A small victory was earned for filesharers last month when the creator of Oink website was acquitted at Teesside Crown Court. Filesharing, where individuals can share information online, has angered the music and film industries by ignoring copyright laws, and thus denying big corporations millions of pounds of income. This ruling gives hope to four Swedish filesharers (administrators of Pirate Bay) found guilty in April 2009 of “assisting in making copyright content available”, who were sentenced to a year in jail, and fined damages of more than $3,600,000, payable to 17 big companies including Sony BMG and Universal.
John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (umbrella organisation for such companies), said of the Oink case: “I cannot sleep at night when that man has £200,000 sitting in his bank account.”
Current copyright law is directly opposed to the idea of having a shared culture, in arts and ideas. In the past, patent laws and potential profits have led pharmaceutical companies to withhold the design for AIDS drugs from many Third World countries, effectively holding the technology beyond their reach. The same problem is preventing these countries from developing renewable energy technology.
We advocate wholesale non-compliance with intellectual property rights; if a global just transition (as just one example) is to be achieved, then sweeping changes to copyright law are needed. Filesharing is one such way to circumnavigate and expedite the process.
Some groups are campaigning for reform. The Pirate Party UK (PPUK) was founded in July 2009, following the success of the Swedish Pirate Party in the 2009 European elections. The PPUK joins a list of Pirate Party affiliates across the world, as part of the Pirate Parties International (PPI) group. The PPUK holds three basic principles. These are:
1. The reform of Copyright and Patent laws
2. The protection of our Right to Privacy
3. The protection of our Right to Freedom of Speech
The reforms they advocate do not go far enough, however, since they merely seek to legalise filesharing where profit is not made.
The PPUK has frustratingly avoided attempts to broaden out from being a single-issue party. In response to unprompted discussions on its web forums over suggested policies on the NHS, the legalisation of cannabis and other issues, former party Treasurer John McKeown said: “Whilst we are very grateful for all the suggestions about different policies that we should adopt, the Pirate Party UK intends to remain on topic and concentrate on our three core beliefs... the PPUK will remain neutral on all other issues.”
The PPUK plans to field candidates in the general election; they have already announced their intention to stand in the Worcester and Bury North constituencies. Party leader Andrew Robinson said that the party hoped to raise awareness:
“What we really want to do is raise awareness so that the other parties say ‘bloody hell, they’ve got seven million votes this time out’... or enough votes to make them care and seriously think about these issues.”