A political party dedicated to legalising the sharing of copyrighted content without payment has won a seat in the European Parliament. Sweden's Pirat Partiet, or Pirate Party, won 7.1% of the Swedish vote, entitling it to send an MEP to the Parliament.
In Germany the party won 0.9% of the vote, which will entitle it to state funding, a party statement said. Sweden has been at the centre of international controversy over the online piracy of films, music and other digital media. The Pirate Bay, which used to be internet's biggest source of links to pirated content, was founded there.
Earlier this year the four founders of The Pirate Bay were put on trial in Sweden and were found guilty of being accessories to breaches of copyright law.
They were fined £2.4 million and sentenced to a year in jail. They are appealing the verdict. The party won the fifth-biggest share of the vote in Sweden and is yet to decide whom it will send to Brussels as its MEP.
"We have just written political history," said Rick Falkvinge, chairman of the party, in a statement. "Politicians have learned that doing what the lobby asks will cost them their jobs. We're the largest party in the segment below 30 years of age. That's building the future of liberties.”
Falkvinge told the BBC that this year's Pirate Bay court case was a focal point for voters that benefitted his party.
"The establishment is trying to prevent control of knowledge and culture slipping from their grasp," he said. "When the Pirate Bay got hit, people realised the wolf was outside the front door. That happened one month before the ballot opened, so it had quite a rallying effect."
The Pirate Party was formed to give political expression to the Swedish anti-copyright movement. It began by arguing for the abolition of copyright restrictions on individuals but is now also increasingly developing a set of policies based on the need for digital privacy.
"All non-commercial copying and use should be completely free," says the party's statement of principles. "File sharing and p2p networking should be encouraged rather than criminalized. Culture and knowledge are good things, that increase in value the more they are shared. The internet could become the greatest public library ever created."
"Following the 9/11 event in the US, Europe has allowed itself to be swept along in a panic reaction to try to end all evil by increasing the level of surveillance and control over the entire population," says its statement. "We Europeans should know better ... we must pull the emergency brake on the runaway train towards a society we do not want. Terrorists may attack the open society, but only governments can abolish it. The Pirate Party wants to prevent that from happening."