Germany’s ‘Pirate Party’ hopes for election surprise

September 20, 2009

Founded by computer geeks in Sweden in 2006 and now active in 33 countries, the Pirate Party is hoping to win over young, disaffected voters in Germany’s federal election on Sept. 27 with demands to reform copyright and patent laws along with their policies that oppose internet censorship and surveillance. But do the single-issue activists, with no stance on foreign policy or the economy, even have the faintest hope of overcoming the five percent hurdle needed to enter parliament?

This looks unlikely given the 0.9 percent of the vote they won at the European parliamentary elections in June.  Nonethless, the Piratenpartei with more than 8,000 members is the fastest growing party in Germany, a development partly sparked by the German parliament’s ratification of controversial legislation on blocking certain websites in a bid to fight child pornography.

Gero Neugebauer, political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said the traditional parties’ failure to properly understand the internet may have put wind in the Pirates’ sails. “The large parties have treated the issue as if the only people using the internet are old men with lewd ideas who want to look at pornographic images or practice paedophilia,” Neugebauer said in a recent TV interview.  “If the Pirate Party manages to make clear in society the conflict which they presently represent … then they definitely have the potential to get above the five percent hurdle,” he added.

Among the ranks of the Pirate Party is a former Social Democrat member of parliament — Joerg Tauss. He resigned under pressure in September amid an investigation into possession of child pornography by state prosectors. He denies any wrongdoing.  “The internet has been increasingly tightened in recent years and made into a civil rights-free zone,” Tauss said in parliament when the legislation was passed. 

Alongside traditional campaigning methods, the Pirate Party has taken to the streets setting up model living rooms inside transparent containers in public squares to protest against what they see as an increasingly Orwellian police state.  Support could come from younger voters, who have grown up with the internet, and who feel that established political parties are out of touch with their concerns.

“I want to be able to exchange music on the internet with my friends for free,” Florain Bischof, Pirate Party candidate for Berlin says on student networking site studiVZ. One of the party’s main policies is an easing of copyright laws.

Germany’s mainstream polling institutes do not include the Pirates as a separate party in their survey and it is not clear how popular the party would be among the population at large. So the question remains: how successful has the party been in shedding its image as a bunch of male software engineers getting stroppy about their surfing rights? And in Germany’s greying population, with voters 60 and over making up 30 percent of the rapidly ageing electorate, is a campaign targeted at gamers and those who download music doomed to fall flat?

PHOTOS: A member of the Pirate Party (above) walks in front of the Reichstag as part of its campaign for the September general election in Berlin. The Piratenpartei Deutschland was founded in Germany on September 10, 2006, following a model of Swedish analog Piratpartiet. REUTERS/Thomas Peter Below, Joerg Tauss. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch


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Copyright and trademark are one of the oldest forms of property right set out in law and legislation.

The reason pirates do not respect this is, well, because they are theives. And a thief, by their very definition, is someone who disrespects the property rights of others.

At least this party is ready to be open about it. And I respect them for that, at least. I doubt they have the numbers though.

If there is one thing I can’t stand, its people trying to say “It isn’t theft” or “Software isn’t property” or “intellectual rights are not real rights”.

It is no different to any other thief trying to justify their actions. And the courts agree.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

But they DO have an economic policy. If, once in power, they intend to make it impossible to earn a living from creating intellectual property, then they will need massive subsidies to prevent the economy from seizing up altogether.

The fact that they choose to keep quiet about it for now merely means they haven’t yet figured out a way of making an economy built on subsidy work. Which is hardly surprising, because nobody else in human history ever has, either.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

Copyright is not the same as property right. In fact, it is the exact opposite i.e. an artificial limitation of ownership as it prevents people from doing what they want with their property. Also, the purpose of copyright is not to help artists make money as a goal in iteself, but to create an economic incentive to maximize available culture in society.

Now, does current copyright laws do this? Are they maximizing available culture, or is limiting it? Is enforcing copyright at all cost worth the gain? I would say that we have come to a point where the limitation effect is stronger than the maximizing effect and thus copyright has to be reworked to function in the 21st century.

Also, the “copying is stealing” argument is not only old and tired, it is also conceptually plain wrong. A copied file does not mean lost revenue. Easily proved by the fact that there is no net loss of spending on culture, rather the opposite. (Just as an example, Hollywood made the most money EVER in 2008).

