Pirate Politics

Pirate Politics: The New Information Policy Contests

Patrick Burkart
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Pirate Politics
    Book Description:

    The Swedish Pirate Party emerged as a political force in 2006 when a group of software programmers and file-sharing geeks protested the police takedown of The Pirate Bay, a Swedish file-sharing search engine. The Swedish Pirate Party, and later the German Pirate Party, came to be identified with a "free culture" message that came into conflict with the European Union's legal system. In this book, Patrick Burkart examines the emergence of Pirate politics as an umbrella cyberlibertarian movement that views file sharing as a form of free expression and advocates for the preservation of the Internet as a commons. He links the Pirate movement to the Green movement, arguing that they share a moral consciousness and an explicit ecological agenda based on the notion of a commons, or public domain. The Pirate parties, like the Green Party, must weigh ideological purity against pragmatism as they move into practical national and regional politics. Burkart uses second-generation critical theory and new social movement theory as theoretical perspectives for his analysis of the democratic potential of Pirate politics. After setting the Pirate parties in conceptual and political contexts, Burkart examines European antipiracy initiatives, the influence of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the pressure exerted on European governance by American software and digital exporters. He argues that pirate politics can be seen as "cultural environmentalism," a defense of Internet culture against both corporate and state colonization.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32014-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    The Swedish Pirate Party (SPP) broke through from an incipient social movement of male software programmers and file-sharing geeks to formal political representation quickly, with a “free culture” message that is in conflict with the European Union’s legal system. The party crystallized from and alongside a “gas[eous]” civil society group called Piratbyrån—the Piracy Bureau (Marcus Kaarto, in Norton 2006), which led protests over the police takedown of Swedish file-sharing search engine, The Pirate Bay (TPB), in 2006. The coincidence of TPB’s takedown with the surge of youthful membership in the Pirate Party demonstrates that participation in music and media...

  7. 1 Nomads of the Information Society
    (pp. 25-68)

    Pirate politics expresses a culturally ingrained libertarian sentiment, a youthful and geeky attitude toward autonomous uses of technology, a preference for confrontational symbolic repertoires, and a wonkish enthusiasm for procompetitive policies and disruptive technologies.¹ Pirate politics is collective action oriented toward restoring damaged or threatened communication codes and norms within a politicized cyberculture. It contributes to knowledge of the sociology and politics of NSMs dedicated to preserving the public domain and defending the communicative lifeworld more generally.

    The mainstreaming of some of the basic messages of pirate politics suggests that its efforts have been successful. The EU telecommunications chief, Viviane...

  8. 2 European Antipiracy Initiatives: The Ratchet and the Fulcrum
    (pp. 69-112)

    A sign above the exit of the autonomous zone of Christiania (Christianshavn) in Copenhagen, Denmark, reads: “You are now entering the EU.” Inside Christiania, which originated in 1971 as a squatters’ camp in abandoned army barracks, locals developed an intentional community that was distinctively functional while remaining radically alternative to city life in surrounding Copenhagen. Communalism mixed with anarchistic respect for autonomous living—and a thriving counterculture—made Christiania a regional curiosity and eventually an international tourist destination. As property values in Copenhagen rose, developers pressured the city to police and privatize the community’s territory. Christiania became caught up in...

  9. 3 Technoculture versus Big Brother
    (pp. 113-146)

    The transformation of Swedish copyright and privacy rights into part of the economic-administrative complex of the EU-EC system sparked protests that led to mobilization over data retention and IPRED. The conflicts indicate that while juridification of the online lifeworld is occurring rapidly, it is still incomplete. The Internet has not yet become entirely toll taking, like a car park, a movie theater, or the iTunes store. Everyday anonymity is attainable online, although active surveillance makes deep anonymity improbable. Darknets flourish as never before, even as users’ online lives are tied increasingly to shopping carts and virtual checkouts, software as a...

  10. Conclusion: The Legacy of Pirate Politics for Moral-Practical Reasoning
    (pp. 147-158)

    Pirate governance did not come from out of the blue. The assertion by many students and young pirates that the politicians are “declaring war against a whole generation” (Soares 2009) rests on an observable paradox: copyright criminality grows with the spread of the information society. The problem for critical media studies is to illustrate how the paradox is, in fact, not an unintentional artifact of information and media policy but, indeed, a carefully planned and coordinated outcome.

    To address this research problem,Pirate Politicshas provided a glimpse into one form of activism in global civil society that perceives the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 159-166)
  12. References
    (pp. 167-196)
  13. Index
    (pp. 197-218)