Pirates Ho!

In voting across the 27-nation European Union Sunday, the Pirate Party of Sweden claimed a single seat in the 785-member European Parliament, a body of dubious authority and popular indifference. But it just about took over the World Copyright Summit in Washington, DC Tuesday, a gathering of 500 or so lawyers, legislators and regulators from around the world organized by the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC).

robert-wexlerIn a forceful–at times even angry–luncheon keynote, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, warned that the Pirate Party’s “victory” was the harbinger of a lost generation of voters that has grown up comfortable with the idea of “copyright theft.”

“We know in that in this country that if you vote Democratic in your first election you’re very likely to continue voting Democratic throughout your life,” he said. “It was the generation of young Republicans who voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 that was so helpful to the GOP for many years after. The generation of young people who cast their first vote for Barack Obama will, hopefully, be helpful to the Democrats for years to come.”

Wexler went on to note that while the Pirate Party garnered 7.1% of the vote nationwide, it claimed the highest percentage of votes among 18 to 25 year olds of any party in Sweden. Nineteen percent, to be exact.

“In a few years,” he warned, “those 18 to 25 year olds will be the new home owners, and business owners, and employers and employees, and will have grown up without ever learning to respect intellectual property.”

A thus, presumably, still voting Pirate?

That might be a bit of a stretch. But Wexler was hardly the only speaker on the first day of the two-day clambake to be exercised over the Pirate Party’s triumph. It was brought up in nearly every panel discussion, often in apocalyptic terms, and usually cast as a  sign of some sort of  new, irredeemable corruption eating away at the fabric of society.

Personally, I’m far more worried about the many, many more seats in the European Parliament won by various far-right and crypto-fascist parties in several countries, including the Netherlands, Austria and Britain, than about the single seat now held by Swedish Pirates. As far as threatening the fabric of society goes, I find the Whites-only British National Party (2 seats) far more noxious than the Pirate Party, even where I disagree with Pirate Party’s platform. So far as I know, the Pirate Party isn’t openly racist in its positions or advocacy.

True, the Copyright Summit is, after all, a copyright summit, not a political summit. But a little perspective on relative threats to the polity would be nice.