For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The German Piratenpartei: a preliminary assessment

The IPKat, concerned at the rise of the political Pirate Movement within Europe, asked his friend and fellow blogger Axel Horns of IP:JUR fame if he could explain to the Kat's readers about the position in Germany, where there seems to be an increasing degree of pro-pirate sentiment. Axel has produced a full document on the subject, which you can read here. His executive summary is as follows:

"A process of getting rapidly politicised can currently be observed especially in the age group of 18 to 30 years old persons in Germany. We have not yet seen any high-profile lawsuit comparable to the Pirate Bay case in Sweden where big entertainment cartels fight against individuals sharing files or against maintainers of P2P infrastructure and helped the Piratpartiet getting their decisive boost for the European election. The incidents igniting this process in Germany were different.

While, between 1995 and 2008 the Internet was by and large and in general seen by the public in Germany (despite certain pitfalls like Internet fraud) more or less as cutting edge of positive innovation, the mood turned caustic in 2009. In traditional mass media, in particular in broadsheets, we saw some sort of Luddism 2.0 emerging. These fierce eruptions of anti-Internet phobia alone alienated many individuals in the above-identified age group and helped to bring the Piraten in Germany up to the share of 0.8 % as reached in the elections to the European Parliament.

However, some sort of Big Bang, which might perhaps later be seen as decisive in history, appeared on June 18, 2009, shortly after the European elections.
On April 22, 2009, the German cabinet under Chancellor Angela Merkel finalised a Draft Bill making Internet filtering mandatory. The reason given was to fight child pornography on the Internet. It took only until June 18, 2009, to push the Bill through all stages of Parliamentary processing. Even an expert hearing held in a Parliamentary committee resulting in very bad marks for the Bill as well as an Official on-line petition against that Bill hosted on the web server of the Bundestag, ending up by some 134.000+ supporters, could not stop the project.

Caused by that Bill, the time from April to June 2009 saw an hitherto unprecedenced kind of rising polarisation of the German public in two adversary camps: some of the proponents of the Bill argued in a populist manner, stressing the the Internet must not be a zone extraterritorial to the Law - pretending to know the Internet as of today being something that comes close to a lawless anarchist no-go area. One of the more important points for the castigators is that it appears to be easily possible to strengthen endeavours to take websites offering child pornography off the net instead of merely blocking access to them.

Regular monitoring of Internet publications in various blogs and on Twitter related to the Piratenpartei showed that the debate on and passing of the Bill by the German Bundestag had an instantaneous impact on driving many people, in particular former supporters of the Social Democratic Party, to the Piratenpartei in droves, driven by fears that civil liberties might be further curbed on the Internet.

If the main headaches of those politicised 'Digital Natives' in Germany are due to civil liberties endangered by the state, why does that have influence on Intellectual Property politics, too?

Today's Piraten are quite pragmatic people, and they tend to put their refusal of state surveillance in the same box as their frustration with, say, having paid for a DRM-protected music track but being unable to listen to it on all of the gadgets they own. And, those who work as software developers might be inclined to put some - at least as of today - widely theoretical threat of being sued on the basis of a software patent into just the same box. These kinds of problems are caused on a first level by private entities but, seen on a secondary level, the state gives those entities the powers of IP rights which are perceived as overbroad. Suddenly, things like DRM or software patents are categorised by Piratenpartei folks in the vicinity of civil liberties issues.

While, if measured by their political statements available on the Web, the Swedish Piratpartiet pushed by the Pirate Bay case clearly is a patent abolitionist party, the picture given by the German Piratenpartei is more fuzzy. Their programmatic statements concerning patent and copyright law appear to be pretty vague but in their tonality somewhere between censorious and openly hostile. If so desired politically, they might well be changed more abolitionist as well as evaluated in a more moderate direction.
Whoever defines himself as part of the new digital era, equipped with some sort of an own blog, a RSS feed aggregator, and with accounts on major social websites like Twitter, Facebook and the like will find it extremely easy to tune in on a broad flow of information concerning the Piratenpartei and their political issues and make contact with relevant people, if so desired. However, the profile of the entire matter in Germany's mainstream media is fairly low. Yes, now there is some media coverage, but in most cases merely on the inner pages of newspapers or in the late night hours on TV. If your daily life is not interwoven with the Internet, many of the issues involving the Piratenpartei might be quite invisible for you.

