Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Barbarians at the gate

So it is true, there are no girls on the internet!

Internet activists The Pirate Party won 15 out of 130 seats in elections for German State Parliament yesterday, with 8.9% of the popular vote. But all fifteen are male.*

Gender politics has not arrived for the Pirates yet, and that is not a step forward but a step backward,” Berlin Mayor and Social Democrat Party heavyweight Klaus Wowereit told German media.

The Pirate Party are anti censorship, pro file-sharing, and support transparent government by Wikileak.

The rise of the German Pirate Party represents a much larger threat to media and entertainment conglomerates than the Green-sponsored Finklestien inquiry into Australian political comment does.

The Pirate Party opposes privately owned monopolies, especially in media markets, and supports strengthened privacy statutes and civil protections. Media monopolies and the governments they influence are characterised as enemies of the people. Ordinary people are everywhere oppressed, they say, by invasions of privacy by media conglomerates with excessive influence on the State, and by the criminalisation of legitimate private activities like, for example, file sharing over a peer to peer network, by governments urged on by the same multinational media conglomerates that install them to office.

The New Zealand Government has recently legislated to restrict internet access to individuals caught file sharing by private investigators working for media corporations. Internet traffic through New Zealand dropped ten percent when the new laws took effect.

The Pirate Party wants to abolish international copyright protection for media corporations, especially those it labels monopolistic. The Australian Pirate Party is pro hactivism and anti internet regulation. It champions unhindered access to the internet, and by implication unfettered bit torrent downloads of copyright media, as a fundamental human right.

Australia has been spared, so far, the public spectacle of teenagers and broke and unemployed mums hauled into court and ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars compensation to mega corporations for sharing popular music tracks on torrent trackers. But Australian Julian Assange and his wikileaks website is at the centre of international debate over corporate and State transparency issues.

Any political party strong enough to flex its muscles will, and short of a collapse in the Australian Green Party's vote we can expect the Greens to muscle up to what it thinks are their opponents more. But the emergence of organised opposition to communications monopolies in the European Green's own back yard illustrates how out of mainstream, and out of touch with grassroots sentiment, the Greens have moved since their early parliamentary successes in Europe and Australia.

I remember the late media boss Kerry Packer shaping up to a Parliamentary inquiry in the early 1990s, telling astonished parliamentarians "I don't think you have any power to regulate me". The Australian Greens might disagree, but the up and coming Pirate Party may be much more in touch with the preoccupations of mainstream internet users, and media consumers in general, and much more likely to take on media bosses about issues people actually care about.

* I was wrong - Susan Graf, a 19 year old member of Berlin's Chaos Computer Club, was elected as a Pirate Party member of Germany's Berlin State Parliament last week, along with 14 male colleagues.


  1. The issue I have with the internet is that there is too much information available and some, perhaps much of that information is duplication, replication, rehash or misinformation. The internet was intended to be democratizing space and it is that in some sense, but ultimately it has gone the way that most things go, that is, it has become a site of commodity, isn't everything about making money in a consumerist society? If there is an issue about file sharing it is probably because some big wig feels that they are missing out financially! And, on a more personal note, I don't understand why you had to single out 'broke and unemployed mums', there are probably just as many, perhaps more, 'broke and unemployed dads' out there in the community using the internet.

  2. There have been some egregious cases, see this notorious one involving an unemployed mum or this one involving a teenager, the targets of choice for big record labels and movie studios