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Federal Government

AARGH: With 800 members plus Pirate Party Australia sets sail for party registration for federal poll

PiratepartyWith powerful media companies urging politicians to impose much stiffer penalties on those downloading pirated video, software and music online, worried internet users might well turn to Pirate Party Australia to defend their internet-given right to download as much of Mad Men, Breaking Bad or Lady Gaga as they want.

Under the leadership of its president David Campbell, VEXNEWS can reveal they are well and truly on track to achieving party registration, enabling them to run candidates with their party name on the ballot at the next federal election. With millions of early-adopting Australians downloading like demons from the inter-torrentz how well will they do?

In light of News Limited boss Kim Williams loud push for a federal government crackdown on internet downloaders, the emergence of a Pirate Party in Australia expressing a counter-view is all the more interesting.

VEXNEWS sought an interview with the impressively hatted David Campbell, who leads the Pirate Party Australia to understand whether they’re serious about it, whether they can organisationally pull it together to actively compete in federal elections and how they see themselves against potential rivals and competitors like the Greensparty, which many think will struggle to cope without their founder/leader Bob Brown and the libertarian fun-seekers at the Sex Party which is within striking distance of parliamentary representation.

Their president David Campbell probably had every reason to be wary of our love-for-News-Corp, tough-on-Greens, brutal-on-Assange patriotic news source, but he bravely and frankly responded to the most intrusive and niggly questions we could devise. Those keen to download the latest episode of Breaking Bad and Newsroom, including some of our News Limited journo friends who occasionally boast about their latest pirate pillage on social networks, would do well to give the Pirate Party a serious look as it runs its noticeable brand up the pole.

With 800 members and rising, the Pirate Party looks set to achieve political party registration with the Australian Electoral Commission and with News Limited pushing hard for much tougher laws against internet downloaders, we think they’ll have every chance of polling strongly at the next federal election.

Here’s the interview:

VEXNEWS: Because of its name, many people will assume Pirate Party is principally concerned with advocating for internet users engaged in downloading music, video and software without paying for it, is that a fair summary of the party’s position?

DAVID CAMPBELL (President, Pirate Party Australia): Our position on copyright is that it needs to be balanced between commercial monopolies, personal monetary income for the creators and the expansion of the public domain. Commercial interests are threatening civil liberties and other rights – particularly the right to privacy – under the pretence that file-sharing is hurting creators.

The initial trigger for the Pirate movement was the erosion of these rights and liberties in favour of established industry interests. Our movement has since expanded to encompass many more aspects, including greater protection of general civil liberties, transparency in government, and greater inclusion of citizens in governmental decisions.

The only way that non-commercial file sharing can ever be properly policed is to remove all rights to private communications on the Internet and remove all rights to control how our media consumption devices work. Each piece of data being sent or received by your computer will have to be inspected to ensure it does not contain any copyright infringing material, and all software running on your devices will have to be vetted to ensure you cannot circumvent that surveillance. Allowing private corporations to protect their claimed profits by invading privacy to such an extreme degree is totally unacceptable, especially when there is no serious evidence that it is even necessary.

Is the Pirate Party against the notion of copyright completely? Or just about exempting non-commercial downloading by consumers from criminal/civil sanction?

We think copyright is an important statutory right, but do not believe it should be as expansive as it currently is. We want non-commercial copyright infringement of all kinds to be entirely legalised. We want to have copyright terms reduced to a maximum of 15 years, in order to strike a balance between commercial viability, adequate compensation for the creator, and to ensure that works are returned to the public domain after a reasonable period of commercial exploitation. This should deter “rent seeking” behaviours, ensuring that derivative works can be developed and used for profit once the commercial lifespan of an original work ends.

How many internet users in Australia do you think download music, video and software without paying for it? Are they the people you’re pitching to, in terms of talking about their potential legal difficulties if copyright owners get their way? In theory, what kinds of legal sanctions are non-paying downloaders exposed to under existing Copyright law? Could they go to jail for downloading the most recent episodes of the Newsroom or Breaking Bad?

