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Pirate Parties gain sway in Europe

Populast movement influences web-rights policies

As the entertainment industry wages its war on copyright bandits, the international Pirate Party movement continues to grow, with nascent orgs now established in 44 countries.

The name “Pirate Party” might conjure images of a rum-lubricated beach bash, but it’s not causing any merriment in the industry.

What started out in 2006 as a small new party in Sweden to limit intellectual property laws and strengthen privacy rights has grown into a worldwide political movement intent on rolling back what it perceives to be excessive anti-piracy measures by the entertainment industry and increasingly draconian legislation aimed at dismantling civil rights.

While they’re no threat to win a majority anywhere, Sweden’s Pirate Party holds two seats in the European Parliament, and its impact has been tangible, though the movement has had electoral setbacks in the U.K. and Germany recently.

Unsurprisingly, the Pirate platform doesn’t sit well with showbiz rights-holders.

Christian Sommer, director of anti-piracy operations at Warner Bros. Entertainment for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and head of Germany’s Society for the Prosecution of Copyright Infringement (GVU), dismisses the Pirate Party’s overall impact in Germany.

“Their current agenda is too narrow to attract a broader electorate,” Sommer says. “But if the Pirate Party widened the scope of its political agenda, it would loose its identity.”

Rick Falkvinge, leader and founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, rejects that notion.

“We are not a one-issue party,” Falkvinge says. “We are a one-perspective party dealing with tens of thousands of issues all related to the information society and information security at a national and individual level.”

Sommer says the party actually made itself redundant by putting Internet-related issues on the agenda of all established parties.

In the European Parliament, the Pirate Party worked to weaken the controversial three-strikes laws in France and the U.K. by demanding judicial review before authorities can disconnect or sanction someone over file-sharing. The party is also partnering with the Greens on an Internet Bill of Rights.

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