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Pirate Party captures big victory in Berlin, Germany!
Hank Pellissier   Sep 29, 2011   Ethical Technology  

An interview with party political director Marina Weisband.

Last week, the Pirate Party of Berlin, Germany, garnered a shocking 8.9% of the votes in the city-state’s election to place 15 representatives in Berlin’s parliament. In a story on the result, the New York Times described Pirate Party leaders as “disarmingly honest… in their 20s and 30s… with no lack of confidence.”
Typifying these qualities is Marina Weisband—24 years old, born in Kiev, an artist and a psychology student living in Münster. Easily accessible via email, Marina answered all my questions patiently, even though it was 3:45 AM in her time zone.

Hank Pellissier: Thanks for letting me interview you, Marina. What is your official title as a member of the Pirate Party? 

Marina Weisband: I guess my title translates to “political director” or “federal director.” I really had trouble to look it up. My position is equivalent to Klaus Schüler (CDU) and Astrid Klug (SPD).

HP: I’ve read that the Pirate Party is going to work harder to bring more women into its membership and to bring more minorities in—can you comment on this?

MW: The German media tried to find something to make us look bad, so they brought up the gender topic. We don’t have as many women as men in the party, like most political parties. We see ourselves as post-gender, so we don’t even ask for gender in the member application. It is true that we try to be more attractive for women because we are afraid that socialization as a female obstructs political interest (which is why there are more men in politics). We are working on a campaign. While it may seem that the Pirate Party is mostly young white German males, I can say from my own experience that it is very easy—even a bit too easy—to get to the top being a Ukrainian Jewish girl.

HP: What do you think the Pirate victory indicates about the German voters’ mood?

MW: I think that the German voters are tired of the political style of the established parties. Only 6% of Germans are fond of our democracy. People don’t feel connected to politicians and don’t find themselves represented anymore. We try to change that. We act transparently, listen to the people, and are not afraid to try new ideas. We have been doing it for quite a while already, but our victory in Berlin drew the media’s attention. Since then, we’ve experienced a massive increase in members and positive feedback. That is why we expect continued success. Until this year, we reached mostly ‘digital natives’. Now, many other people from different areas and social backgrounds look at us with hope. Since we are easier to reach and to influence than other parties, people address us with their wishes. We evaluate these wishes through our own democratic process and see if we make them part of our party program.

HP: Briefly describe your primary issue—is it copyright laws?

MW: I personally don’t believe that copyright laws is our one primary issue by now. We found that our wish for free intellectual property is part of a whole philosophy about human freedom through free information. Because of that, we have several additional important points like transparency, democracy, and education, copyright still being one of our major topics. The German Pirate Party struggles for a new definition of intellectual property in which creators are encouraged to share ideas, music, art, and software with the public. We try to join the goals of freedom of intellectual property on one hand and the creator’s reward on the other hand. We have reviewed several models on how to do that. One thing we agreed upon is the shortening of copyright terms. We demand abandonment of copy protection and regulation in consuming cultural goods. A flat rate system was suggested to pay the creators, but was discarded, since it would mean even more monitoring of the private use by the state. Right now we are still in the process of evaluating the best solution.

HP: I’ve read that you want to provide free transportation to the public.  I commend you on that excellent stance. Do you have other stances such as that, to support egalitarianism?

MW: We define ourselves as a ‘socially liberal’ party. The only one in Germany, at that. As such, we try to provide even the poorest people with means to live a free life. Public transportation will help create mobility for less fortune people, save the environment and decongest the roads. But we go further than that. Last year we added a ‘right on social participation’ to our program. It states that all people should have means to participate in mobility, education, politics and so on, regardless of their fortune. On the federal level, we haven’t yet decided what exactly is our financial demand for that purpose. The Pirate Party of Berlin has agreed on a basic income guarantee. Every citizen would get a certain minimum amount on money to live on, no matter what.

HP: What is the foreign policy of the Pirate Party? Do you have a stance on the debt crisis with Greece?