Posted by Leeson | Report as abusive

Would be great if they get their 5 pct. On the copyrights and stealing, must agree. If creators of content do not want their work copied, do not make it digital. It is just like any other property, if the owner does not lock it up, even the police will soon grow tired of protecting the ownership rights. The honor system never works.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

“Copyright and trademark are one of the oldest forms of property right set out in law and legislation.”

That’s right, it’s old, like death penalty is. But is it right? I dont think so. Legislation should adapt to society and not the other way around.

Btw, 80 Million americans use bittorent. So 80 Millions thieves hu?

Also stop being simple minded. The pirate party is not saying trivialities like “we should kill any form of copyright”. They want to reform, not kill.

Posted by zelrik | Report as abusive

What they need to do is expand the platform cover all goods and services – they would definitely represent a true shakeup then.

Copyright and trademark are for the most part a lie. by changing the definition of goods from some “private” bs to a common good, the pirate party is actually at the forefront of a serious movement…its definitely socialist in nature but not in the archaic Leninist/Stalinist sense. Italian philosopher Antonio Negri goes into this idea at great lengths.

Posted by dave | Report as abusive

Guys, you are completely wrong here on many levels: the main points of the party are not the copyright law, it is only its founding reason. And we are not talkong about abandoning the copyright law, but about modernizing the structures around it. This is in order to allow producers (the artists) to make a better living of their work and not be locked in by contracts. It should also allow the ordinary man to be not terrorized by DRM.


Posted by Bernd Eckenfels | Report as abusive

Aw, jeez. Here we go.

This isn’t about helping artists get a fair share of profits. Or reforming copyright laws. Or modernising the structures of medium.

This is about facilitating the ability of people to steal private information (ie. copyrighted information) to which those people have no entitlement to have.

The act of filesharing is perfectly legal. The use of freeware is perfectly fine. But when you use filesharing in order to steal private information, you are a base criminal.

People steal because it benefits them, and because they think they can get away with it. That is what piracy essentially comes down to. And pirates know it very well, even as they try and justify it.

If artists wanted to make their data available to the public, they can put it on youtube or a website. So why don’t they? Oh, because they want to work with publishers to maximise their profit.

If you come up with an idea, you have rights over that creativity. Books, music and software all come under that rule. And that means you can exclude people who take your idea and use it without permission. Regardless of whether your idea is on paper or data.

Downloading stolen songs is no different to stealing it from a shop. The only difference is the lies we invent to try and convince ourselves we are not thieves. For some reason, people have a problem accepting it.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Wall Anon. You really are simple minded. There is only your way of thinking; every other way is just a lie.

Nobody denies your basic fact: Changes in the Copyright Laws is either increasing or limiting someones rights.

But what is in dispute, is the intepretation on what we should want to maximize total prosperity. And this question is not as easy as you put it.

The current legislation does not take into account that we increasingly live in a world, where the limitations of real property do not apply. In a knowledge society sharing means increasing the total prosperity. And wehn looking at cultural goods we need to weight in various incentives to decide an appropriate legislation.

This discussion needs an open mind, not a closed one like yours.

Stating – like it was a law of nature – that Intellectual Property is per se good, is a very limited view of the world. In general I believe that the mind is free and noboday should have ownership on thoughts. But I acknowledge the need for an incentive to professionally produce “ideas”, this is why patents and copyright are needed. Just not in the way they are currently interpreted.

By the way, reforming ther copyright law is the lowest of the six politic goals of the Pirate Party. So before you say something, you have no idea about, better keep quiet.

Posted by Toreon | Report as abusive


if even the artists do not get it anymore, it might be the time to adjust laws to the reality of the society: oine-lilly-allen-is-a-copyright-hypocrit e-090921/

Copyright is good thing. But the extension of copyright from physical media to nonphysical just went awfully wrong.


Posted by Bernd | Report as abusive

Its a new world happening under our own eyes. Old views would not help in understanding this modern world youth phenomenon.

Posted by Ahmad Moghrabi | Report as abusive

Great, more arguments to dismiss:

Myth 1: Data and software are not real property

Software always has a physical existance. It starts on a computer. It ends up on a server for data transfer. It finally ends up on a disk, drive or computer memory.

At no point is data a non-physical media. There is always a tangiable physical part to data, which you can even hold in your hand if you feel like doing so.

So even if property rights don’t attach to copyright (which they do), even basic property rights could be said to apply over data and the way it is allowed to be used.

Myth 2. Copyright limits Prosperity

Your argument is that in order to increase prosperity, we should have the right to steal the property and private information of other people.

I won’t even bother addressing that argument.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive