We have 3 core 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.
Let's take these one by one, shall we?
We want to legalise non-commercial file sharing...
Look, this is a contract law issue. I have taken a random CD down from my shelf—Morcheeba's Big Calm, as it happens—and printed, quite clearly, on the back of the CD (not on the inside, but on the outside back) are the following words:
Unauthorised copying, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting of this recording prohibited.
These same words are printed onto the CD itself.
This is a contract. I buy the CD and I can listen to the music, but I shall not copy, broadcast, hire or lend the recording—nor will I indulge in any public broadcast of same. In any case, I have signed up to a contract by buying the CD, and I am bound by that contract—this isn't a very difficult concept.
Now, one can argue that there should be—as in the US—a "fair use" clause that allows me to copy the CD onto my iPod, or computer, or whatever. But uploading and sharing it—for free—with others? No.
Is the above contract unfair? Possibly. But then I didn't have to buy the CD—I won't die in agony if I don't have Morcheeba's soothing tones to calm my once drug-addled brain. As with anything else, if I don't like the contract I can refuse to buy the product.
... and reduce the excessive length of copyright protection...
There is definitely a case for this. With the
caveatthat I shall come to later on.
... while ensuring that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders.
And if the artists are the monopoly rights holders? Which, of course, they would be.
I think what the Pirate Party are trying to say here is that it is OK for the artists, maaaan, to be the rights holders, but not eeeeeeeevil corporations. Well, maybe so: but, once again, this is contract law, isn't it?
The artists sign up with the music corporations: those artists sign away the rights to their music (in whole or in part, in perpetuity or for a limited time) in return for fats wads of cash. In other words, the artist sells the (very slim) chance of future earnings in return for fat wads of cash now.
The artist is also getting marketing expertise, leverage, connections and all of the other things that give them some chance of making any money at all in the future. Some artists make it: the majority don't. In many cases, the music corporations lose money: in a few cases, they make millions.
Obviously, there are various subtleties and differences in the way that these contracts work but, fundamentally, it is a private contract between the artists and the music corporations.
It is certainly no business of the Pirate Party's. And that goes for any contracts—the terms of said contracts are none of the government's damn business. The Labour government should certainly not be ingratiating themselves with the music companies, nor should the criminal law be used to punish file-sharers. This is a civil issue—a contract issue.
We want a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die.
Riiiight. OK, there is something of a problem here and, once again, the Pirate Party are rather dishonestly conflating a number of issues. No one wants a patent system that stifles innovation—the very point of patents and copyright are to encourage people to innovate.
Patents and copyright allow inventors to be assured of getting money from their inventions so that they, or others, will go and invent other valuable things.
Now, in the US, the patent system is being heavily abused: there are companies that buy up smaller organisations simply for their patents. These patent "trolls" then break up and liquidate the company, and use the patents to get payouts from large corporations. These trolls are, quite obviously, a drain on society and a drain on innovation.
We do not have this same problem in this country, yet, because we do not have the same loony patent system as exists in the US. The EU has been attempting to bring one in, but they have so far failed. This is A Good Thing.
However, there are certain things that really do require patents to make money, and drug research is one of those things. As Timmy has consistently pointed out, by the time you take into account research and development, testing, several rounds of trials (on animals, and then humans) in varied jurisdictions, bureacratic barriers (such as the EU's REACH Directive) and other hurdles, the average drug takes some eight years and $1 billion to bring to market.
The patent on drugs is, I think, fourteen years. So, the drug companies have six years to make back at least $1 billion—more is needed if the other drugs that they are researching (many of which will yield nothing) are to be paid for. So, yes, the drugs are expensive. Much of this expense is absorbed by the USA (who tend to get them, and pay for them, first)—which is one reason why the US health system is so expensive.
This is why "Big Pharma" companies are so big—because small companies simply don't have the cashflow to bring drugs to market. I know a couple of people, both in Scotland as it happens, who run small companies doing research into a number of different drugs: when they find something, they sell the patent to Big Pharma because only Big Pharma have the money to bring those drugs to market.
Anyway, the point is that the short patent period is one of the reasons that drugs are so expensive—because there is only a short time to make back the vast costs of bringing said drug to market. So, one way of reducing the cost of said drugs would be to extend the patent period.
But the Pirate Party wants "a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die" and it also wants to "reduce the excessive length of copyright protection".
Er... Let's move on, shall we?
End the excessive surveillance, profiling, tracking and monitoring of innocent people by Government and big businesses.
OK, I agree with this. Although I am not sure that the Pirate Party does, really. After all, they want surveillance of private contracts so that they can stop music corporations and artists making private deals that the Pirate Party doesn't like. But that might be pushing it slightly, so we shall move on...
Ensure that everyone has real freedom of speech...
OK, I agree with this, totally.
... and real freedom to enjoy and participate in our shared culture.
Er... I'm sorry? Whose shared culture?
The Pirate Party originated in Sweden and whilst I am sure that the Swedes are lovely people, I don't know how much culture I share with them. I don't have a shared culture with the majority of people in this country, let alone Sweden.
And what if I don't want to share or participate in this shared culture? What if I want to sign my song rights over to a "monopoly-rights holder"? What if my culture is one of honouring property rights and contract law?
You can, Pirate Party people, stick your fucking shared culture up your collective arsehole, frankly.
So, let us sum up, shall we? The Pirate Party:
- supports "a strengthening of the right to privacy" except as far as your contract with a music company or other "monopoly-rights holder" is concerned.
- supports the breaking of voluntary contracts at one party's convenience thus undermining property rights (and why don't you go ask the Africans how well economies develop without property rights?).
- wants us all to participate in some imaginary "shared culture", unless that culture is one of property rights and contract law.
- wants to get cheaper medical drugs but supports measures that will make those drugs more expensive, and
- spouts some hippy shit about artists being able to make money (somehow) unless, presumably, the artist is a "monopoly-rights holder", or signs a contract that the Pirate Party doesn't happen to like the terms of.
Yeah, that sounds like an excellent party—let's go for that, eh?
The stupid thing is that, with the internet, much of what the Pirate Party wants is happening anyway: artists are becoming able to sell their music directly to their audiences and this trend will only increase. The music companies have been forced away from DRM and their sucking of Peter Mandelson's saggy old scrotum is the last gasp of an industry that is going to have to reform or die.
The simple fact is that the Pirate Party's outlined aims are nonsensical, interventionist and authoritarian; the party will happily ride roughshod over contracts and property rights that they don't happen to agree with—much as the Labour Party is doing with the bankers right now—and their attitude to drug development is utterly counterproductive.
So, whilst I support one or two aims of the Pirate Party—such as the right to free speech and the ending of tracking and surveillance of people—I find the rest of their policies, most especially their attitude to contracts, to be repugnant.
On the other hand, I imagine that I shall have a giggle whilst they annoy the fuck out of the rest of the political Establishment...