So, we in fact are witness of a new type of 'Digital Divide' which is not measured in terms of having access to broadband Internet or not. Being a DSL subscriber but in fact being limited to painstakingly operate the own email account due to lack of Internet savvyness does not put you on the right side of this new divide. And, let us face it, many IP experts and professionals effectively today are still on the wrong side of that divide.

Hence, a worst case scenario might see the Piraten clientele breed on some sort of IP aboli-tionist revolution without traditional IP circles even duly taking notice.
The German Piraten might well become the new Greens of the 21th century, and the system of Intellectual Property as we know it would then likely suffer heavy collateral damages".

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Society as a whole is starting to question whether big industry has handled digital piracy in the right ways. Chasing after members of your client base in the courts is never going to improve things, especially when the huge financial losses quoted are often viewed as "spin", e.g. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/jun/09/games-dvd-music-downloads-piracy
Everyone in the IP profession needs to be aware that such Pirate parties are a consequence of the actions of our clients.

Anonymous said...

I feel that the danger of political censorship by commerce or by governments is underappreciated by the mass media (now why might that be?) and can be a considerable driver of grassroots opinion.

The public surely find it largely ridiculous that the stage verson of "The Producers" needs to use a picture of a pretzel in place of a swastika to be permissible in Germany, and the concern at the commercially slanted "Faux News" in the USA and the apparent power of the Berlusconi media in Italy and the Murdoch media in the UK also generate widespread concern.

Add to this mixture the Iranian and Chinese attempts to block the internet as a means for the passage of news out of the country, and one can see reasons to be concerned about control of the internet.

Curiously, there seems to be little active worry in the UK about the similarly dangerous potential of the "Cleanfeed" system that governments and ISPA are ramming down the throats of ISPs. Again it is presented as being aimed at child pornography, but has an obvious potential in the hands of a repressive government, and the worry is enlarged by the spin about its mechanical limitations. Cleanfeed produces a "404 site not found" when a netizen attempts to access a proscribed site. Allegedly it does not record the netizen's IP address - yet miraculously it enables the production of statistics to the government showing the total number of times each month that UK netizens try to access proscribed sites. It takes litte imagination to see how this could assist a repressive government.

Should we be worried? I think we should.

Richard McD. Bridge

Anonymous said...

I am not sure íf the Piratenpartei will benefit from its first member of parliament, Jörg Tauss, who is accused of having child pornography on his computer:

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/290/472811/text/

Hugo Cox said...

We even have some kind of a pirate party in the UK:

pirateparty.org.uk

www.facebook.com/pages/Pirate-Party-UK/80677579210?sid=e0601067d80614276ecd722bafa7a6c1&ref=search

Anonymous said...

Felix Oberholzer-Gee et al have just released a Harvard Business School report called File Sharing and Copyrigh, see http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-132.pdf

Michael Geist, http://www.michaelgeist.ca/,
has following comments:

“…(The paper) takes some important points about file sharing, copyright, and the net benefits to society. The paper, which includes a helpful survey of the prior economic studies on the impact of file sharing, includes the following:

1. The data indicates that file sharing has not discouraged creativity, as the evidence shows significant increases in cultural production…

2. The paper takes on several longstanding myths about the economic effects of file sharing, noting that many downloaded songs do not represent a lost sale, some mashups may increase the market for the original work, and the entertainment industry can still steer consumer attention to particular artists (which results in more sales and downloads)…

3. The authors' point out that file sharing may not result in reduced incentives to create if the willingness to pay for "complements" increases. They point to rising income from performances or author speaking tours as obvious examples of income that may be enhanced through file sharing. In particular, they focus on a study that concluded that demands for concerts increased due to file sharing and that concert prices have steadily risen during the file sharing era. Moreover, the authors' canvass the literature on the effects of file sharing on music sales, confirming that the "results are decidedly mixed."

When European politicians neglect the economics of file-sharing, it´s not surprising that we get movements like the Piratenpartei!

Anonymous said...

The main problem is that the IP system is unable to reform itself and large American companies act in Brussels as if that were their government or they were at home here. As a surprise that is also what politics is like: They talk SME and the non-European companies get all the money and lobby for tax reduct etc., think of the Irish sleaze. All the lobbying as the attempt to legalize software patenting, the corrupt proposals of McCreevy for copyright and Swedish the crackdown on file sharing, here the political sphere is still out of touch with reality.

As long as this is the case the pirate party will grow and finally abolish the patent system as we know it.

Anonymous said...

Quote: "Hence, a worst case scenario might see the Piraten clientele breed on some sort of IP aboli-tionist revolution without traditional IP circles even duly taking notice."

