UK Pirate Party Calls For Legalised File-Sharing

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On Budget day, with the Digital Economy Bill still before Parliament, the UK Pirate Party’s election manifesto demands new copyright laws and legal file-sharing

The UK Pirate Party has launched its 2010 election manifesto, calling for an overhaul of copyright law and the protection of consumer privacy online.

The Pirate Party is standing for two seats in the upcoming general election. Its manifesto covers the issues of ‘copyright and patent law’, ‘privacy law’ and ‘freedom of speech’, and promises to talk about the issues other parties ignore and give the public new rights – not more taxes.

Copyright law is “biased”

The manifesto lays out clear plans to overhaul copyright law. “Currently copyright carries on for more than 70 years after the author of a work dies,” it states. “We believe that in this fast moving world, 10 years of copyright protection is long enough. Shorter copyright will encourage artists to keep on creating new work, will allow new art forms (such as mash-ups) and will stop big businesses from constantly reselling content we have already paid for.”

It argues that copyright law has become “biased” towards copyright owners as a result of money and pressure from lobbying groups. The party promised to give consumers more information about their rights and to remove a loophole in the law, which allows copyright holders to renew copyright by moving to a new format.

The party also said it would legalise file-sharing “where no money changes hands”. This directly contradicts the government’s plans to disconnect illegal file-sharers as part of the Digital Economy Bill, whose third reading has been completed in the House of Lords, leaving it back in the House of Commons for its second reading.

However, the Pirate Party was clear that it does not advocate piracy, claiming that counterfeiting – and profiting directly from other people’s work without paying them – will remain illegal.

DRM threatens public freedom

Another major issue covered in the manifesto was the use of digital rights management (DRM) software and other embedded technologies to prevent copying files. “We believe the public needs to be protected from products that can be remotely turned off by the manufacturer, or products that ‘phone home’ and would therefore stop working if the manufacturer went bankrupt, or that are ‘region coded’,” it said.

Earlier this year, free-software campaigners criticised the iPad launch as another example of Apple’s attempts to control digital content. “Your computer should be yours to control,” said Peter Brown, executive director of the Free Software Foundation. “By imposing such restrictions on users, Steve Jobs is building a legacy that endangers our freedom for his profits.”

The Pirate Party said that it would give users the right to encrypt their private data and allow them to apply to a court for compensation where data protection laws have been broken. It also pledged to abolish ID cards and reduce the amount of government surveillance.

Freedom of speech will be boosted, in particular with regard to use of the Internet. “We believe that the Internet is instrumental to freedom of speech,” the party stated. “We pledge to legislate in favour of net neutrality. We pledge that we will not allow government censorship of the Internet for anything but the most extreme reasons.”

At 5.30pm today, the Open Rights Group will lead a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament, to protest against disconnection and censorship on the Internet. “We need to ensure that the Bill is properly debated, and that all MPs know how dangerous it is to individuals and small businesses,” it said. “If we don’t ensure that it is properly scrutinised, the Bill could pass and have severe effects on the freedom and rights of innocent people, educational establishments and small businesses alike.”

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