the people in the Parliament’s delegation, and together with his colleague MEP Lamberts in the Green group, managed to turn this from a done corpoate deal to something where the dignity of Parliament itself was at stake.

Various lobby-rich institutions wanted the ability to cut people off from the Internet after mere allegations of wrongdoing in their eyes, and they wanted the ability to do so en masse. By requiring something as basic as due process of law for revoking a fundamental right (for access to the net is indeed a fundamental right today, as we exercise our other fundamental rights through it), the plans of the copyright industry to kill our civil liberties en masse by so-called “three strikes” schemes was stopped abruptly.

Specifically, it was determined at the time that the telecoms package must pass the “Hadopi test” – meaning, it must make the French Hadopi authority, and the French law under which it operates, illegal. Through a great deal of Pirate MEP Engström’s footwork (as well as contributions from many activists outside Parliament that put pressure from the outside), this was also the end effect. “Three strikes” schemes are now illegal in the entire European Union.

(To this day, France continues to ignore this fact.)

Again, having the Pirate MEP in the European Parliament’s delegation was far from sufficient for victory. But his presence was necessary for victory.

3. Grown support for copyright monopoly reform.

Since taking office, the political support for a thorough reform of the copyright monopoly has grown from being two pirate MEPs to now being the mainline position of one of the major political groups: the entire Green group has taken the position of legalizing all noncommercial file-sharing, cutting commercial protection times to (at most) 20 years, requiring registration of works for a continued commercial monopoly, banning DRM enforcement, and allowing remixes, mashups, and quotations. (This proposal is summarized in the book The Case For Copyright Reform.)

Before the Pirate Party MEPs took office, this was considered an absolutely impossible and highly improbable position to ever succeed. Today, it’s becoming a mainline proposal through the persistent political footwork in Brussels of the Pirate MEPs – but politics take time, and much more work is needed to push it over the 50% barrier.

4. Contribute with, and instill, sense and proper language.

Perhaps the greatest contributions so far are the ones that aren’t very visible on the outside – those of framing the political discussion in proper language. Wherever there’s a pirate MEP, the copyright maximalists’ language will be shot down in a heartbeat.

You can observe that you don’t hear childish expressions like “copyright theft”, “piracy” or similar ridiculous terms out of the European Parliament any longer (except where “piracy” actually refers to robbing on the high seas, as defined by the United Nations). You will also note that you don’t hear the equally childish conflation “piracy and counterfeiting”, deliberately equating teenagers sharing music with counterfeit fatal medicine, anywhere near as often as you used to. Through hard and persistent work, our MEPs have pointed out improper and biased use of language, re-framing the entire debate out of the copyright lobbyists’ and the monopoly maximalists’ hands. This is subtle, but lays the foundation for the political work yet to come.

You may also have noted that language that was considered absolutely politically impossible before the Pirate entry into the European Parliament is starting to pass Parliament’s committees. This report, for instance, recently passed the important International Trade Committee – the same committee that owned ACTA – by a 25-4 majority, with my highlights:

[the committee] is aware that there is concern that some people increasingly hear the word copyright and hate what lies behind it;

[the committee] calls on the Member States and the Commission to develop IPR policy in order to continue to allow those who wish to create their own content and share it without acquiring IPR to do so;

This language is extraordinary. Not just the first paragraph, which is extraordinary enough; this is a call for abolishing the silly copyright monopoly rules about the “clearance culture” that prohibits creators from creating something larger out of smaller components, and would instantly undo ridiculous lawsuits against parents who post videos of dancing toddlers with The Simpsons running on a TV in the background.

Yes, the report was drafted by Pirate MEP Andersdotter, and it was globally noted through the keen eyes of Glyn Moody.

You will note that this, allowing remixes and mashups, is a part of the proposal to reform the copyright monopoly overall – and this shows that support is growing well beyond the Green group in the parliament through persistent and tenacious political footwork, passing the heavyweight International Trade Committee.

Conclusions

Basically, I wanted to highlight what the Pirate MEPs are doing for your liberty in the European Parliament. Without them, there would now be a “three-strikes” scheme in Europe, and ACTA would most likely have been in effect.

They are doing tremendously important work already, and are needed not only to keep doing that work and defending all our civil liberties against the relentless onslaught from corporate lobbyists, but also to keep turning the tides long-term and making reform happen, pulling the teeth from the monopoly lobbyists, one by one.

600 days to go until the elections on June 8, 2014.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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This article is also available in other languages: French, Czech.

By participating in the discussion and posting here, you are placing your contribution in the public domain (CC0). If you are quoting somebody else, credit them.

Contributors take own responsibility for their comments.

27

  1. 1
    MP

    “Hapopi test” should prbly be “Hadopi test”. Cheers!

  2. 2
    Caleb Lanik

    Thanks for this. I wish the states had a chance at getting a pirate party off the ground. First pass the post is the worst way of having an election that I can think of.

