Six Months Until European Elections; Pirate Party Scorecard All One Could Hope For
Pirate Parties – Rick Falkvinge
Six months from today, on May 25, the Pirate Party movement has its first re-election as the Swedish Pirate Party defends its two seats in the European Parliament. Getting re-elected is a different ballgame than getting elected as a challenger; defending the title means you need to show results. The Pirate Party’s scorecard for re-election is not just acceptable; it is downright impressive.
In the summer of 2009, the Swedish Pirate Party got elected to the European Parliament with first one, then two seats, after having become Sweden’s largest party in the important sub-30 demographic. This was the breakthrough success of the Pirate Party movement that has since been replicated in many other countries out of the 70 where the party has been founded so far.
But getting elected on a platform of change and progress is something different than getting re-elected on having delivered. So what does the Pirate Party scorecard look like as the first term comes to an end? With six months to go until the election, and the election campaign more or less getting into gear today, let’s look at why the Swedish Pirate Party deserves re-election: let’s look at what has been delivered in terms of making Europe a better place – and all this with just two out of 750+ Members of European Parliament.
The Pirate Party prevented three strikes in Europe. The very first thing that happened during the term was the final negotiation of the so-called Telecoms Package, where the copyright industry had been lobbying very heavily for the introduction of three strikes in Europe – wanting to shut people off the net on mere accusation of breaking the copyright monopoly, denying them the most basic of citizens’ rights for inconveniencing an obsolete business interest. But through a combination of skill, luck, and hard work, a Pirate Party representative (Christian Engström) ended up in the final negotiations group from the European Parliament, and there was no way the Pirate Party would accept Parliament getting steamrolled by obsolete business interests. Three strikes was successfully prevented, and made illegal in all of Europe, singlehandedly thanks to important footwork from the Swedish Pirate Party.
The Pirate Party stopped the ACTA anti-liberty trade agreement. Through hard, disciplined and tenacious work, the Pirate Party was able to galvanize the Parliament-internal prong of the two-prong approach to stop this beast that was, at best, shameless mail-order legislation from the copyright industry. While many activist groups worked hard to achieve this result, and the credit lies with all of them, the Pirate Party was the only one on the inside of Parliament doors to give the Members of European Parliament a accurate picture, a different picture from the one painted by corporate shills. Therefore, having the Pirate Party in the European Parliament was not sufficient to win, but having the Pirate Party on the inside was a necessary component for victory – from Amelia Andersdotter’s footwork in the Industry committee to Christian Engström’s in the Legal Affairs committee. We successfully aided the pressure externally too, from reporting on events, to helping organize and galvanize the external resistance, to successfully suggesting flowers to be sent after the vote to representatives that chose to represent the people rather than corporates, in an unprecedented move that the European Parliament could impossibly ignore. Our combination of inside insight, never-ceasing explaining, and external activism was a key enabler for this work. And as ACTA was killed in Europe, it died worldwide.
The Pirate Party has won mainstream support for radical but necessary copyright monopoly reform. Going from a proposal to getting mainstream support is hard, but one of the major party groups in the European Parliament – the Green Group – has thrown all their weight behind the Pirate Party’s proposal for copyright monopoly reform, including cutting the baseline commercial monopoly to five years from publication, always allowing noncommercial sharing, a criminalization of any form of DRM, free sampling and remixing, and more. While the Green Group alone isn’t a majority, this is a huge step toward one of the end goals.
Overall, the first term can be described as a series of brilliant and successful political moves, a drawing of the infamous line in the sand, and a turning the tide of the war on civil liberties by the obsolete copyright industry. The copyright industry’s offensive has been successfully halted, through hard and tenacious work. But the momentum needs to continue in order to push the battle lines of civil liberties forward.
Here’s a sample of things that we already know will be handled during the next term, where the Pirate Party needs to be present:
Copyright monopoly reform. We don’t know when this item arrives, nor what the initial proposal will look like. But we know that we will be necessary to dissect and counter the worst parts that will initially come from so-called “stakeholders”, meaning the worst industries. Actually, we’re quite optimistic that with the natural rejuvenation of Parliament, we will be able to drag the copyright industry kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The goal, of course, is to fully legalize at least the noncommercial sharing of knowledge and culture – something that should never have had to wait this long. This is within the realm of possible outcomes, something it wasn’t before the Pirate Party’s first term.
Civil liberties online. The European Parliament has already started a series of hearings following Snowden’s revelations of widespread abuse of power by the American, British, and Swedish security services. This will continue well into the next term.
Net neutrality. This crucial battle for the future of the Internet (and, I may add, against rent-seeking by an obsolete telecom industry) is only starting, and the first stake in the ground shows that there is much work to be done. Net neutrality or not? That question will probably be determined during the next term.
Another trade agreement. Today, much focus lies on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but an equally insidious agreement named TTIP is in the works – all in secret, as usual – between the US and the EU. We may need to scuttle that one as we did ACTA, if the initial reports of downright outrageous content holds true.
The Swedish Pirate Party aims to defend its two seats and is gunning for a third, out of Sweden’s twenty. That’s an ambitious goal, but within the realm of the realistic. Whether that goal succeeds will largely depend on you, you who are reading this. You are probably following this blog and these articles, and a lot of the future success depends on people just talking about the Pirate Party between now and six months out, causing many people to hear the name, over and over again.
Talk about the Pirate Party with your friends and colleagues. Mention the party by name, and mention that it needs to get re-elected. The swarm way of tens of thousands of people who do something small is what enabled the victory in the first place, and it can work just as brilliantly again. You can be a part of this.