Is the Pirate Party a joke party, or does it have real policies?

PPUK poster (copyright not claimed)

If judged only by its name, the Pirate Party might seem as wacky as the UK‘s long-established Monster Raving Loony Party. Actually, there are lots of Pirate Parties around the world, affiliated under the banner of Pirate Parties International, a Belgium-registered NGO. Although a relatively new party, the Pirate Party has representatives serving in elected office: two members of the European Parliament and a couple of local government representatives in Germany.

Each country’s Pirate Party has its own manifesto, built around these general aims:

  • Reform copyright law for the benefit of creators and consumers, rather than monopoly rights holders
  • Reform patent law to increase innovation and increase the availability of life-saving drugs
  • Reduce profiling and surveillance by government and big business
  • Enshrine real freedom of speech and real freedom to enjoy and participate in shared culture

Some of the specific policies from the manifesto of the United Kingdom Pirate Party include:

  • Reduce the term of copyright to ten years, and legalise non-commercial use of copyright material (format shifting, time shifting, mashups, personal sharing, etc)
  • Require consumer warning labels on goods containing digitally restricted media
  • Replace drug patents by taxpayer-funded research at a level 33% higher than current drug company R&D expenditure, in order to reduce the cost of drugs to the UK taxpayer and also make them available more cheaply to the rest of the world
  • Require the taxpayer-funded BBC to release their content under a Creative Commons license
  • Give the public a right to encrypt their private data
  • Introduce restrictions on the use of CCTV and DNA records
  • Increase the transparency and accountability of government
  • Allow constituents to force a by-election if they have lost confidence in their MP
  • Prohibit government censorship of the internet except for “the most extreme reasons” such as images of child abuse or military secrets
  • Increase whistleblower rights, so that the right to expose corrupt or illegal activities takes precedence over contract and copyright law
  • Introduce a specific right to photograph events and buildings in public
  • Encourage public libraries to digitise their valuable and unique content and make it freely available
  • Reform libel law to address its chilling effects on free speech

As a niche party, the Pirate Party’s manifesto is never going to cover all policy areas; neither does it need to, as it is extremely unlikely that the party will gain enough elected representatives to wield substantial influence in those areas. The party encourages its candidates to “listen to their constituents, and make their own minds up, without the intervention of party whips, or political lobbyists“.

As at March 2010, the UK Pirate Party has about 600 paid-up members and expects to field at least four candidates in the upcoming UK General Election.

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  • larry says:

    Don’t knock the Pirate Party, at least not the one in Germany. My son was just elected an officer of the newly formed “Ortsverband” (community level organisation, separate and with its own bylaws under that of the state organisation, which is also separate from and subsidiary to that at national level).
    Admittedly, the Pirates are a bit chaotic as to political party formalities, but that is the way German laws are; it is almost impossible to anticipate which ones apply, until the situation has arisen.

  • Larry says:

    I finally read the fine print in the image – about singing “Happy Birthday to you.”
    Once in a remote, major (only a few million inhabitants) city in China, in the big hotel’s big restaurant, suddenly a party of Chinese stood up and sang the song in Chinese for the guest of honor.

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