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5 Jun, 2009 05:42

Europarliament to vote on Pirate Code

Pirates in Parliament - it could happen this weekend as voters turn out for the EU elections. In Sweden - a political movement called 'The Pirate Party' - is sailing at full speed to steal some seats in Brussels.

Its leaders want to reform laws on illegal downloading from the Internet – and they compare their battle with the right to freedom of speech.

Loving ain't easy, according to one of the most popular Swedish pop bands Bodies Without Organs.

But for its lead singer Martin Rolinski, breaking into the global music market has become an even harder task. And all of that, he says, is thanks to Internet pirates, who have spread rapidly in his home country.

“Usually people mention big artists like Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears. But the thing is that it is not they who are really getting affected. It’s the new artists that would have made it a couple of years ago. If this is like a big piracy hub of the world, then we should think that we are not only inflicting Swedish writers, artists, actors, we are also inflicting Russian artists or German artists,” the pop singer told RT.

Centuries ago the Swedes – back then Vikings – were seafarers. Now they have found another sea to conquer – the World Wide Web. This Scandinavian country is home to The Pirate Bay website – an Internet torrent file-sharing resource. A vast amount of information is being up- and downloaded through it every day. Most of it is considered illegal – pirated software, music and videos. So a lawsuit was recently launched against the website's owners.

The Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau was happy to see most of them eventually convicted and given prison sentences, but it says the verdict brought quite the opposite result.

“The Internet traffic has dropped forty per cent: it’s far less pirate movies released on them. In other countries people are saying, ‘OK, this is law. We accept it.’ Here, they are starting demonstrations against us, and they connected piracy with the right, with freedom to speak,” Henrik Ponten of the Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau has said in an interview with RT.

But now Swedish Internet pirates have gone political. A political party, called The Pirate Party, was established in Sweden three years ago, but this year it is running for a seat in the European Parliament.

Denying direct association with The Pirate Bay bunch, its leader says they are like Greenpeace and a Green Party, sharing the same values.

“The Pirate Bay is certainly both famous and infamous. We think they are heroes, we think they deserve a medal. They’ve done more for culture than most people in our generation. Today’s human rights must apply online, as well as offline. We are talking about things like the freedom of expression; the right to express opinions anonymously. These are under attack,” Rick Falkvinge, a leader of the Pirate Party has said.

And in this case, it seems the PirateBay convicts did not suffer for nothing. Their conviction skyrocketed support for the Pirate Party within just weeks, immediately turning it into Sweden's third-largest political force.

It is mostly backed by young people aged 18 to 25, but now has also attracted some big guns to its ranks.

Famous Swedish poet Karl Gustaffson – now 73 – says the party has highlighted the need for change and that the Net is also in need of democracy. He is a writer, but does not care much about losing money on the web.

“I want to be read. I am a serious writer; I want my books to be read. I find it absolutely ridiculous with these 150-copy-poets, who protest against the freedom of the Net,” he told RT.

The Pirate Party seems to be very specialized, only fighting for one issue. But its leaders say that, should they be granted a seat in the Europarliament after Sunday's vote, they may well expand their agenda. And, who knows? If they manage to be successful in Brussels, the Swedish political pirates may also grow into a serious political force back home.

The Swedish pirate party is the first and biggest of its kind, but it is already forcing a worldwide trend with similar political movements being born in other European countries. And even though the times of the Jolly Roger and Captain Morgan are long gone, these Swedish politicians say that, should they make it into the European Parliament, it would mean the beginning of a new era for piracy.