What is the Pirate Party?

From United States Pirate Party
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Translated from the Swedish Pirate Party's site. A place holder for now.

The Pirate Party wants to ensure democracy in the new information society.

The Pirate Party is perhaps best known for its stance regarding file sharing - the belief that the ability to freely share information is a key right in a democratic society. It is true that the Pirate Party wants to abolish the ban on file sharing (which has criminalized an entire generation of young people), but not because we really, really want the latest movies without paying for them. The problem is that the methods used to protect copyrighted works involve spying on everyone, all the time.

To stop file sharing, it is necessary to do two things. First, it is necessary to identify the user associated with every transaction. That means that every search term you enter, and every page you visit, is recorded forever. In the physical world, as a citizen of the United States, you are protected against unreasonable search and seizure. On the internet, you have to show your identification to everyone at every doorway and street corner. It is difficult for the average computer user to understand the scope and specificity of the information that can be collected about her.

The priority of the Pirate Party is to make sure the rights essential to democracy survive the transition to digital modes of speech. You should have the right to look for information without being surveilled. You should have the right to understand and control the dissemination of your private information. You should have the ability to speak (anonymously if necessary) about important issues without fear of reprisal. The authorities should have to operate transparently, in accordance with clear standards.

The existing political parties have entirely failed to preserve these rights. Extensive wiretapping programs[1] exist without publicly-available documentation or oversight. Service operators can build detailed maps of your social interactions [2], financial transactions [3], and the real-time locations of your cell phone[4].

Imagine coming home every day and finding in your mailbox an envelope of photos of you. Here you are taking money out of an ATM. There you are buying a present for someone you love. This information is already being collected about you. The details of your daily traffic in the world--where you are, who you are with, what you are doing[5]--are bought and sold at the whim of marketers, spies and system administrators. The Pirate party is trying to stop that.

Why does the Pirate Party care so much about the internet?

The Internet is one of the greatest achievements in human history; it has changed the entire world's infrastructure. The Internet is the best tool for democracy and equality that has been invented. It is a worldwide nervous system carrying conversation, culture, politics, knowledge, and freedom, a global bazaar where we will eventually be able to communicate with everyone in the world.

The Internet strengthens democracy, in which power comes from the consent of the governed. An open exchange of ideas helps citizens decide how society should be managed and developed. For the Internet to serve democracy, a diversity of values and perspectives must be accepted and tolerated. Everyone must be allowed to communicate, seek information and publish full texts anonymously if needed. The First and Fourth Amendments must be respected.

But powerful forces want to control who can speak on the Internet. Governments censor, filter, monitor, record and analyze everything that happens. Various businesses would also like to restrict speech on the internet. The entertainment industry would like to reduce the Internet to a TV-like multimedia channel, an electronic advertising space and shopping center with no possibility of free or private communication.

Culture should not be a commodity, available only to those who can afford to pay for it. It should not be a crime for the members of society to share and comment on the artifacts that are part of their shared environment. Efforts to control speech over the Internet inevitably give governments or corporations the power to silence dissenting opinions. This would reduce the democratic potential of the Internet to that of a shopping mall.

The Pirate Party wants the Internet to be a haven for democracy and free speech. The Pirate Party is the Internet's political wing.

Why doesn't the Pirate Party take a position on other issues?

The Pirate Party only takes a stand on key issues. Our priority is to preserve the conditions for democracy and basic civil rights as we transition into an information-based society. The old parties handle these issues in a disastrously bad way. The Pirate Party was formed to try and turn things around, and has chosen to focus all its political efforts on technological freedoms.

This does not mean that other policies are not important. Everyone agrees that health care, education and environmental issues must be addressed. But these are not issues that the Pirate Party has specific expertise to answer.

The Democrats and Republicans are good at fighting over income taxes. They're good at fighting over health care. They're not as good at listening to ordinary citizens. The Pirate Party focuses on the big questions of democracy, free speech and privacy. We must not let the old parties dismantle basic civil rights to protect failing business models.

Pirates focus where it matters most.

Focus - on privacy and surveillance

Is the Pirate Party opposed to all monitoring?

No, the Pirate Party is not against all kinds of surveillance. Supervision is not always a bad thing. Some monitoring is necessary to keep people safe--we need the contributions of officers of the peace, firefighters, and other public servants. When someone is suspected of a crime, the courts should decide whether the police can monitor him. Effective, reasonable law enforcement, with sufficient protections for citizens, helps solve crimes and promote healthy communities.

But the Pirate Party is opposed to arbitrary surveillance and mass surveillance of all kinds. Mass surveillance is disproportionate, anti-democratic and dangerous. Innocent people will inevitably be caught, as numerous cases of abuse and information leaks show. Moreover, it is inefficient. Studies[6] in the US and the United Kingdom show that mass surveillance does not lead to less crime, and that it helps to clear up very few.

We are now more closely watched than ever. This applies particularly to our activities on the Internet. This is due to badly mismanaged policies of controlling access to resources that should be available to everyone--most importantly access to information. Meanwhile, the terrorist attacks in New York, London and Madrid have created a climate of fear.

In addition, mass surveillance is also expensive. It is funded through your taxes, and your telephone and internet bill. You must pay for the staff and the complex technical systems to manage the scanning, listening, recording and mapping of your communications, your dealings and contacts.

Mass surveillance of its own people is simply a very bad idea. The Pirate Party is the only political party that focuses on this issue.

Shouldn't the innocent have nothing to fear?

Every human being needs privacy. Most people don't want to be watched inside their homes. They don't like having their conversations overheard or recorded. Everyone has things they don't want their bosses, governments, or even friends to know. The law should respect these secrets and help protect them.

