Over the years many people have put their necks on the line to defend what they believe to be right. Sadly, when things get out of control, some have even paid with their lives.
While copyright struggles are important, they are rarely a matter of life and death. Nevertheless, there are those who are prepared to make big sacrifices to defend citizens’ rights to communicate freely online. Activists come in all shapes and sizes but within the file-sharing landscape few have been more daring than the world’s various Pirate parties.
Both the Swedish and UK Pirate parties have stepped up to defend and support The Pirate Bay in recent years and both have lived to tell the tale. However, members of the Czech Pirate Party are now staring down the barrel of a gun with their future at stake.
As reported earlier this week, the party is being prosecuted by the police for running TV piracy site Sledujuserialy.cz (translated: I Watch TV Series). However, while most site operators try to avoid trouble, the chief of the party’s International Department says this conflict with the law was intentional.
“The original idea to create the web page came from outside. However, the former owners were threatened by ČPU (Czech Anti-Piracy Union) so they agreed to transfer control to us, since our party was ready to face the fight with ČPU,” Mikuláš Ferjenčík informs TF.
“We took patronage over the website in January 2013 in order to achieve a precedent similar to the Svensson case, so our original intention was to initiate such a reaction.”
And a reaction is what the party got.
On Thursday 21st January the Czech pirates were officially notified that their party will be prosecuted in criminal court for running the site. They’re keen to point out that the site carried no copyrighted content on its servers but instead linked to TV series via embedded links.
“Our intention is to create a precedent clearly confirming that a link is not a crime. No one shall be persecuted for referring to other’s web sites,” Ferjenčík says.
“Until now, mainly physical persons were criminalized by the Anti-Piracy Union. Their [targets’] positions were unfair since they often had no money to pay lawyers, so they often had to accept unfair extrajudicial settlements.
“We are capable of covering the necessary costs and we would like to publicly show that the Anti-Piracy Union’s legal position is not strong enough for such behavior.”
Ferjenčík informs TF that while the site’s domain was registered to the party, the identity of its administrators is being protected. So, in this case no individual is being targeted by the Anti-Piracy Union and no-one is going to jail. However, the party’s actions could have serious consequences if it all goes wrong.
“We might have to ‘refund the losses’ (estimated to 5.5 millions CZK, around 200 thousand EUR). It is also possible that the Pirate Party could be dissolved as a legal entity. Fortunately, no physical person is in danger of being punished in any way,” Ferjenčík explains.
Despite the risks the party feels entirely justified in the position it has taken and stands by its decision to defend the hyperlink.
“Linking cannot be criminalized otherwise one would have to criminalize services like Google or Facebook and many others. It would break the Internet as we know it and it would result in huge damage to the whole economy,” Ferjenčík says.
Of course, the Pirate Party is a political entity and the current case will also have the effect of thrusting it into the spotlight. The timing couldn’t be better.
“The timing is very advantageous for us, since there will be regional elections during October 2016,” Ferjenčík concludes.