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August 12, 2009 10:40 AM   Subscribe

You've heard of the Swedish Pirate Party. You may have seen their their elected MEP, and their 50,000 members. You may even have heard of the German Pirate Party's thousand members. But now the Open Rights Group does not stand alone in the UK's digital rights movement. On June 30th, the British Pirate Party was registered. Press reaction is here.

The initial policies:

• Reform copyright and patent law. We want to legalise non-commercial file sharing and reduce the excessive length of copyright protection, while ensuring that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders. We want a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die.

• End the excessive surveillance, profiling, tracking and monitoring of innocent people by Government and big businesses.

• Ensure that everyone has real freedom of speech and real freedom to enjoy and participate in our shared culture.

Shared policy discussion currently takes place on the wiki (and the Copyright Policy Working Group may be of particular interest).

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posted by jaduncan (47 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
And why yes, I am pleased about it. Even though they won't even keep their deposits in most places in the general election. Wait till the PR European elections in London, though...
posted by jaduncan at 10:46 AM on August 12, 2009


Wouldn't the copyright reforms be better made by offering people the option to sign up to a label that doesn't take all their money and puts the power back into the artists hands? It seems to me that attacking the RIAA/similar is a bit of a waste of money. It's better to give people a better option, surely?
posted by Solomon at 10:50 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess "Freedom From Popups" isn't a top priority.
posted by DU at 10:58 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


this is good.

My fellow Canadians - let's get ourselves organisized.
posted by philip-random at 11:03 AM on August 12, 2009


I suppose the Copyright Reform Party isn't nearly as fun to say as the Pirate Party. It doesn't make any less sense than "Whigs" though.
posted by emjaybee at 11:07 AM on August 12, 2009


My fellow Canadians - let's get ourselves organisized.

Ok, but someone in Saskatchewan has to be the one to start it. Both for the chance of success and for the musical interludes.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


We want to legalise non-commercial file sharing

I would argue that the real problems are criminalization and excessive statutory damages for individual non-commercial infringers, not the simple illegality of it. I would support decriminalization of non-commercial copyright infringement and a limitation of civil suit recovery to actual damages in non-commercial cases. This would bring copyright more in line with patents, for example, which have no criminal enforcement mechanism and no statutory damages.

reduce the excessive length of copyright protection

Again the problem is not the excessive length per se. The problem is that the length is completely divorced from the ongoing value of the work to society, its creator, or the rightsholder. All works are treated the same, and even the copying of orphan works is theoretically punishable by criminal sanction despite the fact that no one actually owns the copyright anymore.

There are several better approaches than reducing the copyright term across the board: mandatory registration (perhaps after a short grace period), maintenance fees (progressive or flat), etc.

while ensuring that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders

What if the artist is the monopoly rightsholder? What if the artist doesn't also want to be a business person, so he or she sells or licenses the rights to another person in exchange for a cut of the profits? Again, the real problem is not the alienability of copyright but the culture of exploitation and lopsided negotiating prevalent in creative industries.

End the excessive surveillance, profiling, tracking and monitoring of innocent people by Government and big businesses.

I have no particular beef with that. Maybe they can start with Google, which is kind of starting to get a bit scary.

Ensure that everyone has...real freedom to enjoy and participate in our shared culture.

Through things like Creative Commons licensing and the GPL nothing is stopping them from enjoying and participating in a shared culture of their own making. As it is, creators have the right to be as restrictive or as free with their creations as they like. What it seems like the Pirate Party wants is dictating that everyone's creative output be fair game for this shared culture. I think I prefer that creators have more freedom rather than less.
posted by jedicus at 11:12 AM on August 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I support the pirate party. I wonder if it would be possible to quantify how much innovation is lost due to extreme intellectual property laws. If we could quantify and list what was being prevented by them then a real case could be made.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:18 AM on August 12, 2009


Wow, are these people serious? Pirate party? Whats next the Ninja, Robot, and Ape coalition?

Sadly, the legitimate people fighting for patent and copyright reform will be dragged down by kiddies who want free movies and porn. Self marginaliztion and over-the-top rhetoric didnt help with drug prohibition and it probably wont here help. I hope all the torrents of GI Joe are worth it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:20 AM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


As it is, creators have the right to be as restrictive or as free with their creations as they like.

Thats really the crux of the argument. Creators could be releasing things free, but they dont want to. Painting this as "DUDE ITS US VS THE MAN" via copyright law and criticism of corporate structure is just distraction. In reality, they want to strip creators of their rights.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:22 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is the sense I get reading the wiki:

"We want to reform copyright, we're not trying to abolish it ['Copyright Policy Working Group']...

