As champions of less restrictive copyright law and advocates of greater online freedoms and privacy, the Pirate Party has stamped its mark on the online space in recent years.
As a niche political movement it has often taken a guerrilla approach to its activism, with strategies often designed to provoke a fierce response from perceived enemies.
In July 2011, the Czech division of the party did just that with a brave move designed to stir up sentiments against the Czech Anti-Piracy Union who had targeted a 16-year-old accused of posting links to infringing material on his website
Under the slogan “Linking is not a Crime” the Czech Pirate Party launched its own movie download site. Tipnafilm.cz had an attractive layout with links to content plus movie covers, embedded trailers, and links to reviews on sites such as iMDb. A second site, Piratskefilmy.cz, carried 20,000 links to more than 5,800 movies.
“We challenge the Anti-Piracy Union to stop bullying the under-aged and to aim its preposterous claims at the Pirate Party,” the pirates said.
Declaring “open war” on the anti-piracy outfit, the Czech pirates later launched TV focused site Sledujuserialy.cz (I Watch TV Series). With the previous two sites faded away, it is this site that has finally elicited the response the pirates had long hoped for.
“A landmark political trial for Czech Internet is about to take place!” the party has just announced.
“On Thursday 21st January, the Czech pirate party was officially notified that it will be prosecuted in criminal court. The reason is their long-term political campaign “Linking is Not a Crime” in which the party ran a non-commerical website ‘sledujuserialy.cz’ highlighting an absurd interpretation of copyright monopoly law with regard to the Internet.”
Although it has taken more than four years to come to fruition, it appears the pirates’ plan progressed as predicted. Their taunting of the Czech Anti-Piracy Union resulted in the anti-piracy group filing a complaint with the police. The police are now prosecuting the Pirate Party over their TV piracy site.
Unusually for torrent site operators, the Pirate Party say they are glad they’re in trouble with the law.
“[The Pirate Party] welcomes the criminal case. Until now, the Czech Anti-Piracy Union has targeted only randomly chosen individuals with its bullying. The victims were in an unfair position as they faced expensive lawyers of lobby organisations which push the current repressive copyright monopoly regime. This time it’s different,” Czech Pirate Party chairman Lukáš Černohorský explains.
“Instead of teenagers, copyright industry lobbyists are now dealing with a political party which didn’t run the website for money but because of our conviction that linking is not and should not be a crime.”
The Party says it has been forced to take this action to fight the persecution of linking online, adding that sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube don’t face any action for doing the same, even though they operate their sites for-profit.
That being said, it’s unclear how Czech copyright law will draw a line between the party’s hand-curated TV show download site and user-generated content sites like YouTube, but finding out is clearly one of the party’s aims.
“Our goal is to change the copyright monopoly law so that people are not fined millions for sharing culture with their friends. However, until we achieve that, we will fight in courts over interpretation and enforcement of the law,” Černohorský concludes.
The Party says that in the coming days it will call on all organizations who care about the future of the Internet to join them in a massive demonstration against oppressive copyright regimes and recent proposals for increased online censorship and surveillance.
Pirate parties have a long history of supporting pirate sites, particularly The Pirate Bay.
At times the Swedish Pirate Party famously hosted parts of The Pirate Bay’s infrastructure which put them on a collision course with authorities there. Over in the UK, the local Pirate party was threatened with a lawsuit from the music industry after refusing to take down its Pirate Bay proxy service. It eventually complied in December 2012.
Most recently, last year the Norwegian Pirate Party announced its own DNS service to bypass ISP censorship of The Pirate Bay.