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After their surprising election success in the German capital Berlin, the pirate party continues to surge in the polls. In all recent federal polls the German pirates have been above the 5 percent election threshold and there is no end in sight.

When a TV crew from Russia Today had visited Berlin to film a short report on the pirate phenomenon, they also approached me as a “talking (research) head” on the issue. Unsurprisingly, only one sentence of the half an hour long interview made it into the segment featured below.

The reason the Russian TV crew had found me was this post-election blog post.


This blog is supposed to deal with issues related to governance across borders. So why devote so much space to the results of a regional election in Germany? The answer is twofold.

Logo of the Pirate Parties International meta-organization

First, as mentioned already in yesterdays FAQ (see “Boarding Berlin“), the Pirate Party’s election win in Berlin would not have been possible without its relations to a much broader and transnational movement. For one, these are fellow pirate parties in over 40 different countries, most of which are members of the meta-organization (Ahrne and Brunsson 2008) Pirate Parties International. For another, the pirate party movement is itself only one of several related and partly overlapping social movements inspired by the new technological possibilities of Internet and digital technologies.

Most these movements address regulation that is considered incompatible or even harmful to new technology-related freedoms, often related to surveillance and intellectual property regulation. And all of these movements are transnational in both perspective and activism. Wikipedia, for example, lists five “movements” in the field of “Intellectual property reform activism”, namely the Access to Knowledge MovementAnti-CopyrightCultural Environmentalism, the Free Culture Movement, and the Free Software Movement. Prominent transnational organizations within these movements include, as pioneers, the Free Software Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as more recent examples such as Creative Commons or the Wikimedia Foundation. In a way, the pirate party movement can be considered the political arm of these movements – even though not all of the movement members feel comfortable being associated with “Pirates” (see, for example, “Lessig on Abolitionism, Copyright Zealots & the Cultural Flatrate“). The similarity to the origins of the Green Party, which also emerged out of several interrelated envirnomentalist movements are in any case striking, not to forget that Jamie Boyle called for an “environmentalism for the net” already in 1997. Read the rest of this entry »

When the chief of Microsoft Germany, Achim Berg, predicted in an interview in the “Berliner Zeitung” that “the free-of-cost-culture on the Internet draws to a close” last Saturday, this happened not only weeks after Microsoft had started its own, free-of-charge search engine “bing” but also only days before Google’s announcement of “Chrome OS”: A new open source operating system on top of a Linux kernel and delivered, of course, for free. On the Official Google Blog Chrome OS was announced as follows:

“[T]he operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project […] — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be. Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.”

Is this re-opening the operating system wars of the 1980s? Is this the beginning of serious open source competition for Microsoft’s proprietary business model? In other words, are we witnessing a paradigmatic battle of open versus proprietary innovation regimes with Google and Microsoft as its most prominent antipodes? I am not so sure. But maybe the Pirate Party’s sole member in the European Parliament, Christian Engström, was right in his interesting op-ed in the Financial Times yesterday:

“The world is at a crossroads. The internet and new information technologies are so powerful that no matter what we do, society will change. But the direction has not been decided.”


The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
June 2023

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