...but we want filesharing to be legal and unencumbered ['Freedom of Speech Working Group'], and we want it to be virtually impossible to enforce laws against filesharers ['Privacy Working Group']."


So basically they're willing to compromise as long as they don't have to give anything up to do so.

I think Solomon has it, and I'll go even further. Almost everything the UK Piracy Party is proposing can exist in the current system (I assume... IANAUKL). Artists can release their work in the public domain whenever they like. They don't have to sic the government on people pirating their work online. They don't have to sell their rights to monopoly RIAA-like entities.

And yet the political momentum from these groups is overwhelmingly for reforming the law; Piracy advocates never seem to be trying to convince artists that its in their own interest for Information To Be Free, even though that's supposed to be part of the platform.

I think that's pretty telling. I'm all in favor of copyright reforms. But the impression I get from these groups is that they mostly just like getting to enjoy other people's work without paying for it, and want us all to accommodate their changes to the system so that they don't have to feel guilty about it or worry about getting into trouble. Like they're anti-bathwater only as long as they get to keep the baby.

Not that they're bad people... I fully believe that they believe they're serving a higher principle. But you can construct a "higher principle" to defend nearly anything and hide your actual motivations (even from yourself). I remain skeptical of their noble motives, based on how self-serving this particular principle seems to be.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:28 AM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


We want a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die.

That's kind of you. I prefer compulsory licensing, but yeah. Can't I just vote for a socialist if there's any of the buggers left?


Oh, and kudos for the optional Welsh name. All the best pirates were Welsh.
posted by Sova at 11:35 AM on August 12, 2009


jedicus: "There are several better approaches than reducing the copyright term across the board: mandatory registration (perhaps after a short grace period), maintenance fees (progressive or flat), etc."

I don't necessarily know what you're thinking of, here, but what you've described sounds like a corporation's dream and an individual's nightmare. They either favor the wealthy or those who have ample time to fret about grace period expirations and the process involved in registering.
posted by shmegegge at 11:50 AM on August 12, 2009


I don't necessarily know what you're thinking of, here

Something like this:

Create a work. It is copyrighted on fixation in a tangible medium, just as it is now, for a period of X years (where X is fairly large, say, 10-20 years). After that time, the work must be registered, which requires a very nominal fee. Once registered, the copyright lasts as long as it currently does.

Such a system gives plenty of time in the vast majority of cases to determine whether a work has any particular commercial value. If it does, then registration is quick, cheap, and easy (could be done online, for example). Registration has the additional benefit of providing a clearinghouse for contact information for rights owners. This helps deals get done as it provides an easy way to contact the owner and negotiate a license or transfer.

Maintenance fees would be similar: the first X (10-20) years are free, then maintenance fees are assessed every Y years, where Y is small. The fees could be flat, based on the number of years the copyright has been in force, based on the number of copyrights held by the entity, etc. Lots of possible schemes could be dreamed up. The idea is to encourage rightsholders to give up copyrights on less valuable works and let them enter the public domain ahead of schedule.

The maintenance fee requirement would also force rightsholders to keep registration information current, which would facilitate the clearinghouse function of the registry.
posted by jedicus at 12:07 PM on August 12, 2009


I think Ian Mackaye put it best: "When people who are songwriters say 'That's my property and if you give it away for free then I'll lose my incentive,' then, well, good riddance."
posted by dunkadunc at 12:13 PM on August 12, 2009


dunkadunc, if you oppose an artist's politics, you could simply not listen to his music.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:19 PM on August 12, 2009


"while ensuring that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders"

This smells like moral rights. That's just making the problem worse.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:33 PM on August 12, 2009


That's a bit hypocritical of you, dunkadunc, don't you think? You protested Iliad using one of your comments in his comic strip. How is that not 'participating in our shared culture?' If people ripping off your Metafilter posts bothers you, then, well, good riddance.

(NB: Tongue firmly in cheek, here. I value your contributions to the site and don't want anybody to rip them off, especially not to make crummy comic strips.)
posted by jedicus at 12:34 PM on August 12, 2009


Finally, the asylum may tell the lunatics how to run things.
posted by mikeh at 12:42 PM on August 12, 2009


One simple change: By default everything should NOT be governed by copyright. Apply for copyright protection if you want it. If not, it's fair game.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:48 PM on August 12, 2009


Wouldn't the copyright reforms be better made by offering people the option to sign up to a label that doesn't take all their money and puts the power back into the artists hands? It seems to me that attacking the RIAA/similar is a bit of a waste of money. It's better to give people a better option, surely?