With due respect, the EPO's Scenarios project wrote, in early 2007, about the rise of the Pirate Party and, in the Scenarios' green scenario, Trees of Knowledge, asked readers to consider a scenario where, inter alia,:
"Anti-IP ‘pirate parties’ fielded enough candidates to receive TV and radio
airtime and ensured that the IP message became a political issue for the
public and mainstream parties. (The ‘pirates’ all but disappeared after a
terrible performance in the European Parliament elections of 2014, when
their agenda had been almost totally hijacked by other parties)."

At least one traditional source - the EPO - thus has taken some notice!
http://documents.epo.org/projects/babylon/eponet.nsf/0/63A726D28B589B5BC12572DB00597683/$File/EPO_scenarios_bookmarked.pdf - see pages 74 and 80 particularly.

Anonymous said...

"Traditional IP circles" did not and will not read those EPO Scenario reports.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.05.00

So, "Traditional IP circles" doesn't include the EPO?

And as Joff Wild commented last week on the IAM blog: "I know, for example, that he [Kappos] was very impressed with the Scenarios for the Future project developed by the European Patent Office, and used this to inform his idea for a European Interoperability Patent, which he spoke about to IAM a couple of years back." So IBM and/or the USPTO isn't "traditional" either?

Maybe it might be worth reading it and finding out what 'new' scenarios about the future of IP might appear in the coming years?

Tara Taubman said...

Although I'm not fully aware of the position in France, I'd like to add information received from the 01.net article http://www.01net.com/editorial/503636/un-nouveau-parti-pirate-en-france/. This announces the creation of a new pirate party in France. Founded by Rémy Cérésiani, a Sciences Po student. Its the statutes were transmitted last week to the 'prefecture'. The party has a Facebook account and aims to organize debate around the Loppsi 2 law project (http://www.01net.com/editorial/367276/la-police-bientot-autorisee-a-installer-des-logiciels-espions-sur-les-pc/).

There are two other websites on the model of the Swedish movement, already using the Swedish Pirate party black flag as an emblem.

Anonymous said...

Overview on international Pirate Party movement:

http://www.pp-international.net/

Anonymous said...

A typical German Patentanwalt did not and will not read those EPO Scenario reports.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1.41.00
Yes, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

cabalamat said...

Anonymous: The ‘pirates’ all but disappeared after a
terrible performance in the European Parliament elections of 2014, when
their agenda had been almost totally hijacked by other parties
.

That scenario is possible, and I doubt if Pirates will mind that much if it happens; as with the Green movement, the Pirate movement is bound to start having its policies stolen as it starts to become successful.

But the problem with the scenario as specified is its far too early. Assuming PP isn't a flash in the pan, the 2014 will see an expansion of PP across many European countries -- either a minor breakethrough with c.10 MEPs and 2-3% of the vote or a major breakthrough with 7-15% of the vote and maybe 80 MEPs. It's only after then that the other parties will even begin to copy PP policies, and if that does happen it probably won't be the end of PP, since it wasn't for the Greens.

Anonymous said...

Fair comment, cabalamat, but the EPO scenarios made clear that they weren't intended to be predictions or forecasts but just "what ifs?". The idea was to present all the issues (IP is a very wide topic) in a way that would get people thinking/discussing about the consequences or effects for them. The only rules were that they were relevant, plausible and challenging. As you say, the bit about PP is possible/plausible, relevant and certainly challenging to the traditional IP circles but it shouldn't be seen in isolation from other parts of the scenarios - too many people focus only on their own part of an issue or their own particular area of interest and miss the many other factors. PP may become a bigger force, but what about the influence of China/India? That may make the PP policies irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the "Pirate Party" has duly protected its brand image...

cabalamat said...

Fair comment, cabalamat, but the EPO scenarios made clear that they weren't intended to be predictions or forecasts but just "what ifs?". The idea was to present all the issues (IP is a very wide topic) in a way that would get people thinking/discussing about the consequences or effects for them.

Sure.

PP may become a bigger force, but what about the influence of China/India? That may make the PP policies irrelevant.

Can you explain? I don't see how that could happen.

As I see it, BRIC countries, including China and India, chafe against the reveloped world's IP regime (such as the WIPO treaty) which they consider to be contrary to their interests.

Given that Pirate Parties wish to get rid of many of the provisions of the world IP regime -- e.g. regarding patents and DRM -- it seems likely to me that the trade policies of BRIC countries will align with PP's underlying philosphy.

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