Interview with Pirate Party Leader: "These are Crucial Freedoms": Page 3

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Courting the Pirates

The next time that the European Parliament sits, its members will include Christian Engstrom, an entrepreneur turned activist who has been an anti-patent lobbyist for the past five years. If the Pirates receive a second seat, Engstrom will be joined by Amelia Andersdotter, whom Falkvinge describes as "one of the brightest minds we have in the Pirate Party." She will also be the youngest member ever elected to the European Parliament if she sits.

Meanwhile, after being frequently criticized as "having a too narrow platform" -- much like the Labour and Green parties when they first appeared -- the Pirate Party finds itself newly sought after. Since the results of the European election were announced, all seven of the party groups or coalitions in the parliament have extended invitations to the Pirate Party to join them.

What makes an alliance with the Pirate Party suddenly desirable may be partly an awareness that its members are discussing issues that everyone else is hardly aware of. However, the party's desirability may be due just as much to the fact that it was the most popular party among voters under thirty -- a group that other parties have long had difficulties attracting.

Moreover, with multiple parties, the Pirate Party's seven percent of the vote is a significant bloc of votes under any circumstances.

"These seven [party groups] are basically bending over backwards to get our credibility into their own group,” Falkvinge says. “We've got such enormous street credibility that these parties are fighting over us."

Speaking a few days after the election results, Falkvinge was visibly triumphant. However, he is already looking forward to the next Swedish national elections, where he hopes that the Pirate Party will hold the balance of power in a minority government. The price of an alliance with the Pirates, of course, will be the adoption of their policies.

"The European election gave us legitimacy," Falkvinge says. "The next national election will let us rewrite the laws."

If that happens, then the European Union and the rest of the world might feel the effect. Already, Pirate Parties are springing up in imitation of the Swedish one, and, as its ability to attract the youth vote demonstrates, there are thousands for whom the Pirates are the only political group speaking about issues they care about.

"There are two important things to remember," Falkvinge says. "First of all, we're part of the next generation civil liberties movement. This is a civil liberties movement. These are crucial freedoms and crucial rights that are being jeopardized by people wanting to close down the Net, and we want to safeguard those rights. We basically want the fundamental rights and freedoms to apply online as well as off-line.

"The second thing I want to emphasize is that we've grown only by people talking to one another. We've grown almost a quarter million votes, 50,000 members, 17,000 activists, by one person talking to another, one conversation at a time, one colleague, kin or class mate at a time over a three year period.

“This, if nothing else, shows that you can do that. You are not dependent on old media any more. If you have a strong message and it concerns people, then you can drive that yourself."

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Tags: open source, software, free software, Copyright

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