EDIT: The membership polls raised have now completed, and this stage of the draft policy discussion is now closed. We will now apply the decisions made to the draft policy so far, examine the comments and discussions beyond that, and post next steps in due course.
It was originally based on the Swedish piratpartiet policies, and has been updated with additions and emendations from the pre-working group draft, from the forum and wiki discussions, and discussion within the working group.
Please review, and comment or discuss further in this thread. You may also contribute to wiki discussion/talk page, as some have already done. It's possible we may restrict editing some areas of the wiki either to members of the appropriate group, or to registered Pirate members, if that happens we'll let you know.
The draft policy comes in two sections, firstly an overview which is intended to be short, and cover just the essentials, and then in a separate longer section which goes into more detail and explores some of the reasoning and principles in a bit more depth. If you think we should do it differently, please comment accordingly.
Discussion of the draft policy will close: Sunday September 13 when the consultation polling closes.
Consultation on specific details of policy
Two polls have been posted:
After these polls close, we will apply the findings to the draft policy, summarise separately all other salient points raised (e.g. in this discussion thread, and present the results to the leadership for review.
EDIT: plus a third poll to allow for alternatives, further proposals, or dissension to the above plan.
Reform of Copyright Law
The official aim of the copyright system has always been to find a balance in order to promote culture being created and spread. Today that balance has been completely lost, to a point where the copyright laws severely restrict the very thing they are supposed to promote. The Pirate Party wants to restore the balance in the copyright legislation.
All non-commercial copying and use should be completely free. File sharing and p2p networking should be encouraged rather than criminalized. Culture and knowledge are good things, that increase in value the more they are shared. The Internet could become the greatest public library ever created.
The monopoly for the copyright holder to exploit an aesthetic work commercially should be reduced to a shorter duration than at present, so that it is once again normal for copyright to expire. Today's copyright terms are simply absurd: nobody needs to make money seventy years after he is dead, and no film studio or record company bases its investment decisions on the off-chance that the product would be of interest to anyone a hundred years in the future. The commercial life of cultural works is staggeringly short in today's world, so if you haven't made your money back within a few years, you probably never will. A shorter copyright term for commercial use can be more than enough. and non-commercial use should be free from day one.
In a free market, vendors wishing to sell products crippled by digital restrictions (DRM) should be allowed to do so, however any such product must be clearly labelled as containing DRM, and similarly companies must be equally free to sell products that circumvent DRM.
Pirate Party UK believes that the end of copyright is inevitable and that the United Kingdom should enjoy lasting strategic benefits and immediate economic gains from being an early adopter of such reform.
Abolition of patents
Pharmaceutical patents kill people in third world countries every day. They hamper possibly life saving research by forcing scientists to lock up their findings pending patent application, instead of sharing them with the rest of the scientific community.
The Pirate Party has a constructive and reasoned proposal for an alternative to pharmaceutical patents. It would not only solve these problems, but also give more money to pharmaceutical research, while still cutting public spending on medicines in half. This is something we would like to discuss on a European level.
Patents in other areas range from the morally repulsive (like patents on living organisms) through the seriously harmful (patents on software and business methods) to the merely pointless (patents in the mature manufacturing industries).
We would abolish patents in areas where they are morally repulsive (patents on living organisms), seriously harmful (patents on software, business methods), and we would review whether the patenting of physical inventions where the method/apparatus is fully disclosed are beneficial or harmful to our society.
We have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by abolishing harmful patents, and those that cover ideas or concepts rather than a functional physical invention. If we lead the way and demonstrate the benefits for our society, the rest of the world will follow.
Copyright was created to benefit society by encouraging the creation of cultural and informational works.
Copyright imposes a limited-term monopoly on the work (a public bad), in order to provide an incentive for people to create works (a public good). Copyright is only a good bargain for society when the public good outweighs the public bad. Unfortunately today the bargain has become unbalanced: the term of copyright is far too long, and laws imposing DRM prevent the creation of innovative new business models. The Pirate Party will redress the balance. A society where cultural expressions and knowledge is free for all on equal terms benefits the whole of the society. Today’s copyright law is actively counter-productive to these purposes because it limits both the creation of, and access to, cultural expressions.
A patent is an officially sanctioned monopoly on a (supposedly) useful idea. Like copyrights, patents impose a limited-term monopoly on the work (a public bad), in order to provide an incentive for people to create works (a public good). And like copyrights, the bargain has become unbalanced. Monopolies harm society, as they lead to price-hikes and large hidden costs for citizens. Large corporations diligently race to hold patents they can use against smaller competitors to prevent them from competing on equal terms. A monopolistic goal is not to adjust prices and terms to what the market will bear, but rather use that monopoly as a lever to raise prices and set lopsided terms on usage and licensing. We want to limit the opportunities to create damaging and unnecessary monopoly situations.
Trademarks are primarily useful as consumer protection devices. We feel trademarks mostly work fine today, and do not suggest any changes here.
Copyrights and our Culture
When copyrights were originally created, they regulated the right of a creator to be recognized as the creator, and offered a time-limited monopoly with a relatively short duration, much less than a human life, after which the work became public domain. In recent years, during the twentieth century, and especially the latter half of that, these monopolies have been extended to ever more types of work, ever longer durations, and ever more restrictions, reducing the public domain and our commonly shared heritage in ever decreasing circles.
