Pirate Party - Germany

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Alain Toner:

"The strange alchemy of the organisation is indicated by the composition of its new national leadership. Bernd Schlömer, the new party chairperson, studied criminology and is now employed at the Department of Defence, responsible for academic training at the University of the Federal Armed Forces. Meanwhile Johannes Ponader was elected as political secretary, an unemployed actor who has a past in the Basic Income Network and was a prominent representative at the Occupy Berlin! encampment last winter.

What binds together the disparate elements seems to be an enthusiasm for process, modernising zeal, and a jejeune conviction in the possibility of rational solutions to social problems. And of course affection for machines.

This process enthusiasm is materialised in Liquid Feedback, a software tool for grassroots policy formation and debate. The system enables a multi-level delegation of one’s vote to others whose opinion one trusts. This is understood as an instrument of internal democracy and a channel for ‘feedback’ – a term rooted in cybernetics where information outputs are recycled for purposes of system self-correction.

‘Engineering culture’ is also visible in the party’s emphatic attachment to evidence-based positions; against drug prohibition; secular; in favour of markets where they work; open to alternatives where they don’t. Questions cannot be answered in the absence of data, consultation and logic. Such a mode of discourse allows a form of self-presentation as pragmatic and beyond left/right – a profitable attitude for a group currently taking voters from all parts of the political spectrum.

Paradoxically, for a party nominally identified with pirates, its members express great enthusiasm for citizenship, ethics and reason in a period where such traits seem a bit quaint and certainly in decline. It will be thus interesting to observe how the PP deals with the irrational, shady, treacherous reality of Politics, where being just piratical is common coin." (http://knowfuture.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/more-booty-for-the-pirate-party-in-germany/)


Moderate position on copyright issues

Alain Toner:

"In response to the electoral emergence of the PP the debate around copyright in Germany has restarted in earnest. On Thursday the weekly newspaper Die Zeit published a letter titled “We are the Creators” where they condemned the ‘profane theft’ of intellectual property – characterised as a ‘great achievement of bourgeois freedom against the dependency of feudalism’ – defended the role of the publishers and other intermediaries commercially exploiting copyrights, and decried those who would use the net as an excuse for ‘stinginess and malice’. The coordinator of the letter campaign is himself not a ‘creator’ but rather a literary agent, suggesting a simple, albeit cynical, explanation for the vehement justification of the publisher’s function. In any case more than 3000 ‘creators’ signed up to the cause.

How such generalised reprimand of the public will be digested amongst the hoi polloi remains to be seen. History may have created a class of authors and publishers with the coming of bourgeois society, but it might be that in the digital era the masses have decided that they themselves are creators, and that the time for a further alteration of property and power relations has arrived …

For the moment however the talk is not of a revolution in property rights, but rather copyright reform: ‘We are the Citizens‘. Likewise the PP’s current copyright policy is distinctly moderate:

  • shorten the term of protection from the (current) life of the author plus seventy years to life plus ten;
  • terminate all transfers to an intermediary for exploitation after 25 years, returning the rights to the author;
  • make any licensing assignment valid for those media known at the time
  • stop prosecuting/pursuit of filesharers on the basis that it is merely reflects the current industry’s incapacity to satisfy demand.

Henceforth the policies of all political parties as regards the internet and communications will be a matter of public scrutiny, and irrespective of how one may feel about the Pirates in a more general sense, for this at least we have them to thank. Effectively they have attached a cost to coziness between political parties and the vested interests who would seek to have the net regulated for their profit. Last autumn members of the CDU were still floating proposals for a local version of the Hadopi/3 Strikes regime, but in the light of the election results, and the scale of the protests against ACTA, such a proposal is now clearly toxic and can be excluded.