MW: It’s a widely discussed topic, yet we don’t have a position on that. Truth is, we lack financial experts that could give good reasons for demands. Many pirates don’t believe in the European Union, but that is just individual opinions that have not been evaluated in a democratic process. Maybe we will come to it on our assembly this December. As for foreign policy in general, we try to work with all the international Pirate Parties to change political styles in the whole world. Our demand for free information exchange will help to achieve world peace. As children of the internet, we don’t see borders.

HP: What advice do you have for Pirates in the United States? If you were elected Pirate politicians in the USA, what would your primary issues be? 

MW: Think big. Reformation of copyright law is just part of a new philosophy that comes with this generation and that finds expression in events like the Arab Spring, the Spanish protesters, the growth of the German Pirate Party and #occupywallstreet. Surely the USA have other needs for change than Germany. A terrifying shift I see in the USA lately is the new extreme conservatism. For some reason, in the moment of their greatest need, people look for the simplest (and worst) solutions. Like the belief that a free market alone would help all poor people. Or that concealment of sexuality could solve problems of youth pregnancy. Or that bills should not extend more than three pages. These people somehow manage to be pro-death penalty, pro-war, and still call themselves pro-life. The conservative movement in the USA is the antithesis of everything the Pirate Party stands for. On the other hand, I hear that people have trouble to vote because they don’t trust the liberals either. So this situation is actually quite similar to Germany. In these times, people look for something new. The first thing that new movement must have is honesty. In a world where information is free and fast, truth has a tendency to become public, as WikiLeaks demonstrated. The new politician has to be honest and transparent. My advice for the US Pirates is to be these politicians.

HP: Ideally, what are the ultimate, utopian goals of the Pirate Party? If you could reform all governments on Earth, what would you do?

MW: First of all, we would put a lot more money into education. Education is the base of all freedom and responsible democracy. We can save that money by using the new technology to slim down administration. We would grant every human the right of social participation. People would have the same rights, whether they’re white, black, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim, male, female, heterosexual, or homosexual. They would share cultural goods that can be copied. Information and knowledge would be important values to the society. Everyone could be free, as long as they don’t violate the freedom of others.

HP: Thank you, Marina!

Buoyed by their Berlin success, the Pirate Party is sailing full speed towards the next German national election, scheduled in two years. A poll by the Forsa Institute indicates that 7% of the population aims to vote for the upstart new movement. Founded just five years ago in Sweden, the Pirates have quickly become a global force with chapters in more than forty nations.

Hank Pellissier
Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.


Well.. I never!

Good luck to the Pirates, although a much needed name change is required ASAP - Pirates are not really romantic(s) nor chivalrous. Perhaps then they will truly gain some real economic expertise and support?

Some excellent questions posed, and even more excellent answers! (And just when I was losing all hope and sight of real progress!) “Crowd Sourcing” people.. Don’t believe the myths of negativity and cynicism!

@ CygnusX1 - Pirate ships often had a democratic structure and they have been praised as an egalitarian, anti-racist group.  Plus they plundered money from the rich. I think it is a great name for the group.

Thanks for posting this great interview Hank, thanks Marina, and kudos for this spectacular result. I hope you will repeat and exceed it in other local and national elections in Germany, and I hope other European PPs will follow.

I am a Pirate Party member and I am persuaded that this young “Party of the Internet, and of the Future” is the best political outlet for IEET technoprogressive policies. Let’s discuss.

In many cases Pirate Parties are still single-issue parties, but I think the good genes are there and the Pirate platform will evolve into a more complete political platform as Marina says.

@ Giulio - I totally agree.  Do you want to write, or co-write with me, a followup article entitled “Why H+ should join the Pirate Party” ?

Or, want to meet me in Berlin soon for a more extensive interview?  Seriously.

@Hank - double yes.

