A much-needed Party of Pirates

Here’s a fun thing to cheer up your Monday: a new political party is in formation in the United States. The Pirate Party of the United States is part of an international response to the crackdown on the sharing of intellectual and creative products.

I wrote about this issue briefly in June, but the main catalyst for the Pirate Party was the US-MPAA-backed Swedish raid on the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay back in the spring. Support for piracy and filesharing was already very high in Sweden – the Pirate Party already existed there – but this gave it a huge boost.

Apparently, the barriers to entry for a political party are very low in Sweden and the Pirate Party seems to be on the verge of actually capturing seats in the parliament, which could give it some leverage in shaping the government there.

They’ve also inspired allies to launch parties in Belgium, France, and Italy. There is also an international pro-piracy lobby.

The situation is very different in the US, of course, where third parties are relegated to the margins. It makes one question if that is the best way to build a movement around this issue here. On the other hand, one can imagine how this issue could energize young people here the way it does in Sweden.

The Bush administration is moving in the opposite direction, towards a more repressive online environment. Congress recently ratified the Convention on Cybercrime, a really bad treaty that basically requires the US to enforce other countries’ Internet laws. They’re on the verge of passing DOPA, the Deleting Online Predators Act, which would ban social networking sites (as defined by the FCC) in schools and libraries. These changes are in addition to the corporate-sponsored closing of the Internet that we know of as the loss of net neutrality.

The Pirate Party is focused on copyright reform, privacy, and net neutrality. This has the potential to be a very popular and radical undertaking if they can articulate their message in a plain and compelling way. It’s not easy and I don’t have any reason to assume that they will be able to do this, but I find an issue-based party more compelling than, for example, the Green Party, which just wants to be more progressive in general than the Democrats. I think issue-based third parties have historically had more impact on US politics, too.

Defending the Internet might just be enough to get this party off the ground – at least in Second Life.


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