The Pirate Party Effect: German Greens Scramble To Draw Up Digital Policies To Hold On To Voters

from the political-dominoes-start-to-fall dept

The founding of the Pirate Party in Sweden in 2006 was regarded by many as a joke. After all, the argument went, who would want to be associated with "pirates" or vote for such a narrow platform? This overlooked the fact that the traditional political parties had consistently ignored the concerns of voters who understood that the Internet raised important questions about areas such as copyright and privacy. By focusing on precisely those issues, the Pirate Party gave disaffected voters the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the old political parties and their outdated policies.

This they have done not just in Sweden, where two Members of the European Parliament were elected in 2009, but increasingly in Germany. In Berlin, the Pirate Party recently obtained nearly 9% of the vote in the latest Berlin state parliamentary elections, a level of support that is being mirrored across Germany if you believe the latest opinion polls.

Among those most threatened by the rise of the Pirates are the German Greens, a party which has traditionally appealed to precisely the voters that the Pirates are drawing their support from. The risk for the Greens is that the Pirates could take over as the main "alternative" option in German elections, turning the former into an anachronistic throwback to pre-digital times.

To head off this threat, the German Green party has drawn up a 16-page proposal entitled "Openness, freedom, participation – Exploiting the opportunities of the Internet – Making the shift to digital green", which aims to position the Green party as a defender of all those things that make the Pirates attractive to some voters (German original.).

There is support for a shopping list of digital-friendly ideas like Internet freedom, Net neutrality, privacy, data protection, online anonymity and pseudonymity, free software, open access, open data, open government, CC licenses – even for things like free public wifi and DDoS attacks, which the Greens regard as "civil disobedience". There's also a list of things that the Greens don't want: Net censorship, "three strike" exclusions, data retention, online surveillance, software patents and the export of surveillance tools.

That's all good stuff, but the really interesting part of the proposal concerns copyright, because it's here that the Greens are being forced by the Pirate Party to make the most radical shifts, and where the biggest battles within the Green party seem to be taking place. According to a report in the magazine Der Spiegel (original German), the "cultural" wing of the party want copyright to remain as it is, while the "Internet" wing want its term reduced to just five years.

That gulf explains the rather vague statements of the Greens' policy paper on the subject:

We Greens are committed to a modernization and reform of copyright law and to a fair balance between the interests of copyright owners and users; that is, for all Internet participants. We want to strengthen the copyright owners and artists against the exploitation and marketing of their content, but also to provide adequate financial compensation for the free use of their copyrighted content on the Internet. At the same time we want to end the criminalization of non-commercial use of copyrighted works on the Internet and facilitate access to them. If copyrighted material is offered directly on a website or platform, which has a significant (higher than cost recovery) income from contributions from members or through advertising or links, then this counts as commercial scale.
Among the concrete proposals is a right to make private copies:
Private copying may not be prevented by technical measures, such as digital rights management (DRM), or by legal restrictions. Such a copy for private use and the right to copy it to personal devices, be it a laptop, an MP3 player, a tablet PC, or transferred to a smartphone, does not automatically include the right to share it with others publicly.

The proposals contained within the paper are currently just that: not official statements yet. But the fact that the party felt the need to address these issues in such detail shows that it is acutely aware of the challenge posed by the German Pirate Party, and it seems likely that many of the ideas will make it into the Greens' final platform.

Moreover, it's not just the German wing that is moving closer to the Pirates: as a Techdirt story from October reported, the European Green Party has also adopted many of the Pirate Party's key policies on copyright. Both are testimony to the impressive knock-on effects of the Pirates' appearance on the European political scene five years ago, and to the increasing importance of copyright in particular, and digital rights in general, to political platforms in the Internet age.

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  •  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 12:54pm

    >> the European Green Party has also adopted many of the Pirate Party's key policies on copyright.

    That is similar to the history of most third parties in the US since the Civil War. Whenever a third party starts to gain traction with the voters we see one of the major parties adopts the third party's platform. This effectively kills off the third party. So in effect the third party can win on the policy issue but the party itself ends up fading away in the process.

     

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      Designerfx (profile), Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 1:11pm

      it won't work here

      the pirate party requires minimal funding at best, so trying to kill them off won't do much. Young people want to support the pirate party because it represents their interests much more than anything the green party can show for, even if they are recognizing necessary change.

       

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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 1:16pm

      Re: That is similar to the history of most third parties in the US since the Civil War.

      Not quite. The Germans have a proportional representation system. That means that the number of seats a party gets in Parliament is proportional to how much of the popular vote they get. This is how the Pirate Party was able to get into the Bavarian State Parliament with 9% of the popular vote.

