On January 1, 2006, Rick Falkvinge set up a web page for the Swedish Pirate Party. He mentioned the address in a single chat room, and within 24 hours he had over the 2,000 signatures he needed for the party to participate in the upcoming election.
What do these pirates want? With such a name it can be hard to take the party seriously, but politicians are taking notice now and so should you. The Swedish Pirate Party now has a seat in the EU Parliament, two if the Treaty of Lisbon goes into affect, changing various aspects of how the EU's government works. And the party has spread far beyond the EU. It might even be in your own back yard.
Don't dismiss this party with platitudes or overly-simplified notions. When Falkvinge gave the keynote at Open Web Vancouver 2009 he did his best to explain their rationale, which in a way is summed up in the name of his first slide, "The File Sharing Debate and the Copyright Regime."
While file sharing is the issue often heard when people talk about the party, Falkvinge feels file sharing is in fact a distraction from the central issue. The file sharing debate focuses everyone on profit and loss, which means that the arguments become whether the record industry is losing money or not. People throw economic studies back and forth with no real way to come to a definitive answer.
But that isn't the point. The Pirate Party's real concern is that of civil liberties. Specifically, that civil liberties are being eroded in support of copyright and many industries that rely on it, industries that are trying to defend obsolete business models rather than adapting to the massive change brought about by the Internet and related technologies.
What Do They Want?
First, their goal was to make politicians stand up and notice. Now that they've taken a more mainstream politician's seat by spending a 2009 campaign budget of US $50,000 versus the mainstream parties' US$ 6 million, Falkvinge said they've definitely accomplished that.
Add that they are the party that Swedes under thirty support the most and that the Pirate Party is popping up in locales worldwide and politicians are scrambling to understand the issues that the younger public is responding to.
So we can pardon the face of hacker politics for his broad grin when he shows the slides with most of the mainstream Swedish newspapers and magazines having his party on the cover the day after the election. If he had just a couple of minutes to tell you what he wanted, he'd likely say to not let yourself be distracted by arguments about whether file sharing is stealing.
Or by accusations that the activity has to be stopped because it's the purview of pedophiles — a tactic that he claims is a common flag to wave in front of politicians not otherwise wanting to do what the corporations want.
Instead, look around you at the disturbing erosions of rights and liberties happening all over the world in the name of propping up a troubled industry. Even those who don't agree with the exact tenets laid out on the Pirate Party's site and the Declaration of Principles linked there might find themselves a little concerned at what's happening around them.
Given how often these issues seem to collide with surveillance on and blocking of the Internet and Web-based services, no Web CMS professional can afford to ignore them.
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