They already have that option. The problem is how music is typically created and transmitted. "The percentage that you receive for each album sold is a negotiating point, but typically it can fall anywhere between 10% and 20%." And that 10% to 20% goes down, with costs for producing the album, advance against royalties, and other moneydrains, all the cost of doing business with a major label.

Counter-example: David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists. with the upswing of inexpensive (and viable) home recording options, the studio costs can be drastically cut. Focus on digital distribution or CDs made on-demand, and the up-front costs of producing the physical item are cut back drastically. Promotion is still tricky: big labels have their existing networks, but if you have something truly fantastic, things can go viral in a good way, costing you little.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:57 PM on August 12, 2009


Just a little addendum: the German Piratenpartei now has about 5.000 members. There was quite an increase after the latest round of internet censorship discussion.

damn dirty ape: "In reality, they want to strip creators of their rights."
Not so. The original copyright laws are a compromise: the creator is granted certain artificial rights for a period of time, in exchange for which he agrees to release the content into the public domain afterward. The problem is that this time limit has been unilaterally moved until it is no longer considered a fair bargain by many people. The Pirate Party movements therefore demand the rights to the content / the culture that were taken from them back.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 1:01 PM on August 12, 2009


goofy "legalize it" stoners:real drug reform ::
goofy "give us our free downloads" "pirates":real creative and civil liberties issues
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:12 PM on August 12, 2009


I think Ian Mackaye put it best: "When people who are songwriters say 'That's my property and if you give it away for free then I'll lose my incentive,' then, well, good riddance."

Yeah.

It's a shame no real person, anywhere, has ever said that. Prove how stick-up-the-butt ideologically pure you are on your own time- wanting to take food off the table of your fellow artists just makes you a dick.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:16 PM on August 12, 2009


Please note that I remain confused as to precisely how the US copyright setting of life of the creator plus seventy-five years is good for anyone who isn't involved with a mickey mouse organization. If you can tell me why this is a positive social good to have things last that long, please try.
posted by mephron at 1:46 PM on August 12, 2009


There is also a Swiss Pirate Party. English news story about them. Official site in German and French (Their site uses open source Drupal, and their first assembly will be held at the Gutenberg Museum in Fribourg. Love that Swiss attention to detail.)
posted by thread_makimaki at 1:48 PM on August 12, 2009


I think Ian Mackaye may have had a slight change of heart, owning a record label that charges for digital downloads of records and all.

That being said it is probably the best record label out there for giving artists decent rights, and the music is priced very reasonably. Free, it is not.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 1:49 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't this party count as an "extremist organisation" devoted to overthrowing the status quo, much like al-Muhajiroun or the BNP, in the eyes of the law? If you joined this party, couldn't it harm your career prospects if you sought work in any field dealing with intellectual property (i.e., the media, or any software companies keen to avoid being tarred with the brush of supporting "piracy")?
posted by acb at 2:01 PM on August 12, 2009


"while ensuring that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders"

This is the most interesting point to me. As I see it, the next "evolution" of the filesharing game will be some form of making internet service providers pay up to various "artists groups" for lost royalties etc. The service providers will then pass these costs along to we, the providees (probably whether we download or not). Fair enough, it won't be a huge cost and artists etc do need to eat.

BUT ...

The fun comes in when these increased fees actually get divvied up. I think it's dreaming to think that this will happen in anything approaching a fair manner (ie: lawyers, crooks and other music biz interests will elbow everybody else out of the way and claim the lion's share for their "artists") ... unless somebody (ie: these various Pirate Parties maybe) step up and start fighting the good fight NOW.

Shiver-me-timbers-and-hoist-the-sails.
posted by philip-random at 2:08 PM on August 12, 2009


My fellow Canadians - let's get ourselves organisized.


Done and done. disclaimer: I have nothing to do with this
posted by dr. moot at 2:13 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Prove how stick-up-the-butt ideologically pure you are on your own time- wanting to take food off the table of your fellow artists just makes you a dick.

drjimmy11 ... could you not have phrased this in a less nasty manner? If so, I might take the time to respond thoughtfully to what I consider your misconception as to the nature of the filesharing conundrum, and its negative effects on content creators abilities to survive. As is, you're just coming off like someone who's looking for a screaming match.
posted by philip-random at 2:15 PM on August 12, 2009


Done and done. disclaimer: I have nothing to do with this

Oh, so now I guess I'm supposed to sign up. Thanks.
posted by philip-random at 2:16 PM on August 12, 2009


