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.
About the Author
Patrick Burkart is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University and the author of Music and Cyberliberties and Digital Music Wars: Ownership and Control of the Celestial Jukebox (with Tom McCourt).
“Pirate Politics documents the importance of activist groups whose online skill and political savvy show us how to resist a world defined by nonstop commerce and pervasive surveillance. Combining careful research and a creative assessment of social movement theory, Burkart provides a thoughtful profile of those cyber-nomads who dare to insist on an open and democratic information society.”
—Vincent Mosco, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Queen's University
“Pirate Politics provides a reassuring tale amid celebratory intellectual property rights rationalization treatises, on the one hand, and dire warnings about the impact of regulatory enclosure of the communications commons, on the other. Burkart demonstrates how increasing pressure to close off our virtual lifeworld through top-down communications policies has triggered a key countervailing movement, powerful in its potential for change. A must-read for anyone in need of a good dose of hope.”
—Lisa Brooten, Associate Professor, Department of Radio, Television and Digital Media, Southern Illinois University Carbondale