How the Pirate Party aims to shake up digital politics – TNW UK
In the digital age, politics can often seem stuck in the past and unable to keep up with the pace of technology. One exception to this is the Pirate Party movement. Emerging in Sweden in the middle of the last decade, it quickly spread around Europe and the world, with a political emphasis on issues like copyright and privacy.
A surge in interest in the Pirate Party movement began after Sweden’s party saw success in the 2009 European Elections. One place in which this was true was the UK, where the Pirate Party UK emerged, quickly gaining support as a result of the controversy surrounding a group of laws called the Digital Economy Act, which (among other things) allow for anyone even suspected of having carried out illegal file sharing to have their Internet connection removed by their ISP.
I met up with Pirate Party UK leader, Laurence “Loz” Kaye, to find out more about the movement, what its plans for the future are and whether a party with ‘Pirate’ in its name will ever really be taken seriously.
What does the Pirate Party believe in?
A musician, composer and university lecturer by trade, Loz Kaye says that he was stirred into political action by the Digital Economy Act.
“About 2 years ago I got tired of complaining about things and posting narky Facebook updates about a range of political issues,” he explains. “I always counted myself as politically interested but I couldn’t see myself in any of the main parties, and frankly I think it’s that situation for a lot of people now.”
“I was appalled by the Musicians Union and (actor’s union) Equity for their part in pushing for the Digital Economy Act as I felt it was completely contrary to a desire for freedom to communicate, and instead of helping our interests, it was hindering them.”
Kaye was drawn into the Pirate Party UK and became leader in August 2010. The party’s manifesto concentrates on three core areas: copyright & patents, privacy and freedom of speech. At present, the Digital Economy Act is the most pressing issue for Kaye, along with the potential extradition of British piracy suspects to the US despite the fact there is little actual connection between the alleged offences and America.
These are undoubtedly important issues, but who is motivated to join a political movement about them?
“Typically, the Pirate Party worldwide has had a lot of interest from people with a technological background who are concerned about issues like Web blocking or, on a more positive side, things like open data. However, these issues are for everyone and we have members including teachers, a day trader, even people from an ex-military background. That might be a surprise to people, given our interests in things like transparency and WikiLeaks, but I think that everyone’s starting to realise that the free exchange of data is important not only for our culture, but our economy.”