@Hank - let’s write “Why H+ should join the Pirate Party?” together, but I would make it more general: “Why technoprogressives should join the Pirate Party.”

btw pls answer my FB message re translation in Italian of this interview and publication on the IT PP website,

@ Guilio - I sent links to the interview to all the Pirate Party chapters. 
I think the Catalan chapter is translating the interview into Catalan, and I know the Argentinian chapter is translating into Spanish.  I haven’t heard from the Italian chapter yet.  But now I will go read your Facebook message, and I agree with your headline for the next article.  Are you going to start writing it?  I will get back to you about a meeting in Berlin.

I just finished translating this interview into Italian, and I agree with everything.

The Pirate Party’s philosophy and (developing) program outlined by Marina represents the political expression of all that I, and I am sure also many other readers, stand for.

I’m a member of the Catalan Pirate Party. We got legalized 1 year ago and we work the way the Berliner’s do..

We’re part of a 2nd wave of pirate parties and Berlin’s victory definetly gives us faith about the correctness of our decision. We’re mainly Pirates from Germany, Switzerland, Czezk repúblic, Hungary, Serbia and Catalonia.

Last may we got a 1% of vote with just a 1000 € campaign. In two months we’ll be running for the general elections in Spain and well, we’re still far away from PiratenPartei, but we got two seats in two of the 9 municipalities where we presented candidatures.

The stablishment parties in Spain agreed to change the electoral law few months ago to force us to collect 5000 signatures in Barcelona to run for the ellection. We started a volunteering campaing and we got 2300 volunteers in 6 weeks. IMO, we’re doing really well 😉

Here is the Italian translation of this interview on the Italian PP website:

@Kenneth - congratulations on your success in getting the two seats in the municipalities!  Please keep us informed about your future progress—you can find me on Facebook. We are all very enthusiastic about the platform and gains of the Pirates.

OK let’s do some brainstorming here, starting with Hank’s question: Why H+ and technoprogressives should join the Pirate Party? I can think of many reasons.

Perhaps the main reason is that Pirates want to combine personal liberty and social farrness, and clearly affirm the importance of both.

Pirates are for BIG, and many of us here are for BIG. But Pirates are also for personal freedom and a slim administration.

The Pirate Party is the party of the Internet, and by extension it is the party of disruptive and revolutionary technologies, not afraid of radical change. The PP is the party of the future.

It is the party of the young (like Marina), and I am one of those who think that the young are always right.

It is the only political party that I can see, in a future when these issues will be raised, clearly and openly embracing total self-ownership and morphological freedom.

I think the Pirate Parties should get behind the protests.

I also think that the central maxim underlying the Pirate Parties ought to be to work towards rationally, safely, and profitably obsoleting the very need for government itself. They should view themselves as a temporary means to transition to a governmentless society (egalitarianism) without the violence of revolution.

If they made this their primary goal (to do so in a scientific and peaceful manner) then the world might see that we should all be working towards the day when technology AND enlightenment allow us to live without authoritarianism of any kind in a manner that does not need bloody revolutions.

The Pirates are busy! the chapters that have already translated the interview above into their own language are:

Italians, Belgians, Catalans, Spaniards, Argentines, and Finns

@iPan - we share a wish for an anarchic society of nice people who live their own life without interfering in the life of others, but also support each other in case of need.

Of course the problem is that not all people are nice. This one of the main arguments used in support of Big Brother. They say that only a strong authoritarian government can protect the nice guys from the bad guys.

There is an element of truth here, and unfortunately I don’t think we can do without government yet.

But I think most people are basically nice, and they also act nice if they can afford it. Hungry and desperate people cannot afford to be nice to others. So I think we should gradually move toward BIG and at the same time phase big government out.

There’s a Facebook group for people interested in both the Pirate Party and technoprogressivism - it is at

The Facebook group is “closed” in the sense that those who want to join must request an invitation (this is necessary to keep spammers off), but of course it is completely open.


I believe that 99% of people are inherently nice, but can be driven not to be by authority.

‘Crime’ is proportionate to the size of the State.

Hank provided me with this wonderful link once:

The State always increases the level of crime in a society, so if we really were interested in reducing initiatory force, we shouldn’t be expanding the State, because it has the opposite effect.

