After a promising start, Europe’s Pirates have failed to gain traction and suffered bitter election results. In Sweden’s national elections a few Sundays ago, the Piratpartiet received just 0.7 percent of votes, merely 10 of the seven percent they garnered in last year’s European election. The picture is similarly bleak in Germany.
In unified Germany, where fear of Big Brother is stronger than in other European countries and people are very conscious of their civil rights following two dictatorships in the last century, the Piratenpartei had two percent of votes in the 2009 general election.
Despite not reaching the five percent necessary to enter the Bundestag, the result caused large parties to take notice, as the Piratenpartei had a higher percentage of votes than Germany’s Greens, Die Grünen, had in 1980, the first time they were up for the vote (1.5 percent).
A few months later however, the Piratenpartei dropped to 1.6 percent in the elections for the parliament of Germany’s most populated federal state Northrhine-Westphalia. The result in England’s general elections need not even be mentioned – an utterly dire 0.4 percent.
Both the Piratpartiet in Sweden and the Piratenpartei in Germany profited from discussions sparked by their respective former governments in 2009. Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, who served as Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in the former cabinet, launched an ill-conceived law calling for the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) to create black lists and block access to child porn sites with a stop sign.
This was an effort on behalf of Von der Leyen to gain a profile for herself and her party, Germany’s conservative CDU (Christian Democrats), shortly ahead of general elections in late September 2009.
Von der Leyen's endeavour was met with a hailstorm of protest. Former victims of child abuse were one of the loudest voices to criticise the proposal, saying content must be taken down and deleted instead of merely blocked. Critics who actually had a clue with regards to the internet said the whole stop sign affair could be done away with by simply using TOR. Others argued federal police creating black lists without court orders and judicial oversight was against the constitution.
In the end, the law was reduced to a pile of rubble, but Germany's Piratenpartei managed to profit from the outrage surrounding it - but only in the short term. In local elections in Northrhine-Westphalia the Pirates got one seat each in the town councils of Münster and Aachen. Aachen and Münster are both cities with tens of thousands of students.
Approximatenly one fifth of Münster's population is made up of students studying at Germany's third-largest university. It comes as no surprise the Piratenpartei can grab votes and seats in German cities full of young and well-educated citizens - but state and general elections are an entirely different thing, especially if there is no pressing problem.
In Sweden, the whole palaver surrounding torrent tracker ThePirateBay.org and a law proposal allowing copyright owners to lay their hands on an ISP's user logs helped Piratpartiet get seven percent and a seat in Sweden's election for the European Parliament.
England's voters are complacent enough to have laws like the Digital Economy Act down their throats without moaning, meaning the country is a dead duck for anything to do with well-balanced laws pertaining to privacy and internet freedoms - a tad similar to France, as Brits will be happy to know.
Despite input from the Piratenpartei, Germany's Green faction in the Thuringian state parliament managed to vote for a rather dismal law called the Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrag (JMStV). This wants to add age certificates to websites and set air times when a website can be viewed like the watershed in Britain.
Thuringia's Pirates did consult the Greens sitting in the state parliament, but they ignored the advice.
After all - who in the world listens to geeks and nerds calling themselves "Pirates" whose raison d'être is seen to be P2P sans frontieres and dissolution of copyrights creating a situation where there's no cash for the creative industries.
On the other hand, an established political party running for office in elections in federal states next year might simply vote for a nonsensical law not only on the basis of nonexistant better knowledge, but also perhaps to make sure a political opponent cannot nail them on protecting children from nefarious content and so on. Nonetheless, this would not make too much sense, seeing the conservative CDU trashed their own stop sign law created last year by Von der Leyen.
Whatever the situation and argument, it seems countries with a diverse party landscape, such as France, Germany, Sweden etc., are in dire need of a party able to twist thumbscrews on established political reasoning and laws of ill design threatening the free flow of information through the net. A law handing out age certificates to national domains would also lead to a law having to be created to manage international domains - imagine www.collateralmurder.org being blocked until midnight for getting an 18 certificate due to its disturbing imagery.
In England, however, the Pirates should go ahead and join forces with entities of lesser political clout - the UK's Green Party, for instance - or go ahead staying unnoticed except by IT-related news sites and interested individuals.
One thing is for certain - playing "Pirate" is bound to keep the party outside of national parliaments across Europe.