Privacy must have limitations and exceptions, such as in cases of suspected crimes. But the exceptions must be truly exceptional. The main principle is that every person is entitled to have her private life remain private. To question this right (using the argument that "the innocent have nothing to fear") is demonstrating an authoritarian outlook.

Inappropriate and overly broad surveillance harms the innocent more than the guilty. Those who are aware that they should be cautious are usually good at getting away. But information about ordinary people's credit card numbers, health problems, sexual habits, religion or political views have fallen into the wrong hands countless times. The innocent end up getting caught in the middle. Mass surveillance of the population creates new risks for citizens.

The United States used to have a Fourth Amendment that protected against unreasonable search and seizure. Now we have a Fourth Amendment that can sometimes be used after an arrest, search, and the destruction of property to protect the citizen against some of the more draconian punishments for having come under suspicion in the first place. The freedom from unreasonable search and seizure should be the freedom to not be made to fear the government or its agents; it should be the freedom to tell Homeland Security and the FBI to go get a warrant if they want to examine your belongings or listen to your phone calls. The freedom from government overreaching is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution.

But isn't a little surveillance ok?

Some think that because the United States is a democracy, mass surveillance is acceptable. But democracy means much more than just majority rule and free and general elections. It also requires respect for certain fundamental rights. The fact that a state is "good" can not be used as an excuse to ignore certain rights. On the contrary - a state that carries out arbitrary mass surveillance of its citizens is no longer good.

When journalists' freedom of movement is restricted by digital monitoring, it becomes more risky for whistle blowers to contact the media, and it becomes harder for journalists to engage in investigative journalism. When human movements are identified in a state monitoring system, the media in is restricted in its important role to examine the powerful and expose abuses in society.

For the democratic process to function, citizens must be free to gather information so that they can make informed decisions. If we are - or feel - monitored, the risk is that we will not visit certain sites, search on certain keywords, or communicate with certain people. Citizens must not feel like there are negative consequences for either looking for information or for voicing opinions.

People have struggled for centuries to build a free and open society. When a surveillance strategy is used to maintain order, important civil rights are subjected to one restriction after another. The democratic gains that have occurred over hundreds of years have begun to be rolled back.

The Pirate Party stands for freedom and democracy - but for real.

Focus - on the culture and the internet

Isn't it wrong to share copyrighted works?

American culture is defined by the kinds of expression it creates--the books, movies, music, and shared experiences that make us who we are. These things are our cultural heritage, and we should not permit any person or company to prevent us from sharing them with each other. We now use media technology to speak in our own voices, and there should be no royalty whose words we may not quote. The Pirate Party thinks that authors should for a limited time have the rights to sell their works for money, but those works should always be able to be distributed under terms that encourage sharing.

The Internet has given us an unprecedented chance to communicate globally. If it is to remain a tool for communication and not simply become another corporate/government media channel, we need to preserve some freedoms now. One of those freedoms is the freedom to distribute media without restrictions - the freedom to speak.

It is a basic human instinct to share culture and knowledge. The Pirate Party wants to allow that, and allow everyone in the world to join in creating a global culture. It may sound grandiose and utopian, but it's actually very simple. The technology is available. The resources are endless. Only outdated laws stand in the way.

The Library of Alexandria burned down. It was the largest collection of knowledge in its time. The Pirate Party wants to build a commons for all society. We want to see a new Alexandria - though this time with free access for people all over the world.

The Pirate Party wants all people to be able to obtain all knowledge and all culture - without exceptions.

How will artists get paid?

We believe that, in the future, the artists will get paid as they do now - by selling their goods and services! Record sales have declined over the past decade, but at the same rate, the sales of concert tickets have skyrocketed. Artists earn more money now than before, which figures from many independent studies show. Moreover, it is those who are downloading the most who buy the most - both music, movies and computer games.

The same goes for the movie industry. It is brilliant! The world's most downloaded film ever is James Cameron's Avatar, which is also the film that has earned the most money ever.

Musicians get more money, filmmakers have more money, and computer game industry gets more money. Meanwhile, more and more people access to more culture.

The conditions for providing access to important works of art, culture and knowledge have never been better. The Internet is a global circulatory system that oxygenates culture and lets it flourish. It is now easier and cheaper to access, modify, create and disseminate culture than ever.

The Pirate Party encourages good business models in a thriving cultural scene.

Shouldn't authors decide how to distribute their works?

Of course, the author of a work can decide whether she wants to distribute it. If I write a book, I can decide who is allowed to sell it, and who to give it to. But I can not prevent anyone from giving it out after they have bought it.

It's the same on the Internet. If I have made a disc, I can decide who to send it to, either for free or for profit. But I do not get to decide how other people manage their information. If you own the music that I released you should have the right to pass it on. You should also be free to remix it, build on it, and create new music from it.

The Pirate Party believes that copyright law as it stands today is too great a restriction on the right of people to use and copy the information that rightfully belongs to them. We want to let everyone decide how to use the information they hold. This will lead to more balanced cultural ownership and better conditions for cultural creativity.

The Pirate Party wants every human being to have access to culture and knowledge.

Focus - the party's strategy

Isn't "Pirate Party" a frivolous name?

No. While the Pirate Party's name was a reaction to the 'anti-piracy' movement, as Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party notes[7]:

"Either we call ourselves the Pirate Party, and get to define what the name stands for, they reasoned, or we’ll be called the Pirate Party anyway, without control of what the name stands for."

While the name may turn off some people, most likely they will already dismiss our values or say we shouldn't challenge the the two-party system.

Quite simply, we believe in personal privacy, free access to information, civil liberties and the rights of the individual against state and corporate power. Some people brand us pirates for that. Well, then we are pirates, and we stand tall and proud about it.