While the political strategies of the copyright lobby find themselves blocked, the situation in the courts remains a concern. In April, for example, the regional court in Hamburg found in favour of the German rightsholders organisation GEMA, imposed a form of secondary liability (Störerhaftung) on Google for works posted on Youtube without authorisation. The court required that they institute measures in addition their existing content-id system to keep works off the site, specifically a word filter which would block other versions of songs for which GEMA hold the rights, and that GEMA are not obliged to use content-id as a means of controlling infringing uses. The continuing failure of GEMA and Google to reach an agreement on royalties means that pop music available on the platform elsewhere in the world remains blocked on the German site. Other authorised services such as Hulu and Netflix are not available either." (http://knowfuture.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/pirate-effect-rolls-through-nordrhein-westfalen/)


By Sven Becker et al.:

"On Jan. 5, 2006, Leipzig resident Christian Weiske, who was 23 at the time, reserved the domain name piratenpartei.de. He had read online that a pirate party had been established in Sweden. At first, he placed only one sentence on his new web page: "This domain will be handed over to the Pirate Party as soon as it has been established."

The page ultimately became a launch pad for the German iteration of the Pirate Party. In the summer of 2006, 53 founding Pirates met at the C-Base, a bar popular among the Berlin hacker scene. In their founding document, the new members wrote that they wanted the party to be a "soft party" and not a "clear issues party." "The first three years were filled with hard development work," says founding member Jens Seipenbusch.

The Grassroots

The breakthrough didn't happen until 2009. Then Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen raised the ire of the Internet community by seeking to have child pornography websites blocked. "Censursula was a gift," says Seipenbusch. Weiske turned over the web address to the party in 2007, as promised. He is a "paying member, but not active," he says today. "Other hobbies are more important to me."

The hacker community still makes up the core of the party today. In Bamberg, for example, posters for movies like "The Matrix" and "Terminator 2" hang on the walls, and gutted computers and an oscilloscope are on the table. Tilman Beitter and a few other nerds are taking apart a flatbed scanner, which they want to convert into a Styrofoam cutter. Beitter is 29, is a little green around the gills and has a friendly disposition. He is an application developer, a hacker and a Pirate.

Beitter spends much of his free time in a converted bar near the train station, a space popular with hackers. "In the past, people like us would sit alone in their basements," he says. "Now we've found a place where we can carry out projects together."

The members of the Bamberg hacker space meet almost every day. For them, hacking isn't just the act of penetrating other people's computer systems; most of all, they see it as tinkering. "In the hacker space, we open up computers and look to see what's broken," says one hacker. "The Pirate Party is now doing the same thing with the political system."

Twelve hackers have come to the space on this evening. About half are Pirate Party members. They do things that seem outlandish to other people. In Bamberg, for instance, hundreds of couples have hung padlocks on the railing of a downtown bridge as symbols of their love. The members of the hacker space went to the bridge and broke open as many of the locks as possible, only to hang them back onto the railing again in the same spot. Such forms of hacking are a favorite pastime among nerds.

Revenge of the Digital Natives

Women apparently have little use for such antics. Only four of the 25 members of the Bamberg hacker space are female, and this particular evening is an all-male affair. The small female quotient probably also has to do with the coarse language nerds tend to use. A sign on the bathroom door reads: "Your mother sweats when she craps."

Until a few years ago, Beitter organized LAN parties at a highway rest stop. Thousands of gamers would sometimes show up to face off in games of "Counter Strike" or "World of Warcraft." Today Beitter spends his free time with something called geo-caching, a sort of treasure hunt in which he walks around outside with a GPS receiver, looking for objects that other players have buried.

This is the world that the politics of the Pirates comes from. While politicians are typically outgoing people, quick to talk to anyone at the bar or on the playground, the shy type tends to prevail among the Pirates. Typical Pirates are outsiders who used to walk across the schoolyard alone, and who talk a lot in chat rooms but tend to be reserved elsewhere.

These people engage in politics in the spirit of the game, especially role-playing games. They assume different identities and their true identities become unimportant, allowing them to become whoever they want to be. As a result, they don't need real names, just amusing pseudonyms. There's often a certain amount of flippancy involved. Many original Pirates have a warrior biography and have hunted down people on virtual battlefields, which helps explain their sometimes blunt form of discourse on the web. Chats are often like shootouts: tough, sparse and dry. And no one has to look anyone else in the eye, either.

The establishment of the party was a defensive reflex, as they continue to tell themselves today. From their perspective, the party is an instrument in the battle being waged by the indigenous people of the Internet, the Digital Natives, against all those who seek to colonize and regulate it." (http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-s-pirate-party-seek-to-reinvent-politics-a-829451.html)

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