Pirate Party UK in Hollywood’s cross-hairs

The British Phonographic Industry’s approach to blocking access to The Pirate Bay had been following that used by its Dutch counterpart (Brein) in The Netherlands: first get a court order against the ISPs, and then follow up against any and all proxy services that subsequently appear.

At the end of last month, BPI wrote to the Pirate Party UK who are running the most popular UK proxy service and demanded that it be taken down. A deadline of 6 December was given. At the time, party leader Loz Kaye told the BBC, “It [the proxy service] is a legitimate tool, for a legitimate political end.” But BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor told Mr Kaye: “Freedom of expression is not an absolute right.”

The deadline came and went, and although Kaye offered to talk to Taylor, the proxy remained in operation. The Pirate Party, which is a legitimate political party registered with the electoral commission, expected action from the BPI similar to Brein’s action in the Netherlands. But BPI has changed tack – it is going after the people rather than the site. In a brief statement issued at the end of last week, the party announced, “The Pirate Party UK can confirm that 6 members of the party have received letters from a solicitors firm acting on behalf of the BPI threatening legal action. Leader Loz Kaye has been singled out, along with the 4 other members of the National Executive and the party's head of IT.”

Kaye added, “We had been anticipating legal action ever since I received an email from Geoff Taylor of the BPI. What has taken me aback is that this threat is personally directed. I simply can not see what the music industry thinks can be positively gained by threatening to bankrupt me and other party officers.”

This is clearly a scare tactic. “Making the site’s members personally liable is the ultimate pressure, as they then have all their personal belongings – including their family homes – on the line,” comments TorrentFreak. Other commentators are more forthright. Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing says bluntly, “It's an underhanded, unethical, and unprecedented threat to democracy -- essentially a bid to use their financial and legal might to destroy a political party itself.”

At the time of writing, the Pirate Party’s proxy seems to have been taken down, instead pointing to a fundraising effort. Meanwhile, the BPI’s Adam Liversage has told TorrentFreak that it had no other option. “‘Pirate Party UK’ as an entity cannot give undertakings – it has no form of legal personality and it isn’t incorporated – so the proper legal course is to write to the members of PPUK’s National Executive personally.” 

The Pirate Party’s head of IT, also targeted by the BPI, is not a member of the party’s national executive.

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