As far as what we can do about it: I propose that anything a government can do, social media can (or will soon as it’s capabilities and reach are extended even further than they are now) do more efficiently and more humanely.

We can replace that entity we call “government” with social media platforms when the functionality of the social media platforms exceeds that of the government.

That day is much closer than you think.

The revolution will be Tweeted and Livestreamed.

As far as the Pirate Party goes, I think it would be an insanely good idea for them to get on board with all that.

Join the global protests against Hegemony.

But also, I think as a party running for seats in the current governmental process, it would be amazing if their core platform were the eventual obsolescence of government in any form.

In other words, many of us sit here and debate over precisely how much government we should have, when I think the debate needs to be about how long should we even have a government.

Once this debate begins to happen, where the public (and not just armchair philosophers and think tanks) are discussing the longevity of government and it’s necessity, then they will naturally begin to develop and construct the means (hopefully largely technology based) by which we can simply slough off government like dead skin.

I’m not advocating throwing government overboard in one night. That would result in a new despotism taking over the next day.

What I’m saying is that the debate needs to center around how long, and not as much about how much.

Because when we start to question how long we’ll need governance, we immediately begin to also think of what we can build to reach the goal of zero government, but this process doesn’t begin until we start to look at it that way in the first place.

When the debate is always about how much, then there is this implication that whatever level we decide upon, will be permanent (or as permanent as we can sustain).

Then people grow complacent. They assume that once this “ideal” level of government is reached, they no longer have to do anything.

Zero government is ideal. This we can all agree on. To reach that ideal, the carrot we must dangle in front of people is, “How long must we support government, and what can we do to reach the ideal of ‘zero government’”

This is how it has to be framed, otherwise people won’t move in that direction.

@iPan re “I propose that anything a government can do, social media can (or will soon as it’s capabilities and reach are extended even further than they are now) do more efficiently and more humanely.”

I think this is mostly correct but needs some qualifications. Social media and crowdsourcing can put people together and, if used wisely, produce an aggregate view of what they really think and want. This is why everyone should have full access to and the opportunity to participate in social media.

But knowing what should be done does not imply knowing how to do it well, and there is a need for management. Perhaps we should stop saying “government” and say “social management” instead.

Right. Well my point is that “social management” can be done by the technology - or, more accurately, the people using the technology - although the technology needs more development for this purpose - it’s not in a state where it can replace the functions of government right now in it’s current form.

But guess what? It’s heading there. The uses people have put this technology to will drive further innovation of the technology in the direction of self-management mediated by the use of social platforms.

Each year that goes by, we’ve actually seen more people organizing themselves more and more with these kinds of technologies.

At some point, there is a threshold that is crossed where we are autopoietically doing everything (or providing everything) that a government does - without the government’s involvement. When that threshold is crossed, the government is obsolete.

My message is that we are closer to this, and moving towards it faster than, most people expect.

@iPan - Right. It will take some time though.

About tech tools for social empowerment. I love Etherpad and Etherpad Lite and I am taking a look at another very promising tool

But as you say, technology alone does not do much. It is what we do with it.

“Pirates are not really romantic(s) nor chivalrous.”

Pirates are extremely romantic- but not chivalrous.
At any rate, who said politics has anything to do with chivalry? politics is a dirty, hideous, monstrous business—and that’s what’s good about politics.

~ “Pirates are extremely romantic- but not chivalrous.”

You’ve been watching too much Walt Disney and not enough news.
As a reminder, here’s just some of the activities that “real” Pirates are associated with.. both past and present

Murder, kidnapping and abduction, (recruitment and ransom), rape, blackmail, Grand theft and larceny, tax evasion, arson, pillaging, hijacking, uncleanliness, poor dress sense, bad teeth & hygiene and general rowdiness.

~ “At any rate, who said politics has anything to do with chivalry?”

Indeed who said? You perhaps?

~ “politics is a dirty, hideous, monstrous business—and that’s what’s good about politics.”

*Giggles*  Post.. I’m still waiting for the day that you actually say something “positive” here at IEET. Now come on, let’s at least “try” to be a little progressive and have “some” hope for the future? If I didn’t know better I’d say you were a GOP undercover operative, (from the sixties!)