This shift of balance is an unacceptable development for society. Economic and technological developments have pushed copyright laws way out of balance so that it infers unjust advantages for a few large market players at the expense of consumers, creators and society at large. Millions of classical songs, movies and books are held hostage in the vaults of huge media corps, not wanted enough by their focus groups to re-publish but potentially too profitable to release. We want to free our cultural heritage and make them accessible to all, before time withers away the celluloid of the old movie reels.
Ideas, knowledge and information are by nature non-exclusive and their common value lies in their inherent ability to be shared and spread.
We dispute claims that copyright is a necessary basis for cultural development. We point to the works of composers like Handel and Mendelssohn; to writers like Dickens and Shakespeare; and to the rise of free software as evidence that copyright is not a necessary foundation for artistic and commercial advancement in any age.
We are concerned about the abuse of the language, particularly with regard to the word "property". We are suspicious of use of the phrase "intellectual property" to refer to copyright, patents and trademark as these things are legal constructs and not otherwise scarce. We agree with Richard Stallman's take on the phrase, that it "systematically distorts and confuses these issues, and its use was and is promoted by those who gain from this confusion."
We want to reform commercial copyrights. The basic notion of copyrights was always to find a fair balance between conflicting commercial interests. Today this balance is lost and needs to be regained. We say that copyrights need to be restored to their origins. Laws must be altered to regulate only commercial use and copying of protected works. To share copies, or otherwise spread or use works for non-profit uses, must never be illegal since such fair use benefits all of society.
We suggest a reduction in duration of commercial copyright protection, i.e. the monopoly to create copies of a work for commercial purposes, counted from the publication of the work.
We want to create a fair and balanced copyright.
All non-commercial gathering, use, processing and distribution of culture shall be explicitly permitted, including format-shifting, time-shifting, and the making of backups. Technologies limiting people's legal rights to copy and use information or culture, digital restrictions (DRM), if used shall display clear warnings to inform purchasers of this fact. Technologies which allow digital restrictions to be circumvented will equally be permitted.
Contractual agreements such as End User Licence Agreements (EULAs) implemented to prevent such legal distribution of information shall be declared null and void. Non-commercial distribution of published culture, information or knowledge – with the clear exception of personal data – must not be limited or punished. As a logical conclusion of this, we oppose blank media taxes.
We want to create a cultural commons.
Reducing copyright duration means that computer software will also begin to leave copyright, which is new in our experience since software has only recently begun to be created, and with present copyright durations would never become freely available while still being useful.
Effect on the General Public License
This will however place open source free software at a disadvantage to proprietary software, as once copyright has expired, the source code may be taken and incorporated into proprietary programs. However, it will not be possible to incorporate programs released without source code into free software, even when copyright has expired.
Limitation of EULAs
We will limit the effective duration of End User License Agreements for software, insofar as they are valid under existing legislation, to the period of copyright. After this point they will automatically become null and void.
Provision of source code
We will require that distributors of programs released without source code allow for the provision of source code once their copyright expires. This may be done by either:
- Placing the source code in escrow, for subsequent release at copyright expiration
- Making the source code available along with the binary
This would ensure that proprietary and free software remain on a level basis for competition, and that both would gain a limited period of protection. After that limited period, improvements made in either the open or closed arena would be available for incorporation in further works, a potential spur to innovation and enhancement which is not presently possible.
Patents and Private Monopolies Harm Society
Patents have many damaging effects. Pharmaceutical patents are responsible for human deaths in diseases they could have afforded medication for, research priorities are skewed, and unnecessarily high, and rising, cost of medicines in richer parts of the world.
Patents on life and genes, like patented crops, lead to unreasonable and harmful consequences. Software patents retard technological development and constitute a serious threat against small- and medium-sized businesses in the IT sector.
Patents are said to encourage innovation by protecting inventors and investors in new inventions and manufacturing methods. In reality, patents are increasingly used by large corporations to hinder smaller companies from competing on equal terms. Instead of encouraging innovation, patents are being used as "mine fields" when waging war against others, often patents the owner has no plans on developing further themselves.
We believe patents can actively stifle innovation and the creation of new knowledge. Looking at all business areas that are not patentable it is clear that patents are frequently simply not needed - the market forces derived from being first-to-market are quite sufficient for fostering innovation. Corporations can compete fairly with natural advantages like innovative designs, customer benefits, pricing and quality, instead of with a state-awarded monopoly on knowledge, and not having to pay small armies of patent lawyers will free resources that can be used for creating real innovation and improve products at a faster rate, benefiting us all in the end.
We want to review patents, and gradually abolish most patents except where limited protection in exchange for disclosure of physical inventions or apparatus can be justified to support inventors.
Apart from abusing patents, large corporations attempt to create monopolies by other means. By keeping information on things like file formats and interfaces secret, they try to create vendor lock-in, thereby limiting competition with a blatant disregard for the value of a free and fair market. This practice leads directly to higher prices and a lower rate of innovation. Whenever the publicly funded sector procures information systems or produces information itself, it must actively counteract the formation or continuation of these private monopolies on information, knowledge, ideas, or concepts. Initiatives like Open Access, with the purpose of making results of research freely available, shall be encouraged and supported.
Private monopolies are generally harmful, therefore will be regulated and as limited as is possible and practical.