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Swedish pirates have wind in their sails for EU vote

AFP/The Local · 1 Jun 2009, 11:13

Published: 01 Jun 2009 11:13 GMT+02:00

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The party, which also wants to beef up Internet privacy, was founded in January 2006 and quickly attracted members angered by controversial laws adopted in the country that criminalised filesharing and authorised monitoring of emails.

Its membership shot up after a Stockholm court on April 17 sentenced four Swedes to a year in jail for running one of the world's biggest filesharing sites, The Pirate Bay.

"When the verdict was announced at 11:00 am, we had 14,711 members," Rick Falkvinge, the 37-year-old founder of the party, told AFP.

"We tripled in a week, becoming the third-biggest party in Sweden in terms of numbers. All of a sudden we were everywhere."

Opinion polls ahead of the June 7th European parliament elections credit the party with between 5.5 and 7.9 percent of votes, well above the four percent required to win a seat.

In the 2006 general election, held eight months after it's creation, the Pirate Party won just 0.6 percent of votes.

"They have been very lucky because The Pirate Bay verdict came at the same time as the start of the election campaign, but I think The Pirate Party had the potential to grow anyway," a political scientist at Gothenburg University, Ulf Bjereld, told AFP.

"The Pirate Party has taken advantage of a new cleavage in Swedish politics, about civil liberties, about who should have the right to decide over knowledge, and that's not a left-right cleavage," Bjereld said.

"The traditional parties have been sleeping, they have underestimated the political potential in these issues," he added.

The European parliament election, with little at stake in Sweden and a low turnout expected, is considered the perfect opportunity for an election sensation, according to experts.

"People tend to think there are very few differences between the parties in the EU elections. If you could have a (unique) profile there, it's easier to succeed," said Toivo Sjören, head of the Sifo polling institute.

The typical Pirate Party supporter is a young, male internet buff.

According to Sifo, some 13 percent of people under 30 plan to vote for the party, compared to seven percent of those aged 30 to 49, and only three percent of those over the age of 49.

The party garners some 10.5 percent support among male voters, but only 1.5 percent of women.

"It's a 'geek' party," admitted Brian Levinsen, a 31-year-old member, attending a recent campaign meeting in Stockholm.

"We use Twitter, Skype, we use blogs," explained Jan Lindgren, the party's campaign director in Stockholm.

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"There is always someone (from the party) online, even at 2 or 4 in the morning," he added.

Many members say they joined not only because they are die-hard fans of the internet and filesharing, but because they fear a "Big Brother" society.

"Sweden was built on protecting the freedom of its citizens. This pact is now disappearing," said Levinsen.

"They want to impose controls on what we're saying, like in China or in North Korea. We're not there yet, but we're on the way," said Robert Nyberg, a 29-year-old demolition worker clad in a purple tee-shirt bearing the party's black flag.

The Pirate Party, which has sister parties in 20 countries, is also standing in the European elections in Poland and Germany.

An estimated 375 million voters across the 27 nation bloc will elect 736 deputies for a five-year term at the parliament, which has an important role passing pan-European legislation and the EU commission's annual budget.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

22:51 June 7, 2009 by Random Guy
I love the idea of an Internet file-sharing free-for-all. Who does not like getting free stuff? Why would I, a well-paid individual want to pay some artist for their work. I say screw the artist and let them work at some god-awful job. If they want to be compensated for their creativity, talent, and hard work -- too bad!

Do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting it is acceptable for people to steal. If you are poor and starving, don't take that apple. However, if you are on the internet, take what you want. Your mother is not looking.
01:40 June 8, 2009 by Miss Kitten
It's a commonly held misconception that file-sharing is tantamount to theft, but this simply isn't true. Many people think file-sharing is theft because they don't understand how it really works. For example, if I copied a DVD and gave it to you or simply loaned you one of my DVDs then you wouldn't accuse of stealing, would you? This is essentially what file-sharing is. Someone copies something and lets all their friends borrow it. Theft doesn't enter into it at all. The most I could ever be accused of is copyright infringement.

And copyright infringement is not theft. It's never been theft and it never will be theft.
02:24 June 8, 2009 by Random Guy
I am sorry, but it is theft. Posting an artist's work on the internet (without their permission) and allowing anyone (friend or foe) to download it is stealing from the artist. To say it is not stealing is being dishonest with yourself. To pilfer, rip off, and cheat an artist of their intellectually properly is no different than stealing someone's MP3 player. Actually, it is worse. When file-sharing is involved, you are not just taking the artist's MP3 player, you are taking away their ability to purchase that MP3 player in perpetuity.

If we keep stealing from artists they will all give up the arts and go on to become insurance sells people. Do you really want to lesson to the Top 40 insurance sells pitches on your MP3 player?
11:04 June 8, 2009 by Miss Kitten
Posting an artist's work on the internet (without their permission) and allowing anyone (friend or foe) to download it is in fact copyright infringement. Copying something is not stealing it. If you copy something, the original is there there, isn't it? Therefore your MP3 player theft ananolgy doesn't work.

Back in the 90s when everyone was making mixtapes and recording TV shows and movies, they were also violating copyright. I'm sure if you were around in the 90s you must have made a mixtape or recorded something off of TV or radio at some point. Perhaps you've photocopied a magazine article, or cut and pasted some random text from the internet. That's infringing on copyright too.

The fact is that people have been copying media for a very long time. File-sharing is simply the latest method and is no different from making mixtapes. Although, if you don't think so you're certainly welcome to explain how and why you think it is different.
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