Sweden appears to have a full-fledged pirate movement. In addition to The Pirate Bay it also has a Pirate Office and a Pirate Party. The latter are considering entering Swedish politics by taking part in this year’s elections for the Swedish Riksdag and may very well obtain a seat.
The pirate movement started in the summer of 2003 with the establishment of the Pirate Office (Piratbyrån). Its name refers to the Svenska Antipiratbyrån, the lobbying group which was set up by media companies to investigate breaches of copyright and take these to court. The Pirate Office believes that there should be no obstructions to the copying of information and culture, and wants to start a public debate on the issue. In November 2003 the group Bittorent-tracker established The Pirate Bay, which has continued independently since October 2004.
On 1 January 2006 Rickard Falkvinge opened a website announcing the intention to start a Pirate Party (Piratpartiet, pp) and a prototype of the party programme. On 15 February the party already had the 1,500 signatures needed for official registration as a political party. Today it has 7,136 members. Not bad compared with the 7,862 members of the green party Milieupartit (mp), one of the two leftwing parties, with 17 seats in the Riksdag supporting the social-democratic minority government of Göran Persson. The razzia on 31 May by the Swedish police against The Pirate Bay led to a 50% increase in its membership.
The Pirate Party’s programme can be summed up in three main points: personal integrity should be protected, culture should be free, patents and private monopolies are harmful to society. The party’s position is that in modern society individuals are monitored in all kinds of ways, especially in the digital world. It claims that current legislation is totally outdated and hampers creativity, hence all restrictions on copying information for private purposes should be lifted. This means that copying an MPG- or MP3-file for personal use or for a friend should be made legal, but does not comprise the total abolition of today’s copyright and patent laws. The party acknowledges that such legislation is reasonable and necessary for companies and commercial interests.
The party has no opinions on any other issue and has announced that its vote in the Riksdag will be available in exchange for the realisation of its programme. The party adopts a neutral position between the two large blocs in Swedish politics: the Alliance for Sweden which groups four parties of the right, and the bloc on the left comprising the governing social-democrats with the Greens (mp) and the Left (v). These blocs are on a par in the opinion polls, and the Pirate Party hopes that in the elections it may be in a position where it can shift the balance. Some polls indicate that there is a chance of it gaining a seat. The minimum number of votes required to gain a seat (4%) is 225.000, and the party is hoping to glean these from the 800,000 to 1.1 million Swedes who use file sharing.
Already, however, the Pirate Party’s influence is being felt in Swedish politics. The Greens, the Left and the Moderaten (m) have made adjustments to their programmes to prevent voters from switching to the Pirate Party. Thomas Bodström, the Swedish Justice Minister, clearly concerned by the advent of the Pirate Party, suggested altering the law to make filesharing legal in exchange for an extra tax on the use of broadband. The Pirate Party’s response to this was negative. They said this was not an acceptable solution but one which indicates that the traditional politicians have still not grasped the problem.