Pirates plunder Berlin booty

New party scores 9% in local elections

Berlin’s political elite and Germany’s entertainment industry may have to batten down the hatches after the fledgling Pirate Party notched up a win in the Teutonic capital.

The young party won an astounding 8.9% in Berlin’s state elections on Sunday, leaving it with 15 seats in the city’s 149-seat parliament and making it a key opposition player alongside the Greens (17.6%), and the Left (11.7%).

Founded in 2006 and inspired by the Swedish Pirate Party, Germany’s Pirates advocate shortening the length of copyright protection, allowing non-commercial file sharing, strengthening privacy protection, limiting the patent system, abolishing data retention laws and rolling back government surveillance legislation, as well as legalizing marijuana and making city metros and buses free for all.

Pirate Party leader Sebastian Nerz called the victory “cool.” “It’s the first time since the 1980s that a new political power has come onto the stage,” he said.

Despite a platform that may concern Hollywood studios, initial reactions among some in Germany’s entertainment industry were calm. Matthias Leonardy, managing director of the MPAA-backed anti-piracy org GVU, dismissed the Pirate success as a protest vote against established parties more than grassroots support for copyright piracy.

The party is made up of many groups, one part of which originated from media piracy, but it has become so big that that aspect appears to have been pushed to the background,” Leonardy said, adding that the party is better known for its support for legalized marijuana and free transport in the city.

Part of it is funny and provocative, and it appears they have no concept. Other party members seem to just want to push the established parties to open themselves up to younger voters.”

Leonardy said the Berlin Pirates have not pushed the anti-copyright agenda as much as the Swedish Party.

According to election research org Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, 80% of Pirate backers said they voted “from dissatisfaction with other parties,” while only 10% supported the party’s platform.

Senator Entertainment CEO Helge Sasse said that the main parties set to make up Berlin’s government, Social Democrats and Greens, support copyright protection and that the Pirates have a small minority.Sasse added that with regards to the party’s philosophy regarding intellectual property, “It’s not explicit in their platform whether it really refers to film. Personally I’m not of the opinion that the Pirate Party people really want films to be illegally copied under the current law. If that were the case, our view would be that that is simply not possible.”Whether they are just a political fad or the founders of a lasting new movement remains to be seen. According to German news website Spiegel Online, the party offered voters something long missing from local politics: “The Pirates also have something other parties have long since lost — credibility, authenticity and freshness.”

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