Ahoy, Matey: Pirate Party Seeks Candidates to Run for Office

The Pirate Party is looking for a few good candidates for elected office -- eye patches and parrots not required.

Still on the fringes of the political spectrum in the U.S. and most other places, the movement that claims chapters in nearly 70 countries has registered a handful of successes, including in Iceland where the party won several seats in parliamentary elections last fall.

On Saturday, the 5-year-old Pirate Party of Massachusetts plans to hold its annual conference in Boston to discuss issues ranging from personal privacy and "open culture" to increased government transparency.

The party's national platform calls for the abolition of patents -- which it argues stifles innovation and prevents researchers from freely sharing ideas -- and for limiting how long copyrights can stay in effect, saying there needs to be new models to compensate artists and others for their intellectual and creative work.

The platform seeks a ban on Digital Rights Management software that is often used to block or limit online access to copyrighted material or other intellectual property.

While advocating for internet users to freely and legally share music, movies and other forms of art, the party -- despite its name -- discourages use of the term "digital piracy."

One immediate goal: Find candidates to campaign under the Pirate Party flag.

"We're trying to get our message out there and train people to run," said Massachusetts Pirate Party Captain -- or chairman -- James O'Keefe. "We want to give people another choice."

In Massachusetts, the Pirate Party is one of 26 minor parties listed by the secretary of state's office that does not have ballot access -- meaning any candidates for elected office from those parties don't automatically get their names listed on ballots.

To be officially recognized as a party, a group must enroll at least 1 percent of the total number of registered voters in the state, which in Massachusetts would be about 42,000 residents, or win at least 3 percent of the total votes cast for a statewide office in the most recent election.

O'Keefe said obtaining official party status isn't a priority.

He said the party isn't even planning to run statewide candidates yet, instead focusing on candidates for municipal office this year and state representative or state Senate seats in 2018.

"We focus more on direct democracy and effective government," O'Keefe said.

The Pirate Party of Iceland, founded four years ago by an assortment of hackers, political activists and internet freedom advocates, won 10 seats in that country's 63-seat Parliament in October, though it was ultimately shut out of a coalition government formed by three other parties in January.

The Pirate Party of Finland said it won its first two seats in recent municipal elections in Helsinki and Jyvaskyla.

The U.S. Pirate Party says there are other active state chapters in California, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, New York, Oregon and Washington. Most are loosely organized at best and there is no firm estimate on how many people consider themselves members.

The California Pirate Party says it re-formed after the 2016 presidential election. Members describe themselves as a small group of volunteers, intent on bringing the larger Pirate Movement to California and strengthening the Pirate Party throughout the United States.

"Anyone can get directly involved with nothing more than an internet connection," the group said in an email.

O'Keefe acknowledges the Pirate Party name may sound unusual to some, but believes there's an upside.

"Everybody loves pirates so we don't see it as a problem," he said.

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