      Under the US and UK systems, 9% of the popular vote would likely translate to no seats at all. So in the US, alternative points of view are essentially marginalized, until they can get too big to ignore. Which has to be pretty big—much bigger than 9% of the popular vote.

       

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        fogbugzd (profile), Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 1:36pm

        Re: Re: That is similar to the history of most third parties in the US since the Civil War.

        I realized that the electoral process is different. My point was that new parties, especially ones with a narrow scope of issues, tend to get absorbed by the larger parties. This isn't entirely a bad thing because in the process the policies advocated by the new party get incorporated into a larger party. In this case it seems to be working about the same way in Germany as it has worked in the US despite the differences in the political system.

         

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          Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 6:55pm

          Re: My point was that new parties, especially ones with a narrow scope of issues, tend to get absorbed by the larger parties

          Doesn’t happen in proportional-representation systems. Note the Greens themselves are hardly a “larger” party.

          What you’re saying applies to non-proportional systems like the US, where the only hope a political faction has of achieving any power is to be absorbed into one of the two major parties. Under a proportional system, such factions can quite feasibly form their own parties and get into Parliament that way.

           

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            LennStar, Dec 4th, 2011 @ 12:50am

            Re: Re: My point was that new parties, especially ones with a narrow scope of issues, tend to get absorbed by the larger parties

            The greens are currently the third biggest (voters) party in Germany and about half that of the two "big" partys. Not long ago the first green state head was alected.
            That was a real shock for the conservatives, and now the pirates gave them another one in Berlin. They are really worried!

             

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        LennStar, Dec 4th, 2011 @ 12:43am

        Re: Re: That is similar to the history of most third parties in the US since the Civil War.

        Berlin, not Bavaria.

         

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          Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 8:32pm

          Re: That is similar to the history of most third parties in the US since the Civil War.

          Sorry, I didn’t realize Berlin was its own state.

           

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      Vik1ng (profile), Dec 3rd, 2011 @ 8:22am

      Green Party?

      So that's why the Green Party now has 15% and has been in the federal parlament for nearly 30 years now and they just started on anti-nuclear and environmental politics?

       

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      LennStar, Dec 4th, 2011 @ 12:43am

      Re: fading party

      The fun fact here: The german Pirate Party was never build as a forever-lasting party. If pirate policy becomes normal the party will propably dissolve itself intently. But: The groups will remain and work (without party restictions) and with the looming thread of coming back.
      It's a bit like cold war strategy if you thing about ist. ^^

       

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    out_of_the_blue, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 1:17pm

    Here's the part you pirates keep missing:

    "does not automatically include the right to share it with others publicly."

    JUST THAT needs to be followed, then you, TPB, and the entire "Pirate Party" would be right with the world.

     

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      DannyB (profile), Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 1:48pm

      Re: Here's the part you pirates keep missing:

      The pirate parties are bringing an end to the wild west of the old political parties that are beholden to the dinosaurs.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 2:25pm

      Re: Here's the part you pirates keep missing:

      And how you gonna stop me exactly?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 3:12pm

      Re: Here's the part you pirates keep missing:

      "does not automatically include the right to share it with others publicly."

      if the artists are so worried about their works being shared with others, they should just keep it locked up in their own heads and never produce it in the first place...

      see that isn't so hard...

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 6:43pm

        Re: Re: Here's the part you pirates keep missing:

        if the artists are so worried about their works being shared with others, they should just keep it locked up in their own heads and never produce it in the first place.
        You've just explained why copyright exists. Nice work.

         

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          Mole Pirate, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 7:03pm

          Re: Re: Re: Here's the part you pirates keep missing:

          To protect the incompetent?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2011 @ 11:07pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Here's the part you pirates keep missing:

            I'm sorry, I never knew one was considered incompetent for expecting payment for their work. How about you freetards look at what it TAKES to run a business before you yell at artists demanding free music?

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

        Re: Re: Here's the part you pirates keep missing:

        "if the artists are so worried about their works being shared with others, they should just keep it locked up in their own heads and never produce it in the first place..."

        Yeah, because artists TOTALLY shouldn't worry if they don't sell a lot of products because of freetards like you. The artist getting less money is DEFINITELY the right choice. Asshat. How about actually SUPPORTING the awesome people that make the content you consume?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 1:32pm

    It's times like this that I wish that the United States had a parliamentary system so that a vote for a third party like the pirate party wouldn't just be a wasted vote.

    Sure some say I could vote for an American Pirate Party to send a message, but that would do about as much good as it did Governor Crist running as an independent in Florida after Rubio chased him out of the republican party. The end result was Crist and the democrat splitting half the vote and Republican Rubio getting an easy win.

