Pirates take aim on parliament with new political party

One of the parties that will be vying for votes in early elections this autumn will be a piracy-advocacy group. That’s not piracy on the high seas mind you, but the act of file sharing of copyrighted materials over the internet. The practice has infuriated copyright holders, who claim it is stifling their sales, and file sharers themselves were outraged recently when a Swedish court handed down a prison sentence to the operators of a well known file sharing server. Now proponents of file sharing are turning their soapbox issue into a political platform in countries around the world, and the Czech Republic is about to be one of them.

If you think a “Czech Pirate Party” sounds like just a bit of fun and pirate file sharers are in it for another kind of “party”, think again. The Swedish Pirate Party for example is currently the third strongest in that country and is set to take a seat in the European Parliamentary elections currently underway. Pirate parties have emerged in more than 20 countries around the world. Now the Czech Republic is to have one too, and Anežka Bubeníčková will be its Prague spokeswoman.

“We have the same aims as the other pirate parties in the world, so our main target is to change the copyright laws to reflect current technological possibilities, and the other main point is the protection of the freedom of speech and privacy in terms of the freedom of speech on the internet.”

The legal and moral ambiguity of sharing copyrighted content over the internet has kept the topic in the news for a decade now. The recent decision by a court in Sweden to jail four owners of the popular Pirate Bay server for one year has galvanised the file sharing movement and created a political cause that young people in particular are responding to en masse. In 2007 the Swedish Pirate Party had 9,000 members – following the Pirate bay conviction their numbers swelled to more than five times that.

Photo: archive of ČRo 7 - Radio Prague
For the pirate parties, the cause is clear: they want knowledge, fun and culture, things they say they don’t have to pay for because they can belong to no one. Sharing a copy, says Ms Bubeníčková, does not equate to the theft of the original – there is nothing lost and much to gain.

“What are children taught when they are young? Share! Share your sweets with your friends, share everything with your friends. And when they grow up they have some songs and things that they can really easily share and then they are told that this is illegal? I think file sharing being illegal defies human logic, culture and history.”

The Czech Pirate Party may have a hard time garnering the kind of support their Swedish comrades enjoy, but they do have time, with their first campaign being for the Czech parliamentary elections this fall. The main thing that they may have on their side, however, is a campaigning tool whose import can hardly be overstated and that every modern party yearns to conquer – the internet, with its masses of young voters, all connected.