Pirates abroad!

David Hatten, Tip of the Hat

Getting youth involved in government is always difficult. We are a massive voting base but tapping into that base is harder than getting Mitt Romney to emote. The 18 to 30 demographic, despite its size, isn’t pandered to quite as much because many politicians don’t see the benefit (the most notable exception being President Obama). However, in the past few years in Europe there has been a political movement known as the Pirate Party. The Pirate Party has risen from obscurity in its home country of Sweden and recently became significant in Germany. It is now an international political party focused on copyright law and personal privacy on the internet. The Pirate Party is gaining momentum and influence due in part to its appeal to youth, which most other political parties can’t generate.

The Pirate Party (Piratpartiet in Swedish) began in 2006 as a way to promote internet privacy and copyright reform. It is chiefly concerned with copyright/patent reform, administrative transparency with regards to the Internet, and personal privacy on the internet. Growth was slow; after the party’s inception, members gradually trickled in. Even as it gained momentum, it wasted some time learning some hard knocks; by only focusing on internet issues and simply not caring about any other political issues it scared away a slew of potential voters. However, since then the Piratpartiet has gained enough support in Sweden to get seats in the European Parliament. Pirate Parties have cropped up all over Europe and there are now over 16 iterations registered with both their home government and Pirate Parties International. There are even a few here in America, though our system of government is far less conducive to allowing small political parties a voice.

The really impressive thing about the Pirate Party is its success outside of its home country. In Germany, the Pirate Party recently ascended to the third most popular party, below only to the two main parties. Germany used the Swedish template to great success. If more countries in the European Union take this route and send a small number of Pirate Party delegates to the European Parliament, they will get a chance to do what legions of internet users at home can’t: to actually stop this nonsense. While the fight to stop SOPA and PIPA seemed successful at the time, we are quickly realizing that the people who created SOPA still have their jobs. The people who created SOPA are still getting significant funds from organizations like the RIAA and MPAA to make copyright law more powerful and to infringe upon the freedoms of people on the internet through violation of privacy. Sweden’s citizens recognized this, and their solution is quickly approaching actual results.

Within the next decade we may see the European Union successfully fight oppressive measures like SOPA (and the brand new CISPA that’s more of the same). In the words of a Pirate Party member, “[if we change information policy in the European Union], the world will have to follow, since no monopolistic repression happens if Europe doesn’t agree to it – since the EU is the world’s largest economy, larger than the U.S.” Despite the idealistic naiveté in this statement, the idea is there. There’s no guarantee that the U.S. will follow if the EU stifles patent trolls and copyright hounds. However, the Pirate Party is doing more than simply protest; they’re infiltrating the system that is trying to oppress us and using our generation to do it. If anyone can properly capture the youth vote and stop the government’s attempts at internet censorship, it’s the Pirate Party.