     

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      Jay (profile), Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 1:36pm

      Re:

      Look up CGPGrey's videos on the electoral college as well as his look at the alternative voting system. Those videos are good in showing how the US can change to a much better system than the one we have now.

       

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      Another Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 6:52am

      Re: a vote for a third party like the pirate party wouldn't just be a wasted vote

      Or you could see voting for the Republicans or Democrats as a wasted vote. On many important issues, those two parties are the same.

       

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    Tor (profile), Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 1:52pm

    It's good news that more parties consider reducing the copyright term. However, it's risky to trust a party that has two wings like that. For example, the Swedish green party had an election platform for the EU parliament similar to this, but one of their candidates who ended up getting a seat then went against the platform of her own party once in parliament. It's the same with the left party in my country. They have a similar platform but you constantly get mixed messages from different people.

    So, although I welcome the extra exposure to these issues I only trust politicians who holds a personal conviction, not those who just follow a platform that others have setup or does something because it seems strategic at the time.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 2:37pm

    What people need is to put socket puppets in there, not vote for a party, vote for the issues.

    Define and discuss what they want outside the political sphere and elect the people who will make it happen.

    Also the creation of mirror institutions that will deal with the issues that government agencies do, so those can't get infested by special interest people and people can turn to for an honest answer or data when it comes down to find solutions or data for issues being debated.

    Institutions like the EFF could be the civilian equivalent to the copyright office.

    The Pirate Party is all good at the moment, it isn't big and it is full of people who really believe in what they propose it didn't get to the point yet where it starts to rot from the inside, but it will happen, their founders will get old and die, their support could vanish suddenly and so many other pitfalls can occur, the problem is not a party or our representatives is how we do things today.

    Doing the same things as the old and expecting different outcomes is just crazy, we need to do it different and to do it different we need people to start participating.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    ahahahahahahahaha

    Yes, I'm sure that with the disaster that is currently facing the EU, the complaints of content pirates are right at the top of the to-do list.

    Difficult to decide which of these parties is a bigger joke.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 3:33pm

      Re:

      Probably the other way around, Times like theese parties will go to any lengths to get those extra few votes.

       

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      CHRoNoSS, Dec 3rd, 2011 @ 7:43am

      Re: YET they are

      yet they are proceeding to get those very laws...makes ya wonder what the heck politicians are doing don't it.

       

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    Andreas, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 3:07pm

    All the big parties are quite concerned by the development concerning the pirate party. They recognize the huge effort being made, with 18.000 members already in the ranks of the pirate party, still growing rapidly. And they are curious, because they don't really know what to expect - all they know is, that this party doesn't have many experts in traditional politics. I've seen publications and speeches by the conversative party that aim directly at the Pirate Party, trying to discredit them at any cost, not even realizing they don't even understand the new opponents at all. They are fighting, but the Pirate Party just doesn't care too much about the traditional style of politics nor the people and parties involved. I think that's what disturbing them the most, not being recognized any more by a new generation for what they have been decades after decades.

    Interesting times, I'm so looking forward to elections in 2013.

     

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    CHRoNoSS, Dec 3rd, 2011 @ 7:40am

    and thanks to green party

    you split the votes now and both parties will suffer = WIN FOR COPYRIGHT HOUNDS

    its why id never vote in canada for miss may and her green party despite agreeing with her most of the time....
    i'd rather put that vote to a party like the ndp that can do something with it

     

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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Dec 3rd, 2011 @ 8:44am

    Democrats Should Read This

    This is one of the major problems Democrats have today.

    The youth of today are liberal with a good dose of libertarian.

     

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      Jay (profile), Dec 3rd, 2011 @ 11:39am

      Re: Democrats Should Read This

      The Democratic Party has no backbone.

      The Republican Party is bought and paid for.

      If the US could vote for two new parties, we'd have the same problems.

      Until we fix this and this, we won't have a major party worth a damn.

       

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    Schmorgluck (profile), Dec 3rd, 2011 @ 9:06am

    Well, let's be fair to the Greens

    Really, the Greens can't be accused to jump on a bandwagon on these matters. There may be substantial differences reguarding the relevant means and the extent of changes needed, but the concerns that make up the backbone of the Pirate Party's revendications are shared by the Greens for a long time.

     

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      LennStar, Dec 4th, 2011 @ 12:53am

      Re: Well, let's be fair to the Greens

      Yes, the Greens even had an something like an "internet caretaker" around 2000. But they ignored the toppic after the big dotcom crisis. If they would have extendend their work instead...

       

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