Lessig Questions Pirate Party’s Existence

At a preview of his new 'Change Congress' project, the Stanford professor took a swipe at the Pirate Party of the United States. Whilst expressing skepticism about it's utility, his main criticism seemed to be the name.

Lawrence Lessig appears to be in and out of the tech news recently – the will-he-won’t-he run for Congress, has caused a storm of blog-posts this last month alone. Having declined to run on the democratic party ticket, he has now started criticizing other parties.

At a preview of his new Change Congress project at the ETech conference, the Creative Commons founder responded to a question about the US Pirate Party, saying “I’m skeptical of the utility of something like the Pirate Party in the United States.” He went on to comment about the naming, referring to the ‘honest business fighting illegitimate thieves‘ battle that Hollywood portrays with “Call your party the Pirate Party, and you’ll reinforce that. The branding is not one that I would embrace here in the United States.”

Naturally, the Pirate Party of the US disagrees. “As a professor, he should know better than to advocate judging a book by it’s cover” says Andrew Norton, head of the US Pirate Party. “It’s also unusual that the man that fought Hollywood’s increase of copyright, should find fault with a party that only seeks to represent the general public, and what better title than the name that Hollywood is using for all citizens.” referring to a recent study,(pdf) which suggested that everyone violates copyright, and are thus pirates, every day.

“It may, however, be that he feels since we are called ‘The Pirate Party’, that at some point we may advocate Piracy, or at least copyright infringement. We do not, and will not, promote the breaking of any law, criminal or civil,” added Norton. “We, like Prof. Lessig, stand squarely behind the political process, and hope that people will use their ability to vote, to vote for the candidates they want, rather than the so-called ‘tactical voting’ which has turned current US politics into the sham it is. In this, we are willing and eager to work with the Change Congress campaign in any way we can.”

These sentiments regarding the political process in the US have suddenly come to a head, with Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader condemning the current political setup. On an appearance on the hugely popular Daily Show Tuesday, he commented “The two parties have shut out the people in Washington. It’s corporate occupied territory.”

He later went on to comment about how the two parties have rigged things so it’s hard for any other party to even get on the ballot, which the Pirate Party knows only too well. “Many states bury their party registration requirements in vast amounts of legalese,” says Norton. “Other states don’t publish it clearly, and don’t respond to requests for information on it. Government is supposed to exist for the benefit of the people, but right now, it’s benefiting the lawyers, and those that can pay for them.”

Can Lessig really ‘Change Congress’? It all depends if he will see past names, to the actual issues they hide.

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