| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
A Pirate Party is a political party modeled after the original Swedish Pirate Party, Piratpartiet. There are dozens of Pirate Parties around the world, and their political goals are loosely connected. There is also a Pirate Party International, of which the original Swedish Pirate Party is not a member.
The term "pirate" stems from political campaigns by the music and film industry against the illegal download of their material (the common Internet response is that these were smear campaigns, dramatizing the issue). The name of these parties is therefore slightly satiric, but the term is today used self-referentially with some pride.
In 2006, the Swedish Pirate Party went online (literally, as the website went up first) and in a time of not even two months the party qualified for the 2006 Riksdag (the Swedish parliament) elections. Much media attention, especially in Europe, rose around the party and 0.63% of the vote was gained. Some parties, especially centrist and left parties, changed their stance on copyright issues. In the same year, Pirate Parties in Germany, France, Spain, Ireland, Denmark and Finland popped up.
In 2006, the United States Pirate Party and its Dutch brother De Piratenpartij were founded. In 2009 the Pirate Party UK, Pirate Party of Canada, Pirate Party Australia and the Pirate Party of New Zealand were founded.
In the 2009 elections for the European Parliament, the Pirate Parties of the participating countries granted support for each other and worked together on the so-called "Uppsala Declaration," declaring common goals but in the election, only the Swedish won seats (2, to be exact). In the same year the German Pirate Party won 2.0% in the federal elections, making it the most voted party that wasn't in the Bundestag.
In September 2011 the German Pirate Party won their first seats in an election of matter, with 8.9% in the regional elections in Berlin; they won 15 seats of an overall 149.
In the 2013 Icelandic elections, the recently-formed Icelandic Pirate Party—founded by Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an incumbent MP—won 5.1% of the vote, translating to 3 seats in the Althing (parliament) out of 63. As a result of the 2016 elections, the Pirate Party's share of seats has risen to 10.
In the 2017 Czech elections, the Czech Pirate Party won 22 seats, making them the third-biggest faction in the Czech Chamber of Deputies.
The ideologies of regional Pirate Parties vary, but a common pattern is economic centrism or pragmatism, social liberalism, an emphasis on privacy, transparent and/or open government and human rights in general. Depending on the country, reforms of copyright laws may be in favor. While environmentalism isn't a number one issue, it's up there as well.
The background ideologies vary from member to member. Some are old-school libertarians with an emphasis on technological topics, some are centrists that like the freedom the Internet provides them, others are anarchists viewing freedom of information as one way to cause a power shift.
Schools of thought
There are two distinct schools of thought in international Pirate Party movement. One is a tradition of specification on several limited topics like copyright reform, transparency of states, and individual freedom specific to the internet and privacy;these parties tried to be big tent parties, but in the voting booths this concept proved unsuccessful.
The other is what some call the "German School," a distinct ideology and worldview originating from contemporary technophile twenty-somethings in Europe. This worldview favors center-left to left-wing social politics (inspired by the Pirates of the City of Berlin, which has a left-wing tradition), such as same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, a modern definition of family, a pluralistic society, the welfare state, and a basic income guarantee. Other important aspects are a general tendency toward direct democracy, e-democracy, citizen participation, and a constant platform-oriented discourse between citizens, making the German School a rather inclusive school of thought. This school also supports the environmentalist concept of sustainability (already in the German mainstream so not really surprising) and international and European cooperation. Pragmatic problem-solving is highly valued, and through the architecture of the German Pirate Party, unofficial inclusive expert councils (based on interest) in their online platform liquid feedback have formed. In short, the German School is a nerdy form of American progressivism.
After four good outcomes in German regional elections, other, previously traditional Pirate Parties have openly discussed moving their organizations in the direction of the German school, a move that has been favoured by leading members of Pirate Party International.
Flak from the copyright lobby
The chairman, executive vice president and chief strategy officer Dean Garfield of the Motion Picture Association of America, criticized the American party the following way:
“”There's nothing about what the Pirate Bay does or what the Pirate Party does that is legitimate. There's nothing philosophically principled about it. They steal copyright content and accept advertising dollars based on taking other people's work. There's nothing noble about it.
That every member of a Pirate Party automatically and illegally downloads! Also implying that sharing is stealing, and that any producer has a monopoly over the work and the right to restrict humanity from using technology to produce copies.
Beside various industry lobbies understandably being up in arms about the Pirate Party (it's their jobs to be), various valid non-industry criticisms of the Pirate Parties exist as well.
The Parties' focus on the novelty of their ideals and processes could also be seen as offering more in terms of rhetoric than in terms of presenting maximally tangible policies, a trade-off between vision and political acumen, where the former generally seems to get the last word. This, in turn, has helped define the impact (and, in other places, the lack of impact) that the Pirate Party has ultimately been able to have on politics.
For example, according to researcher on the political and social implications of technology Evgeny Morozov, the Pirates' overriding emphasis on the Internet means that they tend to come across as "Silicon Valley-lite", in some countries amounting to little else outside of their specifically net-related issues.
As one Pirate Party spokesman put it to Morozov in 2011:
“”What we’re offering is not a program, but an operating system.
The waning popularity of the German Pirate Party and its recent failures have likewise called into question just how relevant the Pirates really are in practice.