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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Have copyright issues finally entered the mainstream with the rise of the Swedish Pirate Party?

ars technica reported this week on a surprise showing in the recent elections for the European Parliament:

The final returns are still being counted, but Sweden’s Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) has secured at least one seat in today’s elections for the European Parliament. According to Sweden’s election authority, the Pirate Party has crossed the four percent threshold needed for a seat and currently has 7.1 percent of the vote.

“We have just written political history,” said Swedish Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge. “Tonight, politicians have learned that doing what the lobby asks will cost them their jobs. We’re the largest party in the segment below 30 years of age. That’s building the future of liberties.”

With more than 700 legislators in the European Parliament (see the complete breakdown), a vote or two won’t do much to set the agenda. But for a party formed only a few years ago with a narrow set of concerns, this is an excellent showing.

What is the Pirate Party all about? From its manifesto (here in a Swedish PDF, and here in an English translation):

The current copyright legislation can not be combined with freedom of information and protected private communication. Since the fundamental principles of the open, democratic society is more important than conserving old business models within the business of entertainment at all costs, copyright has to fold.

But this is not negative. A reformed copyright legislation, expressing a balance between different interests in society instead of being an order form from the large media companies, has its own benefits.

The copyright legislation must be changes so that it is made perfectly clear that it only regulate use and copying of works done for commercial purposes. To share copies, or in any other way spread or use someone else’s work, should never be forbidden as long as it is done on an idealistic basis without the purposes of commercial gain.

Unfortunately, the legislation has developed in quite the opposite direction. On July 1, 2005, a million ordinary Swedes were suddenly turned into criminals over night, simply because they download movies and music. This doesn’t only hurt our possibilities to take part of culture. In the long run it undermines the trust of our entire judicial apparatus. This development has to end.

In a similar fashion, patents are used to inhibit the spread and use of knowledge, which hurts society as a whole.

Can the Pirate Party hope to have any significant impact? Or is it just a stunt that will fade away as quickly as it arrived? Have copyright issues finally entered the mainstream with the rise of the Swedish Pirate Party?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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