What the Pirate MEPs Have Accomplished in the European Parliament
“we are very proud of what we have managed to accomplish in Brussels with the help of [our] strategy, this despite us only having 2 mandates of approximately 750, which is approximately 0.27% of the votes in the EU-parliament” – Christian Engström, MEP for the Swedish Pirate Party in the European Parliament
In the last EU elections, held in 2009, the Swedish Pirate Party managed to get 7.1% of the votes. This resulted in Christian Engström being elected the first Pirate MEP in the European Parliament and Amelia Andersdotter taking the second MEP seat in 2011 (when the treaty of Lisbon expanded the number of EU parliament seats). Since then the two Pirate MEPs have managed to deliver several changes.
The four main victories of the Pirate MEPs:
Working actively on the inside of the EU parliament and with the help of outside protests against ACTA (mainly in Poland) the EU parliament voted down the ACTA agreement in 2012. ACTA was a trade agreement which would have decreased freedom on the internet, given customs authorities snooping rights for hard drives / cell phones / memory sticks and giving the copyright industry more power in their crusade against file-sharers.
Keeping away ‘three strikes’
The telecoms package contributed to that the EU parliament deciding that if someone would be disconnected from the internet, because of file-sharing, then they should at least have a real trial first. This change was one of the things that Christian Engström helped to push through in the final negotiations of the agreement. This change has caused the ‘three strikes’, enforced by Hadopi in France, completely toothless. Hadopi has sent out millions of warning letters but only managed to disconnect one file-sharer from the Internet for a mere two weeks and now there is talks about Hadopi closing down.
The Green/EFA group copying Pirate file-sharing politics
The Pirate MEPs decided to join the Greens / EFA Group in the European Parliament. In October 2011 the Green / EFA Group decided to adopt the file-sharing politics that the Swedish Pirate MEPs where pushing for.
Protected Net Neutrality
The Pirate MEPs have worked actively for net neutrality and against the proposal for introducing “specialized services” that would get priority on the internet. In a vote on Thursday (3 April), a coalition of centre-left and liberal deputies backed the amendments to prevent Internet service providers from manipulating and blocking access to certain websites.
Apart from these four main accomplishments the two Pirate MEPs have managed to accomplish several additional goals during their terms:
- Defended people’s right to decide over their own data (a work which will be finalized in the data protection regulation next term).
- Written a book, ‘The Case for Copyright Reform’ which was handed out to all the European Parliamentarians (and also a translated version was handed out to Swedish members of parliament).
- Worked for the right of the blind and sight impaired to have more access to literature. There had earlier been an exception to copyright in converting books to more accessible formats (like braille) but this was restricted to national borders. Now “the European Parliament has strongly expressed its support for a binding international treaty under the auspices of WIPO”.
- Enabled a greater access to ‘orphan works’. In September 2012 the EU parliament adapted a directive increasing digitalization of orphan works (unfortunately still with a certain level of compensation if the original author is eventually found).
- Worked against the copyright levies and found support from several other MEPs in their stance.
- Increased transparency for collecting societies in Europe (e.g. STIM, GEMA, SGAE) through the Collective Rights Management Directive. The Pirate MEPs have also worked for the creator’s right to distribute their works with a free or open license.
- Created an exception in trademark law, which explicitly says that the owner of a trademark can never prohibit others from using it in artistic works, social criticism, product comparisons and reviews.
- Suspended the SWIFT agreement (Terrorist Financing Tracking Program) for now. SWIFT was supposed to be used by USA to get access to all Europe’s bank transactions but they gathered more data than first agreed upon.
- Made the parliament condemn the way that Visa, MasterCard and Paypal abused their power creating banking blockades earlier. “The parliament believes that is in the public interest to lay down objective rules which specify the circumstances and procedures under which the card payment programs may unilateraly refuse acceptance”
- Helped create a ceiling price for roaming costs on mobile phones while traveling around in Europe. Unfortunately they are still extremely high with around 20x the national cost for data traffic.
- Worked with the data protection regulation to implement a common regulation throughout EU for protection of personal data. The lobbying from “big data” has been “extremely intense” in trying to make this as toothless as possible.
- Worked for an increased freedom in the tobacco directive which risked to limit the rights of ‘snus‘ (currently only legal in Sweden), e-cig and “vapes“.
- Fought corruption, especially in the #dalligate tobacco case (pdf). (Where bribes where attempted to change legislation)
- Actively working against TTIP and trying to enforce as much transparency in the negotiations as possible.
- Worked against the monopolies of major telecom operators and pushed for the highest possible speed for future internet infrastructure investments in Europe.
- Enforced an increased stance of everyone’s right to research results as well as more clarity and transparency around patents for research.
- Pushed for a strategy including ‘digital freedom’, which the EU now has adopted as part of its foreign policy.
- Helped make the copyright consultation more democratic and accessible to people instead of only lobbyists. This created an explosion of more than 11,000 replies to this public consultation.
- Increased transparency around the EU parliament and showed how one of the Pirate MEPs work through the web series exile6e
This summary of goals (and some works in progress) is not complete but it shows some of the things that Pirate MEPs have done in the European Parliament during this mandate period.
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Featured image & other image: CC-Zero
About Josef Ohlsson Collentine
I'm a dual citizen (American/Swede) and try to integrate my reflections from a more global perspective if possible. I'm the organizational leader for Pirate Times and work actively to strengthen the pirate movement through this work as well as being the international contact for Piratpartiet (PPSE). Elected board member of PPSE for 2015-2018. If you would like to ask me something I speak English, Swedish and Spanish. Find me on the links below