Some alternative names for the Pirate party..

Online Democratic Movement, (Peoples party.. or whatever)
Global Democratic Initiative .org
Peoples Front of Judea, (Not the Judean Peoples Front!)


I’m totally cool with Pirates 😊

What do Pirates dip their deep fried fish in?

Targhhhhhhh Targhhhhhhhhh Sauce!

Another article at New Scientist:

Pirate politician: We want open, online government

An uberconnected world need a new politics, says Ben de Biel, spokesman for the Pirates party, who are making waves in Berlin, Germany

“If I didn’t know better I’d say you were a GOP undercover operative, (from the sixties!)”

Which would be bad for the GOP! like having Ringo work for the Blue Meanies.
Agreed on all your points, though let’s not romanticize pirates, please; we don’t like to conflate things (or people) at IEET—do we now?

Pirate politician: We want open, online government
An uberconnected world need a new politics, says Ben de Biel, spokesman for the Pirates party, who are making waves in Berlin, Germany

We need a new politics, indeed. Great article.

here’s another fun link -

Public Radio International

“the [Berlin Pirate Party] plans to legalize marijuana, expand the Internet and leak all government activity”

~ “Which would be bad for the GOP! like having Ringo work for the Blue Meanies.”


I always thought Paul was and still is.. wholly, (holy), conservative by nature, how else could you explain a song like “Yesterday” and all that hoarding? John was obviously a socialist and thus the clash was inevitabubble.

George.. very quiet indeed

I was a Kinks fan so I don’t really care.

(Kinks? “I’m Only Sleeping” has a Kinks’ Sunny Afternoon sonority to it)

It is all to the positive (what other choice do we have in 2011?) what is transpiring in Berlin and the protests in America. But we have to choose our battles carefully. As Patton said:

“nobody ever won a war by dying for his country; he won it by making the other poor dumb bastard [on the enemy side] die for his country. And we’re not interested in holding onto territory, the only thing we want to hold onto is the Enemy.”

Naturally, our opponents are not really enemies; but we are enemies to them—they play for keeps and consider themselves at war with us. So we are at war. Reluctantly.
The Dems have demonstrated they can adapt; while the GOP is stuck hopelessly in the past. The Republicorn Cornvention next summer must be disrupted otherwise the GOP will run and probably elect another memoir-writer. A common misapprehension of progressives & technogressives is thinking that because the Eastern Seaboard and West Coast are somewhat progressive, that the interior of America is also.
No way.
Middle America is almost as 19th century as it is 20th. Bad religion; Bad politics. Deep-seated.

