Pirates Enter Politics: Filesharing Swedes Attack Copyright Laws


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 It claims that current legislation is totally outdated and hampers creativity, hence all restrictions on copying information for private purposes should be lifted.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.

law does not need radical adjustment

"While a certain extent of copyright protection (10-15 years) is reasonable, the current 50, 70 or more years of copyright stifles innovation and that encourages people to break the law."

Science fiction writer Frederick Pohl is 86 years old. Some of the novels and stories he wrote over 50 years ago are still in print. I hate to think what his financial situation might have been if his copyrights expired after only 15 years.

Perhaps you would have a different idea of what is reasonable if you had to live by your creative work.

The reason it's so long is

The reason it's so long is because corporations live forever. They can act as copyright "property" clearinghouses without actually producing anything anymore, for as long as they can hold copyright, potentially forever. But the point is the same, if copyright lasted only 15 years, authors have incentive to keep creating.

No one can "own" ideas, it's contrary to their nature. Once you make them known they are absorbed by everyone they come in contact with, and comprise a part of their experience, and constitute a part of their own creations and contributions to society. Furthermore, the older a valuable idea is the more deeply it becomes embedded in the public consciousness. Informally, after a few years, only the legal copyright "restriction" remains.

What the government does is recognize that if you give a creator a legal monopoly on their idea for a reasonable amount of time to make a profit off of it, the creator gets some money and society benefits from a steady stream of fresh ideas. Copyright law is doing creators a favor, not protecting a right to ownership of an idea or to make profit off of it.

Law needs adjustment

Actually, in this case I believe the law is in serious need of adjustment. The law is supposed to benefit society at large, but in the case of copyright it has been extensively hijacked by big business. While a certain extent of copyright protection (10-15 years) is reasonable, the current 50, 70 or more years of copyright stifles innovation and that encourages people to break the law.

Technological progress is undermining the respect for copyright law as well. The term 'Piracy' was meant to be derogative, but now has a heroic ring to it in many circles.

Better take this seriously, adjust the copyright laws to a reasonable level, and move on. Then use our resources on battling the real problems we face, like antidemocratic propaganda and funding of terrorism.


(File)Sharing is a great thing as long as you are in a position to share. Sharing other people's property is called communism. I may be both stupid and reactionary but I think that my friends who spend countless hours producing music both deserve and depend upon what little money they can make from it. If there is no way of getting paid for your work, I think culture will in the long run be impoverished. Once again, communism.
While I am not particularly fond of the iTunes format, precisely because it can't be played on other devices, I think a well-functioning market will provide alternatives when enough people feel the same way. It shouldn't be a government issue. Piratbyrån is a symptom of the large media corporations reluctance to adapting to new technology, but it's not a cure. Apple iTunes is in my eyes a remedy, albeit a bad one.

Apples & Oranges

I think the use of the word 'ruin' is pejorative. The EU authorities don't want to ruin anything: they see Apple as ruining fair use - not to protect the ??AA but to protect their own artificial monopoly on the market. Imagine if you will a CD from Sony that only plays on CD players from Sony - then you'll get the idea. And as Rick Falkvinge points out, this is not about legal or illegal downloads: this is about the sharing instead of the distribution of culture and knowledge.

Following is a translation of his speech on the subject. He's seen the translation and given a nod and a thanks. And in this speech he fairly lays it all on the line. It's a worthwhile read.


In short, Europe are not the enemy here and Apple are not the good guys and the ??AA don't improve things by making their IP more freely available. Europe are looking out for European citizens; Apple are in a real sense more of the bad guys; and the ??AA have to find another model to satisfy their greed - just as they did with the advent of television, recorded music, the cassette tape, and the VCR.


Immaterial law must be respected, but I think the entertainment companies have brought this upon themselves. They need to increase the availability of their products over the internet. It is ridiculous that they still insist people buy plastic discs of poor quality, which in some cases even have a zone-lock. At least Piratbyrån wants a public debate on the subject, as opposed to the massive pirate industry across Asia.
However, I am aware that Apple iTunes, a company actually making money on internet distribution, consider closing down their services in certain European countries whose governments want to ruin their business model by opening up their format to players by other manufacturers.