Given the wide reach of copyright legislation today, it is possible that close to all Internet users in Australia have infringed copyright at some point. However, we are not “pitching” to anyone. Our movement is about new and significant voices entering the political arena to counter the effects of commercial lobbyists. Downloading content illegally is unlikely to lead to criminal prosecution, but it can result in ridiculously large fines or out-of-court settlements.

Do you think there’s a fair bit of humbug to the debate about internet downloading with internet service providers including very big companies like Telstra – and even the NBN itself – providing 100gigabyte plans a month etc that are obviously created for those downloading large amounts of video or software, most probably through torrents?

Large data quotas allow for individuals’ Internet footprints to constantly expand. There are many other uses besides the illegal transfer of copyrighted material – purchasing media content online, self-publishing creative works, online gaming, high-definition video streaming, data backup, video communications and collaborative office work, as examples. Most broadcast TV channels now have their own advertisement-supported Internet streaming service, which will become more and more popular due to their on-demand nature. Every act on the Internet involves a transfer of data, and as we come to rely more on it for private and commercial reasons, we’re inevitably going to be chewing through more data.

David Campbell: “If the Australian Greens’ policies were the same as ours, we wouldn’t be required. While the Greens have similar policies on some issues, we do not feel they go far enough.”

Increasingly, artists have been able to cut out middle-men like record companies and potentially may even be able to get around Hollywood/film studios to create and distribute film. In that context, does the morality of the debate about outlawing internet downloading of music or video become very complicated? If you can’t effectively charge for copyright material won’t this discourage artists from creating it?

We are skeptical of the claims made by copyright holders that file- sharing has an adverse impact on revenue for creators. The technology has proven itself to be extremely effective at distributing content.

If ‘pirates’ have become more efficient than the content industry, it is time for the content industry to seek new business models. They need to innovate and embrace the new technologies available. This is not just emulating old methods of distribution online, but truly working with the technology. They need to realise that there is much more competition since nearly everyone is now able to be a creator.

In Europe, particularly Germany and Sweden, the Pirate Party has won as much as 7% of the vote, probably enough to achieve a Senate position in Australia? Could the Australian Pirate Party match that success?

We obviously hope our candidates will be elected to the Senate, but what is more important is that our message is heard. Pirate Party Australia formed two or three years after the successful European parties, and our political system is significantly different from most European systems. The Australian parliament has been in a state of confusion and flux recently, and the upcoming elections may be a good opportunity for Australians to make a choice for civil liberties, human rights and transparency.

Where will the votes come from? I noticed in Germany that a pollster was saying “For many young people, the Greens have become an old party. The anti-nuclear theme just doesn’t lure voters like it used to” Are you dependent on inner-city internet using Greens party voters jumping ship?

No, we’re not attempting to appeal to former Greens voters. We believe that the majority of our votes will come from the 18-30 bracket, especially from people who are engaged with modern technology and can see its benefits.

Pirate Party Australia currently has about 800 members, and are gaining new members at the rate of about one per day.

I noted a few Greens party leaders have said their policies and approach mean there’s no need for Pirate Parties to form because their position on the issues is much the same. What do you say about that?

If the Australian Greens’ policies were the same as ours, we wouldn’t be required. While the Greens have similar policies on some issues, we do not feel they go far enough. We are happy to co-exist with them however, and are pleased with their continual support of whistleblowing and freedom of information.

We’ve noticed some online criticism of Pirate Party’s organisational abilities given that it didn’t register in time for the ACT elections, this seems very strange to us given that all the coders we know are pretty thorough, organised folk. The AEC notoriously doesn’t make it easy to register new political parties in Australia with a federal requirement of 500 members? How many members do you currently have? Do you expect to be registered in time for the next federal poll? How do people who’d like to join the Pirate Party do that? Does it cost anything?

