Pirate Party grabs seats in election

Politicians claim film helped Greens in France

BERLIN — Sweden’s Pirate Party, which campaigns in favor of the sharing of music and video files on the Internet, is heading to Brussels after receiving more than 7% of the country’s votes in the European Parliament elections on Sunday.

The victory, certain to make the battle against piracy a more complicated task, follows the recent conviction by a Swedish court of the four operators of the Pirate Bay file-sharing site.

The Pirate Party saw membership skyrocket after the Stockholm court sentenced the Pirate Bay crew in April.

Established in 2006, the party advocates shortening the duration of copyright protection, allowing non-commercial file sharing, strengthening privacy protection, doing away with the patent system, abolishing the European Union data retention directive and rolling back government surveillance legislation.

An exit poll conducted by Swedish pubcaster SVT indicated that the Pirate Party had won 7.4% of the Swedish vote, likely giving it up to two seats in the European Parliament.

Sweden’s Social Democrats led in the election with 25.1%, followed by the Moderates with 18.5% and the Greens with 11.5%.

According to SVT’s survey, 12% of men and 4% of women voted for the Pirate Party. Among voters under 30, some 19% are believed to have cast a vote for the Pirate Party, which local observers say has become the biggest party among young people.

Top of the list among the most important issues for Pirate Party voters in deciding party allegiance was the freedom to share files.

“Together, we have today changed the landscape of European politics,” said party leader Rick Falkvinge, hailing the victory. “This feels wonderful. The citizens have understood it’s time to make a difference.”

The Pirate Party has taken particular issue with a controversial new law approved by the French lower house last month to counter Internet piracy.

The “three-strikes” law would cut off Internet access to users found to be repeatedly downloading copyrighted content illegally.

“Copyright protection measures that lead to repression are unacceptable,” Falkvinge recently told Daily Variety, stressing that cutting someone off from the Internet is cruel and unusual punishment — a form of “social isolation” since the Internet has become a vital extension of modern society.

Despite the Pirate Party’s success, the elections were widely seen as a disappointment for the European Union as a whole, with a record low 43% of 375 million eligible voters bothering to go to the polls.

European leaders fear the dismal result could hurt the credibility of the European Parliament and put the relevance of the European Union into question.

In France, meanwhile, journalists and politicians have linked the impact of the environmental film “Home” on the record score nabbed by Europe Ecologie, which is aligned with the Green Party lobby in the European Parliament. Europe Ecologie’s vote was up 11% at 16%, putting it joint second with the Socialists with 14 seats each. It previously had only six seats.

Co-produced by Luc Besson’s Blue and Elzevir Films and directed by famed French lenser Yann Arthus-Bertrand, “Home” aired two days before the election on France Televisions and got 33% of the market share at 8:35 p.m. and 37.8% at 9:48 p.m.

According to several newspapers, including Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation, politicians from across the board have claimed the film helped the Europe Ecologie nab more votes than usual.

EuropaCorp released the film on multiple platforms in 126 countries on the eve of the election on June 5.

“I think we certainly influenced the vote but it was a date we chose two years ago,” said “Home” director Arthus-Bertrand, adding that June 5 is World Environment Day. “This release date was therefore chosen before the European elections’.”

A spokesperson for France Televisions denied allegations that broadcasting the pic was part of a strategy to help the Europe Ecologie.

Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.

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