More voices in the EP for digital rights

By EDRi · June 17, 2009

The recent elections have brought more seats for parties supporting digital
rights in the European Parliament (EP), such as the Greens, UK Independence
Party or the Liberal Democrats. The Swedish Pirate Party has succeeded in
getting a seat as well.

The Pirate Party has succeeded in obtaining 7% of the votes in Sweden, thus
winning one representative in the EP. In case the Lisbon Treaty is adopted,
it might even get one more seat. The success of the party is due to two
recent events: the EU’s intellectual property enforcement directive which
asks that ISPs turn over traffic data to copyright holders who are trying to
track down filesharers and which was brought into force by the Swedish
Government in April 2009 and the result of the Pirate Bay trial. The party’s
success has proven that privacy rights and fair copyright systems matter to
Swedish people.

Ray Corrigan, senior lecturer in ­technology at the Open University,
explains: “A lot of IP laws are being driven through because they are off
most people’s cognitive agendas. If you start knocking people off the
internet for ­allegedly infringing copyright those numbers start to grow
into the thousands, or tens of thousands, very quickly. It has a direct
impact on their children’s education and some people may need the internet
for their job.”

The Pirate Party will join either the Green or the Liberal groupings in the
European Parliament. “There have been no formal discussions, but we have
been invited by a few groups for informal talks,” said Christian Engstroem,
a computer programmer and the candidate heading the party’s list who also
said that the party would join the one grouping that will be the closest to
the party’s positions on Internet freedoms.

The Pirate Party presence may bring new debates on the issues of patents and
copyright and privacy. Their position is for a five year copyright term, a
file sharing exception and the abolishment of patents.

EDRi-member Open Rights Group considers that the Pirate Party has some
positions that are a little extreme but the party’s cultural flat rate
proposal might be something similar to a payment made in exchange for a file
sharing exception. While the Pirate Party advocates for a 5-year term
copyright, many copyright academics feel the economically optimal term is
rather 15 years than the life plus 70 years that is now in force.

Sweden is not the only country where digital rights supporters have
succeeded in making their voice heard. The German pirate party,
Piratenpartei Deutschland, won close to 1% of the vote. And registered
“Pirate Parties” now exist in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Poland and Spain.
Similar groups are attempting to register as political parties in the UK and
the US as well.

“My view is that IP is a good and necessary thing. I’m not in favour of a
free-for-all but I do think that there are many important questions that
need to be addressed. I think it’s a good thing that you are getting
representatives in parliament who wish to challenge the established view,”
stated Andrew Dearing, secretary general of the European Industrial
Research ­Management Association.

A new and fresh breath of air will be beneficial for the atmosphere in the
European Parliament that relies more on the Internet as a source of
information, but also as a communication tool with its voters. A survey
carried out by Fleishman-Hillard during 1 April to 1 May 2009 shows that
although most MEPs largely use the Internet, it seems most of them still
believe traditional forms of communication, such as television or
newspapers, are more effective. About 75 percent of the MEPs use a web page
to communicate with their voters, 93% use search engines daily to understand
issues. Still, many of them have to open up to social online media as only
thirty-three percent of them use the social media networks “extensively”, 20
percent occasionally, but 29 percent “do not use them or do not plan to use

“Members of the European Parliament recognise that EU citizens go online and
that they therefore need a web presence. However, the majority of MEPs do
not currently take full advantage of social media tools as a means to engage
with voters and drive them to their websites,” the survey said.

Pirates to join Green or Liberal groups in EU parliament (3.06.2009)

Majority of MEPs do not ‘tweet’ (4.06.2009)

Sweden’s Pirate party sails to success in European elections (11.06.2009)

What do the EU results and Pirate Party mean for digital rights? (9.06.2009)

EDRIgram: The Pirate Bay asks for retrial claiming conflict of interest