Pirate Party Australia currently has about 800 members, and are gaining new members at the rate of about one per day. Given that Pirate Party ACT had only formed six weeks before the cut-off point, we feel they did an excellent job and provided a wealth of learning to the rest of the party for future endeavours.

PiratepartyaustraliaWe’re currently reviewing our national membership heavily, to make sure that members are correctly enrolled to vote. This is a very time consuming and manual process, as many members have changed address without updating either their enrolment with the AEC, or their information with us. We hope to be registered with the AEC by the next federal election, however there is no guarantee. When we do submit for registration, it will only be after we are confident that it will succeed.

There is a join page on our website here which has an online membership application. We would prefer people use this as it makes registering much easier, but we do maintain a postal option. Full membership will be free until we are registered with the AEC, after which we will institute a tiered system, with free, associate and full memberships. Full memberships will cost $20 per annum after registration.

Do you plan on kitting out Pirate Party volunteers in appropriate pirate garb like headscarves and eyepatches at polling places?

We are not a joke party. We would rather people focus on our policies than our fashion. However voters are more than welcome to show their support any way they choose.

Is it fair to assume the Pirate Party is a left-of-centre party? A libertarian party? Or is to better characterised as an internet users’ rights movement?

We consider the left-right political model to be outdated, and one to which ‘information politics’ does not conform. I think “civil and digital liberties” is an adequate summation of what we’re about as a movement.

The Sex Party has been really successful in Victoria, regularly getting more than 5% of the vote, putting them in striking distance of getting upper house federal and state MPs. They are a libertarian party. Have you considered working with them?

We will work with any party in parliament to further our core tenets and represent the interests of our members. There are many aspects of the Australian Sex Party which are in direct opposition to those tenets.

The Greens have been talking about raising funds from eco-businesses for which they have been pushing for subsidy and tax-breaks. Leaving aside the question of whether that’s dodgy or not, would you blokes be open to raising funds from online entrepreneurs, like Kim Dotcom, who would be supportive of your policies on copyright reform?

We are open to transparent donations from all sources who feel we are representing their interests, however that donation would be provided because they like what we are doing, not to steer policy development or decision making.

The government has been looking at new laws designed to keep track of terror groups and other criminals who are communicating online. One of these measures would require ISPs to store customer data for two years. What do you say about all of this and the decision to defer the proposal til after the election?

As with the Government’s deferment of the Internet Filter, both are obviously unwanted and they need to be ended, not indefinitely deferred to a vague future time. The Government may have deferred this so that they can push it through immediately after the election, with minimal opportunity for public scrutiny.

And as technical experts make up a lot of Pirate Party activists, what measures do you think a government could take to 1) keep an eye on those intent on murder and mass destruction while 2) respecting the privacy of the bulk of people who don’t commit or plan crimes online? Are these things irreconcilable?

Smarter funding of police for actual investigative work. Do not assume guilty until proven otherwise and do not use a dragnet to destroy the the right to communicate in private on the off chance that there might be a terrorist using an unencrypted web search and online chat.

Serious criminals are smarter than assumed, and adequate funding needs to be given so that police are able to look in the right places.

Also, on online censorship, do you really believe that content like imagery of sexually assaulted children ought be allowed to be accessed without being “filtered” out of the internet?

Filtering websites just means different delivery methods will be used. Filtering does nothing to prevent the spread of child pornography.

Filtering does nothing to prevent the spread of child pornography.

Child abuse content is not available on the public web, which is the only thing a filter can operate on. Using filtration systems promotes encrypted communications and private encrypted services, which drives the transfer of this content under the radar of the authorities.

Filtering websites just means different delivery methods will be used.

It would be better to let the scum float to the surface so that it can be policed effectively and have the original abusers and content creators bought to justice, protecting the abused children instead of just pretending it’s not there.

AnonymousAnd what do you make of “Anonymous” initiating denial-of-service attacks on government websites in response to government proposals on internet censorship etc? Is it an effective form of protest?

