Swiss pirates prepare to take on internet

Swiss pirates fly the flag for copyright reforms wikipedia

The first Pirate Party of Switzerland has been founded in Zurich, joining Europe's growing ranks of similar political groupings.

This content was published on July 11, 2009 - 18:23

The party wants to strengthen the rights to privacy online and demands reforms to copyright laws, a move seen by some as an attack on performing artists.

The zone of conflict has moved from the high seas to the virtual ocean. "The Pirate Party Switzerland is, like its international models, the politically correct answer to the increasing attacks on civil rights, privacy and freedom," the new group, which was officially founded on Sunday, says on its Facebook page.

The Swiss pirates are angered by a "lack of flair for democratic values". They see, for example, the attempt by parliament to ban violent video games as the "beginning of a sad chapter".

Pirate Party founding member, Christian Riesen, says an internet censorship platform containing hundreds of pages of mostly child pornographic and racist content is proof that the government is on the wrong track.

"A state-controlled censorship platform is not the solution," Riesen told swissinfo.ch. "It is counterproductive because everyone has access to it." He says the government must demand that the operators of servers remove the content.

Monopolies and patents

"There are no parties in Switzerland which defend the public from attacks on privacy and freedom. That's why we decided to do something," Riesen said.

The new group wants to appeal to all Swiss. "It's not only about the internet and file sharing, but also basic rights and [working for] a transparent state instead of a 'transparent citizen'."

The party is targeting file-sharing services which offer music and film downloads, plans to fight monopolies and patents, and wants to see a liberalising of copyright laws. Riesen does not see the latter as an attack on performing artists.

"There is no conflict between copyright and basic rights. We don't want to take away people's incomes." According to the new-age pirate, it is really an attack on the current business model. He believes copyright laws are due for a makeover.

Artists today earn more through their performances than from the sale of their CDs, he argues, saying that it is the music industry that benefits from current laws.

"A human right"

Suisa, the association for administering authors' rights, is of a different opinion. "The protection of intellectual property is a human right," said Suisa spokesman Martin Wüthrich about copyrights, which have been established through numerous international accords.

Compositions are protected up to 70 years after the death of the author, and this protection is, according to Wüthrich, a kind of old age security.

Not surprisingly, the Pirate Party has few fans within the music industry. "Their demands are not only against the interests of artists but the collective good," said Wilfried Haferland of the Swiss representation of International Federation Of Producers Of Phonograms And Videograms (IFPI).

Music production is an expensive undertaking, Haferland emphasised. "If it's no longer profitable, then nothing will be produced for the public," he added.

Riesen dismisses charges that the Pirate Party is too one-sided. "I think we'll have a lot of success and be influential," he claimed, pointing to the fact that three-quarters of the Swiss population are regular internet users.

The success of Sweden's Pirate Party – the first-ever – gives him additional confidence. The Scandinavian buccaneers grabbed 7.1 per cent of the Swedish vote for the European Parliament– enough to win a seat.

Not surprisingly, the party is particularly popular with the 18 to 30 year olds.

Corinne Buchser, swissinfo.ch (adapted from German by Dale Bechtel)

Swedish Pirate Party

The first Pirate Party was founded in Sweden in 2006.

The Swedish party made the headlines at the beginning of June when it received 7.1 per cent of the vote in the European elections, and therefore one of Sweden's 18 allotted seats.

It was closely tied to the internet file-sharing platform, the "Pirate Bay". Pirate Bay offered free downloads of copyright-protected files.

The party saw a surge in new members earlier this year when a court ordered the Pirate Bay to pay €2.7 million (SFr4.09 million) in damages and sentenced each of the four men behind the platform to one year in prison.

There are also Pirate parties in Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Austria, Poland and Spain.

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