In an unprecedented win, members of Germany’s Pirate Party have been elected to Berlin’s city-state legislature. For the first time residents of Berlin gave 8.9% of their vote to the party, which wants to radically change government’s relationship to technology.
The new parliamentary Pirates, are now forming statutes for their new government. This is typical rigmarole that all parties must go through, but the Pirates are doing it differently. They’re already streaming their coalition party conversations through Soundcloud and as text on their site.
Government transparency was a big issue that Pirates campaigned on. Their technology platform calls for repealing restrictive copyright laws, making the internet available to everybody, protecting whistleblowers, and giving free access to information and education. The party also focuses on inclusive gender and family policy, creating a sustainable environment, as well as legalizing marijuana, lowering the minimum voting age to 14, and making public transportation free. These policies they’re trying to institute come with “another style of doing politics”, one that doesn’t demonize their opposition and that accomplishes things by being pragmatic and constructive.
We asked Christopher Lauer, one of fifteen new Pirate Party representatives, some questions about the party’s hopes for Germany and the internet at large. Mr. Lauer represents the Pankow district. He studies culture and technology history at the Berlin Institute of Technology. He is also a product manager at a software start-up.
What are your hopes for the internet?
The biggest menace for the Internet at this moment is government policies which don’t understand its social or technical structure. My hope through the gains of the Pirate Party will be a shift in this policy to ensure a free Internet, how it was designed, with empowered people using this structure for themselves independent of gatekeepers.
What do you think about US Internet Laws?
To be honest I’m not an expert in this space. The US government is involved with all these copyright issues because they’re pro big distributor. These policies are not written for people but for the companies. In our view it is not a positive development in the structure of the Internet.
This summer in Berlin I noticed that many YouTube videos were blocked. What are copyright laws like in Germany?
GEMA (Germany’s performance rights organization) is one problem in Germany because it fulfills a gatekeeper structure which is completely outdated. It’s a collapsed business model that is not nice for artists either. If you buy a track over the Internet, this is not regarded when GEMA gives money to the artist. It’s a problematic situation on the national level. Unfortunately we can not fix it from Berlin state, but we can use resources that we have here to develop new policies and new more constructive models.
I’ve met people who are being sued by GEMA for downloads, is this a pervasive problem?
This is a big problem in Germany. You can be sent a notice saying they’ve found copyrighted material on your network and that if you don’t pay the settlement you’ll have to pay €250,000. You have to hire a lawyer, and sign that you won’t do it again. We think it doesn’t make any sense.
Pirate Parties International is not that involved with the German Pirate Party, because it’s not finished constituting itself. During the Arab Spring the Pirate Party of Morocco got support from Pirate Parties International. They’re using German technical infrastructure to get their things done.
Which countries have the best Internet laws?
I know that Icelandic Modern Media Initiative is pretty good. In the Baltic states, Estonia has a very young population that isn’t scared by new technology. South Korea have the best policy for building up high-speed infrastructure. South Korea has the fastest internet connection in the world, and there’s an economic factor here to. People aren’t just uploading movies with their connections, businesses are transferring data across the globe. In Germany the normal internet connection is DSL, you can download fast, but you can’t upload quickly. We strive for South Korean-style infrastructure here too.
The Pirates are making headway to represent free Internet culture through politics. Perhaps this trend will resonate across the Atlantic and transform the future of stateside politics as well.
Meanwhile, watch Next Media Animation’s vision of the Pirate Party.