Pirate Party looks to change copyright, surveillance

digital vote

The UK faces some major digital issues: file sharing and copyright, surveillance and online freedom.

On top of this, government and industry are about to invest billions of pounds realising the goals of the Digital Britain report, with the hopes of improving digital access to more and more people across Britain.

After success in Sweden and Germany, the Pirate Party has officially registered in the UK, with plans to run in the next general election.

The leader of the Pirate Party told IT PRO that the success of the party in those countries lead him to start up in the UK.

"I'm a musician, so I've been interested in copyright for quite a few years now," Andrew Robinson said, adding that he saw the success of the Swedish branch and wanted a Pirate Party for the UK.

The party campaigns on three policies: reform patent and copyright law, end excessive surveillance, and ensure real freedom of speech - on and offline.

"We're in danger of alienating a whole generation... if the government sticks to copyright and surveillance plans," he said.

For example, he noted the file sharing laws suggested in the Digital Britain report would mean fines of 50,000, which could be "financially destroying" to the seven million British citizens who do share files.

Current political parties have no motivation to change anything, as the pressure surrounding copyright laws come from lobbyists at big firms - those with all the money and motivation to keep things the same. "Disney have good reason to keep Mickey Mouse under copyright," Robinson said.

But it's not just about file sharing. Surveillance is also a major issue, with the Pirate Party standing up against the profiling and tracking of people by companies and the government.

Can the Pirate Party succeed?

So how successful can the Pirate Party be? Because of the way the UK's parliamentary system works, it's very difficult for any smaller party to get a seat.

"The way we see it actually finishing up, is we prove there's so much support for these policies that other parties adopt our policies," Robinson said. With enough voters onside, Robinson believes Labour and the Conservatives will be eager to take on Pirate policies.

With their stand against ID cards and surveillance, Robinson said the Conservatives' policies on these issues are closest to the Pirate Party's campaign points, with the Green Party also "fairly close."

But the Pirate Party doesn't want to align itself to another party for two reasons. First, it doesn't want to expand its remit beyond its three main policies. Second, it doesn't want to start leaning to the left or to the right.

"We're not a left-wing party, we're not a right-wing party," he explained. "We're getting support from the whole spectrum."

And the party will need its fair share of support. Running a candidate in the general election is "fiendishly expensive," Robinson claimed, with a deposit of 320,000 to run someone in every constituency.

"Our success at the general election is down to raising funds," he said, adding that's why joining the party costs 10. At the moment, Robinson said there are some 320 people active on the site's forum, but every time he looks today, the number of members jumps.

The UK general election isn't the only goal, however. The Pirate Party has plans to run in the next European election. Winning a seat there is based on overall percentage, and where the current Swedish Pirate Party member has his seat.

For more on the party's plans, check out our sister title PC Pro's Q&A with Pirate Party leader Andrew Robinson here.