Can a pirate hold political office? In Sweden, yes, In Canada, probably not yet, but if they try, it can bring the issues of copyright reform, net neutrality and privacy to the forefront of the public discourse. That’s part of the rationale behind the formation of the Pirate Party of Canada.
“We are strongly driven by the principles of freedom and privacy,” says Pirate Party organizer Rob Britton, “we are needed because no other party seems terribly concerned about these issues. The Greens do have a similar stance on them, but don’t really focus on them.”
Pirate Party logo design by Brad Touesnard
Formed, or rather re-formed, in 2009 after electoral success of another Pirate Party in the Swedish parliament, the Pirate Party of Canada is currently completing the registration process to become an official federal party. Their platform consists of five points: a reform of Canada’s copyright laws in favor of ordinary people versus corporations, a reform of the patents system, better respect for privacy, net neutrality and a more open government.
There are currently two bills before parliament that would give police greater and in some cases warrantless access to private internet communications. Meanwhile, the Harper government has dusted off an old liberal bill (which they had once thought about passing as well) that could see individuals fined as much as $20 000 for uploading music files. Canada is also participating in talks on the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement which could mean that border guards would be searching laptops and iPods for illegal downloads. There clearly are roadblocks to achieving copyright reform in Canada. According to Britton, though, we’re better off than other places.
“While our system is far from perfect and could use some work,” he observes, “at least we seem to have a glimmer of hope when it comes to bringing in copyright reform. Compare this to the US, the UK or Australia, where it seems like the government is continually clamping down on the general public’s freedom.”
The Pirate Party also feels that the clampdown on freedom for the sake of a corporate agenda goes beyond attacking file sharing. It can also be felt when net neutrality, the principle the internet was built on, is threatened. This not only applies to readers, listeners and viewers, but content producers as well.
Pirate at work: Rob Britton
“Without net neutrality,” Britton argues, “access to Internet becomes more controlled by a smaller group of companies. This raises costs for both the consumers and the people distributing their content through the Internet. Even worse, restricting more advanced protocols like BitTorrent limits cost-effective options for distributors to get their content to their audience.”
Britton hopes his party will help reverse the trend of pro-corporate policies and set Canada on a more people-friendly course. He doesn’t feel they need to win a seat to do so, either.
“I do believe that with our first-past-the-post system we will go the same route as the Green Party,” he admits, “it is highly unlikely that we will win any seats. However like the Green Party, it is our hope that even without seats we will be able to influence the platform of other parties with regards to our issues.”
While individual members are free to decide their own stance on the other issues of the day, the Pirate Party as a whole has decided, after lengthy debate, not to expand their platform. It is the focus on their main issues that drives them.
“At our core we are a political party,” Britton asserts, “the goal is to bring to the table our views on copyright/patent reform, net neutrality and privacy in an attempt to make Canada a better place to live for those who value these things. We believe that the changes we propose will help spur both technological and cultural innovation.”
For more on the Pirate Party of Canada or to become a member (it’s free for now), please visit pirateparty.ca