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Sweden's Pirate Party hopes to hoist its flag in Brussels

Text by Nicolas DE SCITIVAUX

Latest update : 2009-04-29

A new political party in Sweden is seeking to protect internet users' freedom to share files on the internet, and hopes to take its case to Brussels by winning a seat in the European Parliament in the upcoming June 7 elections.

The severe verdict of the lawsuit against the four creators of the Pirate Bay file-sharing website, who were each sentenced to one year in prison and fined million of euros, has unleashed a wave of new membership in Piratpartiet (PP), a Swedish political party advocating digital freedom.

Within days, this little group saw its membership grow from 10,000 to more than 38,000, propelling it to the rank of the fourth-largest political party in Sweden.

But PP’s ambitions are not confined to national politics. “Our goal is to win at least one seat in the European Parliament,” said Christian Engström, the party’s main candidate in the EU elections, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “To this end, we need to collect some 100,000 signatures.”

Engström, a 48-year-old former IT consultant, is an enthusiastic defender of “open source” software that is unencumbered by copyright and which offers users free access. He became a political activist in 2004 and has since led many efforts to lobby Brussels for more digital freedom.

File-sharing, beneficial to artists?

"We conduct campaigns like traditional political parties, we distribute leaflets and all the rest,” Engström says. The party platform centres on two main issues: a reform of the laws that regulate artists’ rights and the introduction of mechanisms to protect personal privacy on the Web.

Calling for “a free internet in an open society”, the PP is opposed to any type of excessive control over the Web. Engström says file-sharing for non-commercial use must remain free. As for the concerns of the film and music industries, he says file-sharing is actually beneficial to the artists.  

Artists “have access to a larger piece of the pie than if they were operating through a record company,” says Engström. “The industry has had 10 years to adapt and revamp its economic model, but this hasn’t happened.”

He says he long ago stopped believing that the "big boys" would change their attitude.

Setting an example

Vehemently opposed to the proposals of French President Nicolas Sarkozy regarding regulation of the Internet, Engström says the so-called Hadopi law, which would regulate file downloads and is currently under review, would set Europe back by 20 years.

“Europe needs France to lead the way, but not in that direction,” he says.

Engström is very optimistic regarding his party’s expectations for the June 7 European Parliament elections. He hopes the Piratpartiet will be taken as an example far beyond Swedish borders.

In further testament to his optimism, he says, “Once we are in Brussels, people will listen to what we have to say.”

Date created : 2009-04-24