The fifth largest party group in the European Parliament has adopted the Pirate Party positions on the copyright monopoly straight off the bat.
This is a huge victory for the pirate perspective. Just like the Greens needed time and effort in their time to explain their new and odd perspective, the pirate perspective of openness, transparency and accountability gradually gains its foothold. Now, the European Green group (of which the Swedish Pirate Party is a member) has adopted the Pirate Party’s perspective on culture completely. This expands the exposure area of the pirate perspective considerably.
(A primer on the European Parliament is that it is not composed of individual parties, but of party groups. The elected parties join together in groups. There are seven such groups in the European Parliament, and these groups act like individual parties would in a national parliament.)
These are the positions on the copyright monopoly that are now adopted by the Green party group:
It must be made absolutely clear that the copyright monopoly does not extend to what an ordinary person can do with ordinary equipment in their home and spare time; it regulates commercial, intent-to-profit activity only. Specifically, file sharing is always legal.
There must be exceptions that make it legal to create mashups and remixes. Quotation rights, like those that exist for text, must be extended to sound and video.
Digital Restrictions Management should preferably be outlawed, as it is a type of fraud nullifying consumer and citizen rights, but at least, it must always be legal to circumvent.
The baseline commercial copyright monopoly is shortened to a reasonable five years from publication, extendable to twenty years through registration of the work.
The public domain must be strengthened.
And a bonus unrelated to the copyright monopoly:
Net neutrality must be guaranteed.
This is a huge win for the pirate perspective on culture and knowledge and an advancement of our positions by miles and leagues. Also, I understand that more people in Parliament are interested in the newly-adopted perspective. This progress keeps on mirroring when the Green perspective entered politics 40 years ago.
We were elected to the European Parliament in 2009 with the promise of fostering understanding, endorsement, and adoption of the pirate perspective on society. This is the largest delivery on that promise to date.
Here is a link to the freshly-adopted position paper. The entire paper is worth reading, but the really interesting parts are paragraphs 23 to 26, 28, and 29, quoted below, with emphasis by me:
§23. Up until twenty years ago, copyright [monopoly] was hardly anything that concerned ordinary people. The rules about exclusivity on the production of copies where aimed at commercial actors, who had the means to, for example, print books or press records. Private citizens who wanted to copy a poem and send to their loved one, or copy a record to cassette and give it to a friend, did not have to worry about being in breach of copyright. In practice, anything you had the technical means to do as a normal person, you could do without risk of any punishment.
But today, copyright has evolved to a position where it imposes serious restrictions on what ordinary citizens can do in their everyday life. As technological progress has made it easier for ordinary people to enjoy and share culture, copyright legislation has moved in the opposite direction. We want to restore copyright to its origins, and make absolutely clear that it only regulates copying for commercial purposes. To share copies, or otherwise spread or make use of use somebody else’s copyrighted work, should never be prohibited if it is done non-commercially and without a profit motive. Peer-to-peer file sharing is an example of such an activity that should be legal.
§24. DRM is an acronym for “Digital Rights Management” or “Digital Restrictions Management”. The term is used to denote a number of different technologies that all aim to restrict consumers’ and citizens’ ability use and copy works, even when they have a legal right to do so. It must always be legal to circumvent DRM restrictions, and we should consider introducing a ban in the consumer rights legislation on DRM technologies that restrict legal uses of a work. There is no point in having our parliaments introduce a balanced and reasonable copyright legislation, if at the same time we allow the big multinational corporations to write their own laws, and enforce them through technical means.
§25. Much of today’s entertainment industry is built on the commercial exclusivity on copyrighted works. This, we want to preserve. But today’s protection times — life plus 70 years — are absurd. No investor would even look at a business case where the time-to-payback was that long. We want to shorten the protection time to something that is reasonable from both society’s and an investor’s point of view, and propose 20 years from publication.
§26. Today, works that are still in copyright but where it is impossible or difficult to locate the rights owner is a major problem. The majority of these works have little or no commercial value, but since they are still covered by copyright, they cannot be reused or distributed because there is nobody to ask for permission. Rights owners who want to continue to exercise their commercial exclusivity on work they already produced should register them within 5 years. This would greatly reduce the number of orphan works and facilitate diligent search.
§27. The problem of orphan works urgently needs to be solved. [...goes into details that don’t originate in pirate policy, but aren’t antithetical either…].
§28. From now, and within a time frame of 5 years after the production, registration of copyright work should be compulsory for authors to enjoy commercial exclusivity. This would greatly limit the existence [of] orphan works in the future.
§29. Today’s ever more restrictive copyright legislation and practice is a major obstacle to musicians, film makers, and other artists who want to create new works by reusing parts of existing works. We want to change this by introducing clear exceptions and limitations to allow remixes and parodies, as well as quotation rights for sound and audiovisual material modelled after the quotation rights that already exist for text.
Huge winnage. Let’s keep it up. People who are exposed to the pirate ideas and perspectives, and whose paycheck do not depend on the opposite, always connect the dots after some time of exposure. With this new large exposure area, and the recent successes by German Piratenpartei, I predict that understanding and endorsement of the pirate perspective will accelerate.

Contrary to the traditional views of the music industry, removal of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions can actually decrease piracy, according to new research from Rice University and Duke University.

There are some people who pirate for no other reason than the fact that there is DRM.

/me can’t resist flirt with Marine even though she is half my age.

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