The Pirate Party of Canada is already in the process of being organized; and, so far, has about a quarter of the signatures required to register as an official political party. So if you're an eligible voter, and appreciate your digital civil liberties, come on over and help out... whether you're from Saskatchewan or not. :)
posted by DataPacRat at 2:21 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Man, I need to learn how to type faster...)
posted by DataPacRat at 2:22 PM on August 12, 2009


Actually, the Sweedish Pirate Party has 2MEP's, the second is an observer until the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. I caught the official MEP on his first day in Brussels for an interview. He's an interesting guy
posted by quarsan at 3:29 PM on August 12, 2009


DataPacRat: I wasn't aware of the new website though, thanks!
posted by dr. moot at 3:51 PM on August 12, 2009


Wouldn't this party count as an "extremist organisation" devoted to overthrowing the status quo, much like al-Muhajiroun or the BNP, in the eyes of the law?

Actually, I think the question on the questionnaire is "Have you ever been a member of an extremist organization devoted to overthrowing the government?" not "status quo." So joining the Pirate Party probably wouldn't kill your chances of working for the U.S. government (in some field other than intellectual property).
posted by inara at 4:19 PM on August 12, 2009


This more than a few teenagers stealing a few movies or songs.

We are living in a world where corporations are stockpiling copyrights in order to stifle competition. Disney takes the brothers Grimm, builds on it and then locks it up. Micorsoft and the other software giants have people who's job is to do nothing more than patent processes that a future competitor may use. The same goes for Shimano bicycle components. Our art is 99% under control of one of a few media corporations. They say it is all about the artists, but honestly which artist is going to benefit from having a copyright that is longer than his/her lifespan.

You know how frustrating it is to be working on some project and find that a really obvious bit of code or piece of mechanics is one of your competitors intellectual properties. Or you are writing a song and you have to change it, because some arrangement of notes is at use in another song. There are a lot of combinations on a guitar, but they are finite and when you think of the ones that sound good, it is fewer yet.

Remember the refrain:
Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.
Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.
Ours is less and less a free society.


Just make copyright for a reasonable length of time 4-8 years and then let other creative people have a go at it.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 5:33 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think Ian Mackaye put it best: "When people who are songwriters say 'That's my property and if you give it away for free then I'll lose my incentive,' then, well, good riddance."
posted by dunkadunc at 7:13 AM on August 13 [+] [!]


Do you work for free, out of interest? Or do you only expect other people to?

(So, do these parties all have the same ties to immigrant-beating white supremecist groups as the original, or is that an optional extra?)
posted by rodgerd at 5:59 PM on August 12, 2009


Disney takes the brothers Grimm, builds on it and then locks it up.
...
Just make copyright for a reasonable length of time 4-8 years and then let other creative people have a go at it.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 8:33 PM on August 12


The Brothers Grimm's stories are still in the public domain. What on Earth are you talking about?

4-8 years is actually a very short amount of time. Let's say you're a writer who comes out with a new book every year or three (which makes you fairly prolific actually). You get an advance against royalties of $10,000 for each book, and then once you earn out your advance (if you earn out your advance), you start to get 10% of the cover price of the book, with some fiddling amounts for books sold at discount and so on. Say you're pretty successful - not J.K. Rowling or Stephen King successful, but successful enough that your books stay in print year after year. Hurray! You make $10,000 up front for each new book (every two years, roughly), and about $3000/year from royalties on your old books that have earned out their advances.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out how this successful midlist author ever makes enough money to quit her day job under a scheme that puts her work into the public domain after eight years.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:21 PM on August 12, 2009


jedicus: My problem with that User Friendly hack (if you read the thread) was that he was plagiarizing material (ripping off without giving credit) for his painfully lame, imaginationless comics which he was desperately trying to monetize through his website- not at all the same thing as giving away copies for free because you like to share.
Also, I don't think some lame hack will make me lose my incentive to participate here.

Mackaye's point is that if someone's just making music only for the money, then who cares if they stop making it?

I expect money for doing my job because it kind of sucks and it's something I would not otherwise be doing.
I write music for free, out of interest, because I simply can't stop myself. I would play for free at a free venue but if the venue owner were to be making money off my performance I would want to be getting a cut because I don't like subsidizing club owners for free. What's really important is that people hear the music and enjoy it.
I really don't give a damn who listens to copies of my music as long as they know I played it and it's not being used for someone else's commercial gain.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:34 PM on August 12, 2009


So joining the Pirate Party probably wouldn't kill your chances of working for the U.S. government (in some field other than intellectual property).

