Parliamentary candidates from the Pirate Party UK have accused Labour and the Conservatives of being "hypocrites" after both parties repeatedly infringed on the copyright of others during their election campaigns.
Shortly before parliament was dissolved, both parties colluded to force through the Digital Economy Act 2010. The act was widely criticised for its extreme punishments for those who have merely been accused of copyright infringement. It was opposed by MPs from all corners of Parliament, consumer groups, industry groups, artists and academics. Under the act, people who are wrongly accused of infringing copyright - a common occurrence even now - could have their Internet connection cut-off for an unspecified period of time.
During the current election campaign, both parties have infringed copyright using their internet connections. Labour modified images produced by the BBC on two occasions and used an photograph taken by a blogger in Waltham Forest, London. The Conservatives also modified material that was copyrighted by the BBC. These modified images were used promotionally by the parties for the campaign, which flies in the face of the BBC's principles.
Andrew Robinson, party leader and candidate for Worcester said,
When the Digital Economy Act rules come into force, members of the public will face disconnection from the 'net for simply looking at infringing content like this. I have had enough of this hypocrisy, it's time for some balance and fairness in copyright law. It's time to vote Pirate.
In response to the infringement, Jack Nunn, the Pirate Party candidate for Cities of London and Westminster, said,
The Digital Economy Act 2010 was widely viewed as a content industry sponsored document, passed before any realistic method of enforcement was ever debated. The fact that both the Labour and Conservative parties have played down their own infringement further reinforces the irrelevance of this Act in the information society.
Under the "three strikes" principle implicit in the Digital Economy Act, Labour could already be 'cut off' from the Internet. Furthermore, their claim that it was an "innocent mistake" would not stand up as a defence under the act.
Whilst the Pirate Party UK believes that derivative works like this should not necessarily be unlawful, they currently are. The use of copyrighted imagery in this manner highlights the disconnect between what people commonly think the law should be and what it actually is - even the campaign managers for major political parties seem to agree the law is out of line with common sense.
The Pirate Party UK is fielding nine candidates in the general election, and campaigns to legalise non-commercial file-sharing. It also campaigns to reduce the duration of copyright to a maximum of ten years and have all BBC content released under a Creative Commons license that allows it to be shared and modified for non-commercial use. Besides copyright, the Party has policies regarding patents, privacy and freedom of speech.