Has The German Pirate Party Lost Its Way?

from the harder-than-it-looks dept

For the last year, it seemed like the German Pirate Party could do no wrong. In November 2011, it won 9% of the vote in the Berlin parliamentary elections, then 7.4% in Saarland in March, 8.2% of the vote in Schleswig-Holstein in May, and a similar level in North Rhine-Westphalia shortly afterwards. There was a little pushback from copyright maximalists, but after ACTA’s defeat in July, you might have expected the Pirates to be riding even higher in the public’s favor. A recent article in the German news magazine Der Spiegel reveals that’s far from the case:

a new opinion poll by the German public broadcaster ZDF put support for the party at just 6 percent, its lowest level since March. Another survey recently conducted by the Forsa research institute found that the Pirates only enjoyed 7 percent of the electorate’s support, down from 9 percent in July. Indeed, it would seem that the up-and-comers are losing a bit of their magic.

As Der Spiegel points out, this is largely the Pirates’ own fault. Brutal in-fighting, made all-the-more evident because of the party’s laudable belief that internal discussions should be conducted in the open, is undermining the party’s credibility as a serious political player:

What other party streams the meetings of its national committee live on the Internet or allows people to watch sessions of its parliamentary groups? Is there another party where it’s possible to find its members’ cell-phone numbers via a Google search? But the constant chatter of the crowd also has negative consequences: It makes it difficult for the party to be taken seriously as a political actor.

Equally serious has been an inability to set any overall sense of political direction:

it is still unclear where this journey is leading, and the party can’t answer the relevant questions. “A unified strategy is not observable,” Klaus-Peter Schäppner of the Emnid opinion-research institute told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

It is perhaps understandable that a party that coalesced around a small number of digital issues — absurdly harsh punishments for unauthorized file sharing, or the increasing invasion of privacy by governments through the use of online surveillance — should find it harder to arrive at a consensus on more traditional ones, like economic and social policy. But it was widely assumed that in the field of copyright, at least, it would be able to make radical and concrete proposals that set it apart.

A recent policy document on the subject, drawn up by the Pirate Party in Berlin (pdf, in German), disappoints those expectations. Where the German Pirate Party’s page on copyright boldly calls for the legalization of copying for non-commercial purposes, the rejection of DRM as “immoral”, and “a drastic reduction of copyright periods, far below the periods specified in the TRIPS agreement,” the Berlin Pirates’ paper is content to produce a series of meek observations about ways in which small improvements could be made without rocking the boat. These include the wider use of Creative Commons licenses, making court rulings freely available, and more transparency for negotiations with the German performance rights organization GEMA. None of these are bad ideas, but they’re hardly the significant reform proposals that helped get the party so much attention in the first place.

Maybe the Pirate Party wants to prove its rigor and seriousness by starting from the current position, rather than seeking to overturn it; perhaps it is trying to work with the mainstream parties, and doesn’t want to frighten them with radical proposals; or perhaps it has simply lost its way and ended up being assimilated by the system.

Whatever the cause, the consequences of this lack of vision could be serious. As Der Spiegel notes:

polling experts say the party is in freefall and that it may struggle to get the 5 percent of the vote it needs to win seats in the German parliament, the Bundestag, in the 2013 national election.

That’s by no means inevitable, but the German Pirates certainly face a huge task if they want to avoid becoming a textbook example of how quickly a new political party’s fortunes can wax and wane.

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Comments on “Has The German Pirate Party Lost Its Way?”

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i had to label the canuck pirate party anti-p2p for 4 days

I had to put on my hosted website that the Canadian pirate party was anti-p2p due to not recognizing that non commercial file sharing should be encouraged….and then because i had registered a irc chat i booted them out and they yammered off i hacked the channel I HAD REGISTERED….showing how little tech some of these boneheads know.

YES i agree with this article and its exactly the power hungry types that look to get power by any means that ruins the effort.

I saw alter they were using it to front some torrent site for a indie band a there’s and ive totally dropped support as its not open to any indie band just there buddies.

United Hackers Association

P.S. Me removing support is huge in Canada ( 1000 members here almost a 3rd of our total world wide membership ) as many members have many friends across all fields NOT just hacking.

bob (profile) says:

Where's my free stuff?

Demagogues have promised free stuff in order to “buy” votes for some time. Some have succeeded in getting elected, but they always fail soon afterwards for all of the same reasons that pie-in-the-sky plans fail soon afterwards.

How is the pirate party going to support itself? I wouldn’t donate any money to them because they brag about how they’re going to take away all of my hard work and give it away for free. Nor will most other hard working people donate because they’re also afraid that after the Pirate party comes for the digital goods, they’re going to insist that everything else should be free too. Why should landlords charge rent? Why should grocery stores charge for food that just grows freely from the ground?

So they only people left to support them are the lazy, media-addled couch potatoes who spend all day torrenting things because they just have to have it. And if those people won’t spend 99 cents for a song, why should they give anything to the Pirate Party?

Eventually they’re going to run out of money and get tired of living poor. Then they’ll get real jobs and we’ll be rid of them.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Where's my free stuff?

Physical =/= Virtual

You deliberately refuse to realise this important fact. Landlords charge rent because they own limited space. Grocery stores charge for food because they have only a limited stock.
The Pirate Party would never touch that. At all. You’re putting words in their mouth and arguing against what they’re NOT saying.

“And if those people won’t spend 99 cents for a song, why should they give anything to the Pirate Party? “
Perhaps because they found value in the Pirate Party, versus a single song?

Designerfx (profile) says:

I'm pretty skeptical of them losing focus

Putting them into parliament, as is their focus – will force the transparency they are pushing for. I think it reveals just how strongly they are supporting their views.

What will happen is anyone’s guess but this sounds more like der spiegel trying to get a jab at the pirate party, mostly in denial.

