Internet Piracy – Is File Sharing a Civil Liberty?
This is the first in a series of blog posts addressing political taboos, which are not often talked about in mainstream political discussions. However, some of the barriers of discussion are breaking down around these taboos, which we will address.
By Darrell Goodliffe and Jane Watkinson
On August 11th, the Pirate Party registered as a UK political party; its creators reported that it was growing at an exceptional rate with “100 new members every hour” and its Facebook supporters outnumbered both the Conservatives and UKIP. No wonder Mark Pack seemingly felt threatened enough to lend weight to the Daily Telegraph’s jibe they are an ‘apolitical’ party.
The political nature of the Pirate Party is demonstrated by their three key policies, which are: reforming copyright and patent law; tackling the ‘big brother’ state imposed by the government and businesses; and to allow for freedom of speech. There is nothing apolitical about that. Pack’s comments may stem from fear of the Pirates reducing our claim to being the protest vote, with the party having a strong under 30 year old following.
In Sweden, the Pirate Party has been leading the charge against the FRA law and the attack on civil liberties by the Swedish government that much like our government with RIPA and ID cards has been busy trashing civil liberties in the name of the ‘war on terror’. Young Swedes regard file sharing as a civil liberty and who can blame them given the cultural importance of music; through fighting against corporate copyright they have been brought into the wider battle and mainstream Swedish parties youth wings have adopted ‘pirate policies’.
The Pirate Bay founders being jailed and fined set a precedent in the sense that if they can be jailed, anyone can – so it gave more impetus for the Pirate Party’s growth. This ties in with a story in the Daily Mail regarding Mandelson’s apparent crackdown on file sharing. With the Pirate Party registering in the UK, this can act as a catalyst for their growth in mainstream politics.
Music is a part of our culture and heritage as much as any exhibit regarded as a national treasure and what is more is a part of a person’s identity. The Pirate Party has an important political message about the infringement of civil liberties and people realising this are drawn into wider debates about other attacks on civil liberties. Its popularity is justified in the context of the wider battle to protect civil liberties and we should not stand aside from it or dismiss it as ‘apolitical’.