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Software Patent Pirates Plunder EU Seat

Digital freedom group sails to success in Sweden and Germany on a wave of public opinion fueled by the Pirate Bay case

Swedish anti-software patent campaigners have won a seat in the EU parliament after winning more than 7 percent of the vote in the country’s European election.

The Swedish Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) won 7.1 percent of the vote spurred in part by the recent controversy surrounding the prosecution of the founders of The Pirate Bay file-sharing website.

In a statement released this week, Rick Falkvinge, chairman of the Piratpartiet said that the victory showed that there was support – particularly from young voters – for issues around digital freedom. “We have just written political history,” he said.”Politicians have learned that doing what the lobby asks will cost them their jobs. We’re the largest party in the segment below 30 years of age. That’s building the future of liberties.”

In April a Swedish court handed down a guilty verdict and a year in prison to all four defendants in a copyright test case involving The Pirate Bay. The four defendants are appealing the verdict.

Pirate Party International, which represents pirate parties across Europe, says its aims include reforming the copyright system which it believes has been skewed to benefit the interests of record labels and film studios.

“The official aim of the copyright system has always been to find a balance in order to promote culture being created and spread.The Pirate Party wants to restore the balance in the copyright legislation,” the organisation states. “All non-commercial copying and use should be completely free. File sharing and p2p networking should be encouraged rather than criminalised. Culture and knowledge are good things, that increase in value the more they are shared. The Internet could become the greatest public library ever created.”

The German Pirate Party also garnered support with 0.9 percent of the votes which its supporters claim will help attract more funding.

UK campaigners The Open Rights Group said that it was important that the EU elections gave proper attention to digital rights. “The story of digital rights shows that citizens will act to defend their rights while others seek to erode them, and will expect Parliamentarians to act in citizens’ interests. Defence of our digital rights, based on our human rights and legitimate user expectations, is an opportunity for parliamentarians to gain the trust of citizens if they have the political courage to act,” the group said in a blog entry.

Andrew Norton, head of Pirate Party International said the movement has seen increased support over the last few years. “In just 42 short months, we have seen drastic growth and massive awareness worldwide,” he said. “Governments are supposed to represent their people, to work for their good, and yet more and more governments are sliding either to the pockets of the Special Interests, or into the role of ‘Tyrant’.”

The Pirate Party is also campaigning to curb software patents and controls on personal privacy. “Following the 9/11 event in the US, Europe has allowed itself to be swept along in a panic reaction to try to end all evil by increasing the level of surveillance and control over the entire population,” the group states. “We Europeans should know better. It is not twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and there are plenty of other horrific examples of surveillance-gone-wrong in Europe’s modern history”

The four men who ran the Pirate Bay website were sentenced to a year in prison in April and fined 30 million kronor (£2.4 million), by a Swedish court which found them guilty of abetting copyright theft.

Pirate Bay, one of the biggest file-sharing websites in the world, was found to be an accessory to copyright theft, by directing visitors to material held on other sites. Warner Brothers, Sony, EMI, 20th Century Fox and others have been asking for 100 million kronor of damages to cover lost revenues.