German Pirate Party’s strong showing in the May elections is a sign that anti-IPR movements resonate with the people
Which is the fastest growing political party in Europe? The surprise answer is Piratenpartei or the German Pirate Party, which is fast eclipsing the Green Party and the Left in Merkel country. Last month, the German Pirates took an impressive eight to 12 per cent of the votes in several states—the country is a federation of 16 states—and 45 seats in the regional parliaments (of a total of 1,890 seats), stunning Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic bloc. This is the biggest breakthrough in conventional politics for a group that subscribes to unconventional principles. Since 2006 when the first such political party, Piratpartiet, was formed in Sweden, pirate parties have come up in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain, all of these affiliated to Pirate Parties International. The Swedes made their mark in 2009 when they garnered 7.13 per cent of the votes and became eligible to send two of their Pirates to the European Parliament although they were unable to make a mark in domestic politics.
But the power of digital democracy has been growing in leaps and bounds since then, specially when piracy is the issue. In February this year, hundreds of thousands of people poured out into the icy streets of Europe to rally against ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, aimed at stopping piracy and counterfeiting and having serious implications for Net freedom.
The May elections in Germany have made it clear that the movement against unbalanced intellectual property rights (IPRs) is finding resonance with voters, allowing the pirate brig to come ashore, its flag flying high in mainstream politics. The breakthrough occurred in September 2011 when the Pirates took nearly nine per cent of the vote and 15 seats in the Berlin parliament. It is hard to believe that such a simple plank—an aversion to strong copyright laws combined with a passion for keeping the Net free of government control—can charm voters and win seats. But patently, these are compelling arguments.
Pirates stand for copyright reforms that will free cultural works for non-commercial use, radical overhaul of the patent system and right to privacy for Net users. They also seek transparent governance that will allow people access to public records. On patents, some take extreme positions: patents should be abolished (gradually) because the current system has resulted in privatised monopolies which “are one of society’s worst enemies”. All this finds resonance with societies in which the Net has become the public square of discourse and policy.
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