Last week we started a small series of blog posts presenting our empirical findings of a study about the Pirate Party movement which Leonhard and I carried out in January 2012 (see “Transnational Pirates #1“). In particular we aimed at exploring the transnational context of the German pirate party. We understand transnationality as the combination of practices of actors who are simultaneously engaged in a global context and local network.

We operationalized the local context of Pirate Parties in three dimensions: the local roots of issues, the (inter-)organizational embeddedness in the local, and related to the latter the participation in elections (we will come back to that in Part 3 of the series). We intended to reveal how the parties build on various local opportunity structures and adapt to different local conditions. The following analysis focuses on our sample of 14 officially registered Pirate Parties.

The integration into both a global and a specific local network can be shown in terms of themes and issues pursued by the respective Pirate Parties. Asking for the rationale for establishing a national Pirate Party in the first place paints a rather consistent picture. While this was an open question, all 14 registered parties only refered to four main objectives:

  1. Pursuit of themes of the global Pirate Party movement in their respective countries (8)
  2. Transformation of political structures, towards more transparency and participation (8)
  3. To live up to earlier success and attention of Pirate Parties (7)
  4. To tie on concrete political issues in their respective countries (6)

The small range of general objectives reflects the common motivation within a transnational movement, which has led to a global wave of founding pirate party. Against this backdrop, our findings also indicate that the range of political campaigning subjects is more diverse and context-sensitive (see Table 2).

Table 2: Frequency of mention political campaign topics (open question)


n=14; multiple responses

In addition to central concepts of the Pirate movement, such as intellectual property rights, transparency and political participation, freedom and civil rights, political campaigns are often specifically related and adapted to local needs. In particular important campaigns, as they were highlighted by the respondents, are tied to specific local circumstances. We asked the respondents for a detailed description of a central campaign (see Table 3 for selected examples).

Table 3: Examples of campaigns with local relevance (open question)

These examples indicate that the campaigns are based on specific and in many cases local events. As such, the campaign Linking is not a crime carried out by the Pirates of the Czech Republic was set up around the indictment of a 16-year-old who allegedly caused a loss of about 5 million Euro by linking to copyrighted films on his website. In response to that, the pirate party launched two websites (piratskefilmy.cz and tipnafilm.cz) that provide numerous links to movies. Specifically, the action was addressed to a local actor, the Czech Anti-Piracy Union.

Other campaigns are related to the national political system, such as the project Depuwatch which aims to create greater transparency on the voting behavior in the Luxembourg Parliament, or the Yo Avalo campaign of the Catalan Pirate Party, which protests against new electoral policies that require new parties to collect thousands of signatures to be able to run for election.

Finally, some activities of Pirate Parties are tied to specific locations. Another campaign of the Czech Pirate Party, for example, tried to raise awareness of a surveillance system, which might result from a new ticket control system in the Prague metro.

In all of these cases the shared issues of the transnational social Pirate movement were linked to local circumstances differing in each country. Furthermore, issues such as transparency of political decisions, civil and fundamental rights not only bear the potential but also require adaptation to different national contexts.

We will follow up on that with our analysis of the organisational anchorage of Pirate Parties in local networks.