So you could still drive a forklift or stack supermarket shelves, but jobs that deal with intellectual property (i.e., anything programming-related) could be out.
posted by acb at 10:53 PM on August 12, 2009


dunkadunc: I write music for free, out of interest, because I simply can't stop myself.

That's nice and I applaud that sentiment, and I actually like your music postings, but there is nothing stopping you or any other sympathetic artist from doing what you suggest in the current system so I'm not really seeing it as a major imperative to toss or reduce copyright protections.

I would play for free at a free venue but if the venue owner were to be making money off my performance I would want to be getting a cut because I don't like subsidizing club owners for free.

Now hey there, I'm not sure that follows. "Subsidizing club owners"? They have actual tangible costs... property, inventory, service staff. You're just sharing your art, which you love to make, with people who love to hear it.

What's really important is that people hear the music and enjoy it.

In a way, I could argue that you should be paying the club owners if that's what you think this boils down to. After all, they did all the "sucky job" stuff of acquiring the location, applying for all the necessary licenses, hiring staff, advertising, etc. Your particular performance is a tiny speck compared to the amount of effort that went into making it an attractive venue, and you get to leech off their work to allow people to "hear the music and enjoy it".

Then again, anyone could do their job. Setting up a club doesn't particularly require talent, just effort. Music requires talent and effort and I absolutely think the people who can do so have the right to dictate the cost of enjoying it.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:32 PM on August 12, 2009


The Brothers Grimm's stories are still in the public domain. What on Earth are you talking about?

I guess I wasn't exactly clear with that part of the post. Sorry

What I mean to say is that, for example, Cinderella was around before Disney and before the Brothers Grimm. Disney picked up the story out of the public domain, turned it into a feature film. Now Disney has created a derivative work and have now held the copyright and will not allow any derivative work to build upon their own work. Thus essentially co-opting what was once free, using it to derive profit and then holding tight onto the resulting works.

joannemerriam, I see your point, perhaps 8 years is not enough to make much money, if your numbers are correct. The situation you describe seems to assume that putting the works in public domain means that the author no longer receives money for the works. I have always envisioned a less extreme approach, where the author continues to receive royalties, but other authors were allowed to produce and market their own versions of the stories.

I am interested in what you would accept as a reasonable copyright term?
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:23 AM on August 13, 2009


I wonder if it would be possible to quantify how much innovation is lost due to extreme intellectual property laws. If we could quantify and list what was being prevented by them then a real case could be made.

Conversely, how to quantify innovation lost due to extreme ripping off? Or, more gently, from the fact that art rarely offers a living wage. People's taking it for free just exacerbates the problem. In tiny increments, perhaps, but still- exacerbates.

I am interested in what you would accept as a reasonable copyright term?

Not that you asked me, but - Life of the author plus eighteen years, if left to a family member. (Otherwise - I can be persuaded)

The author can, of course, set it free if he so chooses. The eighteen years is for the sake of family who may have put up with the hard times before said author croaked. It should cover even the most minor of minors. (Of course, things can still go wrong- When Dashiell Hammett died, his stuff was utterly out of fashion. His mistress Lillian Hellman talked his two daughters into selling her the copyrights for a pittance, then turned around and marketed the hell out of them. Profit!)

(And who would want to rip off Disney? The original stuff is far far more rich.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:09 PM on August 13, 2009


So you could still drive a forklift or stack supermarket shelves, but jobs that deal with intellectual property (i.e., anything programming-related) could be out.

Hey, I kind of know what I'm talking about on the second part. I once had a law firm interview where the interviewer asked me what I thought of the DMCA, and I said I wasn't a fan. And then it turned out she helped write the DMCA. Open mouth, insert foot.
posted by inara at 6:15 PM on August 13, 2009


Sorry, I didn't mean to ignore your post, but got busy and never got back to the thread. Anyway, I wanted to let you know I appreciated your clarification of your point re Disney, but I think you're misunderstanding the copyright law wrt derivative works. Disney can't stop you from writing a Cinderella story! Or anything else they've used from the public domain. They can only stop you from using their interpretation of it. People write books and make movies based on the same material that Disney based their stuff on all the time, and Disney can't do a thing about it.

I think any reasonable copyright term would start with the life of the author (as long as the "author" isn't a corporation). Beyond that I'm willing to talk. I do think it's reasonable to expect that an author would be able to leave their heirs something of an inheritance, but 75 years doesn't strike me as necessary. I like death +18 as a starting point as it doesn't cut off any potential minor children from whatever support their parent's intellectual property could provide.

As far as royalties go, there's no incentive to the publisher to provide royalties to an author on a book that's in the public domain.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:35 AM on August 14, 2009


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