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Open water adventures

Translated by: Daniel Prinz

In January 2006 Europe and the world saw the birth of a brand new and unusual political movement with the official registration of the Pirate Party in Sweden. The primary and almost only goal of the organization that since then has become world-famous and gained political power is the complete reform of copyright law and the promotion of the freedom of file sharing and downloading. But is this all?

Does their campaign for free and legal downloading explain that they have won two seats in the European legislature? Did they claim 2% of the votes in the German federal elections merely because they are young, whimsical and eccentric? We probably need to go deeper to understand the nature of the successes of these young organizations.

Pirate parties began their conquest early 2006 with the official registration of the Piratpartiet in Sweden. It is hard to believe but since then they have become the third biggest party in the country, based on their membership. According to their declaration of principles they advocate the fundamental reform of the regulation of copyright and patent laws and the strengthening of privacy rights, both in the virtual sphere and everyday life. They also stand for a popular but perhaps somewhat intangible goal: governmental transparency (well, they are definitely not the first ones to talk about this). The pirates claim that the state is trying to legally limit a very sensitive sector, as file sharing applications have become instrumental in the dispersion of culturally valuable contents. Everyone has a right to culture – such initiatives should be supported rather than restricted.

The British pirate party argues that limiting our access to culture violates the universal value of freedom of speech. If someone gains exclusive rights to  disseminate certain contents, the freedom of speech can be in danger. According to the party, the cultural education of young people should be a priority. Here, the internet and file sharing programs have an increasing role, so their limitation impedes on the intellectual growth of the youth.

Maybe it is not so surprising the original program of the pirates has proven so successful and popular that similar parties have been founded one after the other in almost all European countries, but also in Chile, the United States and New Zealand. In Hungary they do not have an officially recognized organization, but their ideas have been partially adopted by Politics Can Be Different (Lehet Más a Politika, LMP), so even if not completely, but we can have our share of the most recent political trend.

So why is this more than a passing whim?

It seems to have become a new, youthful theme of our days, something similar to the student movements of the 1960s. Every young generation needs something to make it form a group, rebel and stand out. Standing up for democracy or the freedom of speech are such keywords, just like the peace demonstrations of the hippies were. This is in the nature of young people. On the other hand, these days we have few ideologically oriented communities, we do not any more aim to fundamentally change the social system. We can say virtually anything to anyone, we can listen to any music on our laptop. Nothing to rebel against. Problems like poverty or social inequalities do not have a real cohesive force. It seems that the pirate parties fill this void. Their programs are partially a rebellion against the limits posed by society, a community forming theme among the younger generation. The freedom of downloading is more than the call for the reform of virtual practices. It expresses the ars poetica of a whole subculture that aims for more personal freedom and less social control.

It is interesting to observe how disappointment with politics acts as a polarizing force. Recently, in many European countries, the political right, parties that promote order have become stronger. The unconditional freedom expressed in the programs of pirate parties offers an alternative to this. If someone rejects the ideas of one side, there is always the other one. I probably do not need to argue that our society is disillusioned with the political elite to the extreme. The general emptiness and boredom of traditional political discourse serve well these new “protest parties”. Organizations that reject the whole system and are left out from traditional political debates receive much attention.

Of course, we cannot be sure what will happen to these parties once they gain political power. To what extent is it possible to be against the system withing the system? The Swedish party is a real success story, they have two MEPs. The real question though is how long they can keep their voters interested. As a “one-theme party” the ocean of society would soon swallow them, but the pirates have more to talk about than the legal and free exchange of music and movies. But how much are they going to be able to theme their demands to form a coherent program from their want of freedom? Are they going to be able to articulate their goals and find their audience? I think that the future of the movement depends on the answer they give to these questions. If they are able to take up these challenges, they might have a bright future ahead, as politics always needs something fresh, new faces, original initiatives. If they do not come up with appropriate answers however, they will quickly disappear – or become a part of the system, losing their individuality.

Emberi Jogok Egyetemes Nyilatkozata

Emberi Jogok Egyetemes Nyilatkozata

Elfogadva és kihirdetve az ENSZ Közgyűlésének 217 A (III) határozata alapján, 1948. december 10-én.

A 30 pontból álló Nyilatkozat az élet minden területét felölelő jogokról és szabadságjogokról szól. Elolvashatjátok és megismerhetitek oldalunkon.

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