Since when has an opinion poll/”research survey
anywhere reflected on anything realistic?

Anonymous Coward says:

Single issue parties are doomed to failure. What’s the point of supporting someone vocal about one issue/a small set of related issues when they say nothing about (or worse, disagree with you on) all the other issues that matter? Also, what if they suddenly go full 180 on the one issue that attracted you to them in the first place?

Designerfx (profile) says:

in addition

in addition, when has der spiegel posted anything *directly referencing* the pirate party recently that is even remotely positive about pirate party? Everything is slanted to the “their falling apart/dying/etc”. I suppose “neutral” at best.

referenced article title: “Support Wanes for Germany’s Upstart Pirates ” 8/24)
article title: “Pirate Party Keelhauled over Scruffy Outfits” 6/20)
article title: “Discontent Grows Within Pirate Party Ranks ”
article title: “German Pirate Party Attempts to Reinvent Politics ” 4//25)
article title: “Pirate Politician Says Party ‘Rising as Fast as Nazis'” 4/23)
article title: “Artists Turn Against Pirate Party” 4/20)
article title: “Is the Pirate Party Its Own Worst Enemy?” 3/28)

I don’t see anything showing anything other than general disdain/anything even remotely supportive of the pirate party and neutral at best for articles that include pirate party in their title. It’s like asking a publisher how they deal with piracy and the answer is “with DRM, of course!”

illuminaut (profile) says:

normal growing pains

First of all, as mentioned by Designerfx, Der Spiegel is hardly a credible source for news relating to the Pirate Party as they’ve been fighting them tooth and nails for the past two years.

Secondly, the fact that they’re turning their focus on less radical solutions that actually have a chance of being part in negotiations with the established parties is a sign of maturity, not that they’re “losing their way”.

Their constituents want to see some kind of return on their “investment” (vote), and in order for that to happen the Pirate Party needs to actually get things done. It’s only logical that they focus on things that stand a chance of getting done instead of only the long-term pie in the sky ideals.

The falling poll numbers are a direct reflection of their inability to shape the political landscape. To counter this, they need political victories, so they need to pick the fights that they can win.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually, the Pirate Party has the problem of being a one issue party, not a wide appeal party. Copyright is a nice thing to talk about, it’s a wonderful buzz word thing to chat around, but in the end, it’s not the biggest priority in people’s lives.

The Pirate Party (in general, various countries) picked up steam a little bit with the Wikipedia situation, and lost it as Assange has been slowly but surely exposed as the person he is, taking away from Wiki’s message. As Wiki has become less and less relevant and less and less top of mind, it has worn away at the Pirate Party’s only other real alternate talking point.

It’s also a question of what happens in the space between elections. People’s affiliates can wander a bit when they don’t really have to commit to them. You can claim to support the pirate party 2 years before the vote, but as you get closer to actually voting again, perhaps issues of economic growth, taxes, education, and other things become more important to you. As the Pirate Party (in all countries) generally does not have a profile on these issues, they lose out.

In the end, the Pirate Party I think is sort of like the various “Pot” parties and such that exist in politics. When their issue is at the forefront of the public’s mind, for that month, they are hot shit. After that, support wanes and they become nothing more than the fourth ring at a three ring circus.

The only thing keeping the Pirate Party with a profile at all is places that have proportional representation rather than direct winner take all elections. Otherwise, their small support wouldn’t add up to much at all.

samoos says:

there’s a lot of talk, particularly from der Spiegel, about the pirates being a ‘one-issue party’ and only looking at their copyright issues. Perhaps this stems from taking the name ‘pirate party’ at face value, but there seems to be little coverage in the media of their policies on increasing aspects of direct democracy, increasing voter involvement, more online transparency, technology and open data in government, investigating free public transport, and separation of church and state.

Seegras (profile) says:

Pirate Parties

Yes, I think the German Pirate Party has lost its way. I’m a member (and candidate for the federal elections) of the Swiss Pirate Party.

And compared to the German Pirate Party, we’re much more consistent, and true to our values (against Surveillance, Prohibition and Monopolies — yes, this is a negation, but if you’re trying to say it positively, it gets standard blurb every other party is spewing but not meaning: “privacy”, “freedom”, “free market” — hell, even the mercantilists and monopolists of the patent-lobby say they’re “pro free market”).

Sadly, our position papers aren’t available in English, but if you’re reading German , here they are: http://www.piratenpartei.ch/positionspapiere

Reasons that the German PP is somewhat directionless might be that their growth was too fast.

And of course, the perception trough the media (Spiegel for sure) is biased in that respect, they WANT the Pirate Parties to fail.

Here as well. The very important Swiss newspaper NZZ consistently tries to avoid to mention the Pirate Party — they’ve even been writing about all the other parties present at an event that was actually organized by the Pirate Party, but no mention of the Pirate Party itself..

Anyway, I wish the German Pirate Party all the best, and that they revert to their original ideas (and stop talking about “negotiations with the GEMA” — you don’t negotiate with people holding your culture hostage ;)).

Ninja (profile) says:

They are far ahead of the rest of the politics in quite a few points. However I feel most pirate parties lack maturity politically speaking. It is good they are getting small victories because this is what will prepare them for the higher positions.

The current ‘pirates’ are somewhat naive and innocent. They still didn’t get they need to address other issues besides freedom or internet censorship. And they need to learn how to do things diplomatically. As in, administer small doses of the antidote to the madness that is wide spread to achieve the ultimate goal even if it’s in the long term. Copyright itself wasn’t born as the hideous monster it is today. The current aberration is the result of years of anf work via lobbying and other stuff.

I believe they will rise in the end. Maybe not as pirates but as a new generation of politicians that will know how and what to do.

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