Anonymous is the manifestation of frustrated and bored citizens of the world who see what they perceive as injustices and are tired of a lack of action by their representatives. Pirate Party Australia neither supports or condemns the actions of Anonymous, however the effectiveness of the movement cannot be denied when raising awareness of an issue. In this sense it is an effective form of protest.

We believe that the most appropriate way to solve the issues we are concerned with is to change governance at its core through the democratic process, but recognise that other approaches are favoured by those who do not want to be publicly attached to their actions.

One facet of Anonymous which must be remembered is that anyone can act in any way and claim they are a part of that group. This has been a strength of the Anonymous movement, but it is also a weakness in that it allows others to tarnish the Anonymous “brand” or use it as a cover for some other purpose.

There’s a website constantly talked up in the Fairfax press that we won’t name where one can buy fake IDs and banned drugs. Why shouldn’t this kind of website be banned given that anyone who set up a shop selling those items would get shut down straight away? Why should there be different rules online?

Banning or filtering this site will do nothing as it is not available on the public web. There are many methods to access these online stores. People who want this content will find a way. A filter is not an effective deterrent. In fact, if the proposed filter was already in place, these services would not even notice. The filter would generate more interest in how to operate more advanced software for online encryption and routing, therefore generating a wider market for these stores to target. What the filter does do quite effectively is provide an easy central point of management for data retention, and expansion of scope to encompass websites such as WikiLeaks.

How do you feel about the that anti-Aboriginal Facebook “humour page”? Should material that denigrates indigenous people on racial grounds be banned?

We currently do not have a policy on whether or not there should be limitation on freedom of speech, so it would be premature to respond to this question at this time. This is a question for Facebook, as whoever created the page in question would have agreed to the terms and conditions for using Facebook. It is up to Facebook to determine whether that page or type of page is a breach of their terms.

Julian Assange has talked about running for the Senate, although it’s unsure about whether he’s serious about it. Would he be an ideal Pirate Party candidate for the Senate?

While we have some overlapping ideals, and Pirate Party Australia is a strong supporter of Free Press and WikiLeaks, Mr Assange has displayed no interest in joining the Pirate movement. The ideal candidate for the Pirate Party would be a Pirate Party member.

ConroyThe Communications Minister Steve Conroy is a good bloke, we think, who would of course deny being a regular reader of VEXNEWS, despite all evidence to the contrary. As the champion of the NBN but also the occasional advocate of things like internet filters, how would you rate his performance? Will his role as Father of the 100mbps internetz be enough to excuse him wanting to censor stuff? I visited a cafe Hungry Birds in Brunswick, which he opened and which offers epically fast NBN over wifi, where they honour him as some kind of god, your thoughts?

We have a policy to support fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure projects, and oppose any and all internet filtration projects. We have no personal opinion of the Minister.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Posted by The EYE-BALL Opinion | August 22, 2012, 21:15
  2. Good interview. I want to see a pirate treasurer

    Posted by chris | August 22, 2012, 22:46
  3. Would be more appropriate if they were called ‘The Thieves Party’.

    Posted by Sue | August 23, 2012, 0:12
  4. how about actually putting network to tender instead of setting up mates with contracts SC

    Posted by Freddy | August 23, 2012, 0:44
  5. I doubt a 15 year copyright limit will encourage studios to make blockbusters and there are going to be a lot of unhappy viewers, gamesters and listeners if they cruel the market by bankrupting content makers.

    I think they demand too much profit : as in catering to overpaid film starts who demand a 100 times what they are worth while the bulk of those who work on content just get union wages.

    Some aspects of the net are great-the fact record companies are biting the dust. They always took and never gave back and ripped off artists.

    Someone like George Michael is showing the way having made so much money he now gives away his music.

    But theft is theft and can never be condoned.

    Posted by LoonyLefty | August 23, 2012, 1:13
  6. Ahoy me maties! I’m your man. I can grow a red beard and even cut off one leg if it gets me into parliament.
    Hoist the mainsail and shiver me timbers. Arrrgh me maties, Arrrgh……

    Posted by Jamie Rudd | August 23, 2012, 2:05
  7. What I stand for by J Rudd.

