Christian Engstrom MEP

Business Week has an article on the Pirate Party’s first (of many, hopefully) MEP, Christian Engstrom:

“Hey Christian!” a passerby calls out, as he approaches Christian Engstrom and enthusiastically shakes his hand. This has been happening a lot lately to this leader of the Pirate Party, who is regularly approached by complete strangers in Stockholm eager to congratulate him on his election to the European Parliament.

Engstrom doesn’t exactly look like a pirate. An affable man in his early fifties, with a cheerful white cowlick above his forehead, he is sitting in a street café in the Swedish capital, munching on a piece of warm blueberry cake.

The future member of the European Parliament (MEP) is one of his country’s top computer scientists. Even his parents were programmers, and Engstrom himself developed software for patent offices. But then he switched sides.

His campaign platform could fit on the beer mat in front of him: abolish patents, limit copyrights to a few years and protect citizens’ data privacy. Despite the narrow scope of his message, the effects have been impressive. In the European election, the Pirate Party captured 7.1 percent of votes in Sweden. Its supporters are mainly male and under 30, and among schoolchildren the party is much more popular than Sweden’s mainstream parties.

Many European countries have sister parties that are also fighting for a free Internet. The Pirate Party captured 0.9 percent of the vote in Germany and in one Berlin district attracted an impressive 5.1 percent of the vote.

“The name Pirate Party sounds silly at first,” says Engstrom. “But it means something for everyone,” especially in the land of the Vikings. It owes much of its popularity to its opponents. In April, the party’s membership suddenly tripled when a lower court sentenced the operators of thepiratebay.org, a Swedish data exchange site, to one year in prison and ordered them to pay damages.

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