Q&A: Why the UK needs the Pirate Party

The leader of the UK Pirate Party on copyright reform, eye patches and taking on the Tories

Stuart Turton
12 Aug 2009

The UK Pirate Party wants to reform copyright and patent laws, abolish the surveillance state and increase our freedom of speech, and it's just been recognised as a political party. UK Pirate Party leader Andrew Robinson tells PC Pro how he's planning to shake up the political landscape.

Q The obvious first question - why does the UK need the Pirate Party?

A If you look at what's proposed in the Digital Britain report, there's a £50,000 fine for sharing files. There's approximately 7 million file sharers in this country - you're branding a huge percentage of this population criminals for doing something that doesn't have any proven implications. It's a ridiculous state of affairs.

Q What's the solution?

People who copy a movie are lumped in with people who steal cars

A There should be an exemption for non-commercial use in copyright. We're not in favour of abolishing copyright, or artists getting nothing. When things are copied and somebody makes a profit, that profit should go to the artist. When something's copied and there isn't a profit... well, that's a situation our law doesn't really have any way of dealing with at the moment, which is why people who copy a movie are lumped in with people who steal cars.

Our copyright law is horribly outdated and its skewed one way because all the lobbying is on the side of big businesses. This ties into our thoughts on patents. They've moved away from a way of encouraging invention to being a way for companies to lay claim to large areas of innovation. The Toyota Prius is an example of this. There's 2,000 patents covering the Prius, which isn't encouraging other companies to create environmentally cars, it's blocking them.

Q How do you respond to the counter argument that research costs are huge and patents help companies protect their investment?

A We're not trying to stifle innovation, what we're trying to do is set a legal framework that says 'okay, you can take a picture from the road, but pointing a camera at my bedroom window, that's not such a good idea'. Google Street View's a really good example of this. People were up in arms, saying 'no this shouldn't happen, yes it should happen'. We want to see laws in place before it happens, rather than after, so everybody knows where they stand.

Q These are important issues. Does the name Pirate Party really reflect this? The Swedish Pirate Party likes to parade around in costume.

Competing with the Conservatives while wearing an eye patch isn't going to do us any favours

A Competing with the Conservatives while wearing an eye patch isn't going to do us any favours. We've had the name foisted on us by the Swedish party, but it's difficult. We need to point out that we're saying very sensible things, while the industry lobby is labelling us as pirates. We're going to throw that back at them. We're trying to have a proper debate and when people actually listen to what we've got to say they'll realise we're being serious.

Q What will it take for the UK Pirate Party to be considered a success?

A Our first past the post system means that the chances of the Pirate Party being elected, let's be honest, are pretty much close to zero. I've set an internal target of us retaining one deposit [in the next general election]. That's our measure of success. What we really want to do is raise awareness, so that the other parties say 'bloody hell, they've got seven million votes this time out', or one million votes, or enough votes to make them care and seriously think about these issues.

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