    1. ………….

    Posted by Jamie Rudd | August 23, 2012, 2:17
  8. Oh sounds like fun I love playing ‘Backdoor Pirate’ with Alan.

    Posted by Pissy Chryne | August 23, 2012, 9:17
  9. Whew, that’s good news, now Mighell will have a new party to play with he was fretting where to put all that members money and now the Greens hate him “his” money needed a new home

    Posted by Jimmysmatesmate | August 23, 2012, 11:26
  10. Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with me, I’m more than happy to help with any other questions, or if any blog viewers wish to discuss anything, please contact me either here or via my details below.

    Yes theft is theft, but theft implies someone has to go without that which was stolen, there is much legal precedent for the fact that copyright infringement is not theft. Continuously extended copyright provision is forcing the public domain to go without.

    Copyright was never intended to pay a wage to the great great grandchild of an artist, it was to prevent corporate exploitation, now it has been turned on the public and used for stifling of innovation, culture and rent seeking, the public must now fight back to maintain the balance.


    Posted by David W. Campbell | August 23, 2012, 15:45
  11. And so I move from the Alp to the Pirate Party. You have my vote and my Family’s vote. The passing of the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 has only convinced me. Our politicians are untrustworthy morons who behold their commitment to the USA more than to the citizens who fund their ugly little lives with hard work. I have never been a “political person” but if you prod, even a mouse, it will eventually roar and ROAR we will to get you suck-holing bastards out of government. Forever the Pirate Party!

    Posted by Pirate Bob | August 23, 2012, 17:03
  12. Think about it. An out of court settlement for $2k – $3k (or doubled if you don’t settle) dor a DVD that costs AUD$30.00 or US$15.00. You don’t think we are being ripped off. How about laws to protect the average purchaser from these companies gouging our pockets? I wanted to buy a Kindle which was advertised at $79.00 on Amazon, but they wouldn’t sell it to me from the USA sight I was given over to another site that had “Australian prices” $129.00 but here’s the ringer, the cost of shipping was from America! Go figure. How about some consumer protection from these big, fat, cigar smoking USA arseholes.

    Posted by Pirate Bob | August 23, 2012, 17:12
  13. dean mighell looking for a new gig.recharge team ready to clean up mess.

    Posted by jimmy | August 23, 2012, 17:22
  14. @Sue, the “Thieves Party” is already taken by the ALP.

    I partly agree with David Campbell about the continual extensions of copyright and also Pirate Bob about the rip offs that occur to Australian consumers. But theft is theft.

    One of the reasons our book selling industry has died is because of ridiculous copyright (import) laws.

    Posted by BDS = Bigoted, Degenerate and Stupid | August 23, 2012, 18:59
  15. Shiver me mainbrace, splice me crowsnest, swab the yardarm and hoist the deck. Arghh Maties, tis true. I be a bad ass pirate. I downloaded the entire Barry Manilow best of box set from the interweb via face tube. Bad to the bone am I me hearties.

    Posted by Jamie Rudd | August 24, 2012, 1:27
  16. Mr Campbell is correct on the legal aspect of downloading content. I believe the price is the problem and there is a case for a lesser copyright period.

    Obviously something has to change but artists, writers etc must be able to make a living from their craft as should studios that invest huge sums in entertainment.

    The Dot Com case is overkill as are the attacks on home downloaders. Remember how the law on copying onto video from TV was never enforced. Industry has to share blame in the unthinking attitudes of the public and a balance must be reached.

    Posted by LoonyLefty | August 24, 2012, 2:15
  17. … the PP seems to have the same values as the Greens. Does that mean they’ll preference them?

    Posted by @Rampant111 | August 24, 2012, 13:26
  18. Isn’t the ALP already the pirate party, I would have through Thompson, Gillard, Neal, Rosenthal etc would be prime candidate for this party

    Posted by dovif | August 24, 2012, 18:00


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