  3. 3
    Quinn

    You started something that definitely filled, and will continue to fill, a need. Thanks, Rick.

  4. 4

    Check my “website” link to read why I think the previous victories of the PP may not be repeatable across EU, that is the “Reason 0″ why the PP won in Germany

  5. 5
    Mattias

    “Pirate MEPs where sufficient for victory” – where should probably be were. :) Great post and summary though!

  6. 6
    jimbo

    if the money paid by corporations for lobbying could be stopped, think of the reforms that could be sensibly discussed and, hopefully, changed for the better then.

    when is the list of MEPs released? when do we know what areas are being represented by each?

  7. [...] skriver en utmärkt sammanfanttande bloggpost (på engelska) om vad Piratpartiet har gjort hittills i [...]

  8. 7
    Meeeee

    Is there anywhere people can go to see if I have a pirate candidate I can vote for. I’m in the UK but a central page somewhere telling people who they can vote for and when they can vote for them depending on their location would be awesome.

    Despite the fact I’m not a “pirate” in the sense the media use it I am ideologically, thanks in some part to the eloquence of the arguments put forth in this blog and how they match up to my own political ideals when it comes to civil liberties and fairness. I think that’s a good sign for what you’re trying to achieve.

    I also think the first past the post comment above is true. Maybe when you rule Europe you could enforce democracy on the UK please so my future votes for you wont feel wasted and I’ll actually have the chance to vote for things I believe in and have it count when they tally up the seats.

  9. 8

    It’s a good point that the language has improved, but still there are awful monopoly maximalist propaganda terms such as “content” and “IPR”. See this article for explanation:
    https://gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid

    • 8.1
      Agreed

      I’m a psychologist, and IPR has nothing to do with a studio exec’s $3,000 suit. It stands for intensive psychiatric rehab.

      Then again, I’m sure there are plenty of suits that’ll need it as they watch their stranglehold on people dissipate over time.

  10. 9
    Zeissmann

    I’d love to vote for a pirate representative. Unfortunately there is no Pirate Party in Poland. They tried to register one as far back as 2006, unfortunately with no luck. So what can I do?

  11. 10
    RealPaul

    A few can make a great difference. The European Pirates are an inspiration to all us Pirates. It will be take awhile here on the other side of the Atlantic, but one day I believe there will be Pirates standing in the HoC in Ottawa.

  12. [...] As this article gets published, it is exactly 600 days until the European Elections open at 08:00 on June 8, 2014. What has the Pirate Party accomplished in Brussels so far in this term, and why is it necessary to keep them in Brussels? Let’s take a look.  [...]

  13. 11
    Ano Nymous

    Good post!

    Let’s just hope that the Pirate MEPs can stop this, it is downright terrible: https://www.flashback.org/t1969526
    http://www.friatider.se/sa-vill-eu-avskaffa-yttrandefriheten-pa-natet (Both links in Swedish)
    These are the only places I’ve read anything about it. Nothing from the Pirates yet, nothing from mainstream media. The latter is propably intentional.

    Also, Rick, I have been trying to contact you by e-mail. I got your first answer but nothing after that, and that was weeks ago. Are you just busy or is there something wrong with one of our e-mail service providers?

  14. 12
    Ano Nymous

    I was wrong, one Pirate has written about Clean IT – Christian Engström: https://christianengstrom.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/six-questions-on-clean-it/

  15. 14
    Johan

    While PP in sweden don’t have to ask for my vote im afraid that the grey mass of sweden always forget and get distracted by shiny things when it comes to elections … I am fairly sure that if you would go ask 10 random people on the street in sweden 9 of those would have no clue what ACTA was. and 5 of those would probebly think PP was some sort of computer criminals … or worse …

    You wrote a 4 step ladder before on this page i am still afraid it will boil down to the last …

  16. 15
    DigitalFreedom

    Another thing I would like to see much more in the future is hard push for free and open standards/file formats/protocols and for free and open source software. We really need to escape from the proprietary software monopolies trap.

  17. 16
    mmad

    CZ PP with green and christian people party got senate Libor Michalek.

  18. [...] Det är otroligt kul att få representera Piratpartiet i EU-parlamentet — i synnerhet eftersom det märks att vi gör nytta. Vi stoppade ACTA-avtalet. Den Gröna partigruppen har antagit vårt program för legaliserad fildelning, och våra idéer håller på att sprida sig så sakteliga till andra partigrupper också. Vi är på rätt spår och vi gör skillnad. [...]

  19. [...] when the next European Elections are held. Pirates entered Parliament on June 7, 2009, and have since saved Europe from “three-strikes”, ACTA, and many other examples of encroachment on [...]

  20. […] il s'agit beaucoup de politiques qui ne sont applicables qu'à haut niveau (national, européen voire mondial). Et de fait, ces idées largement partagées le sont justement parce que c'est à un […]

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Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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